About Us

Welcome to our blog, describing our voyage aboard Bravo, a Kelly Peterson 46 sailboat with homeport in Seattle, Washington. We headed south in 2010, destined for Mexico and beyond. Cheers, Adam and Cindi

"As for me, I am tormented by an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts." -Herman Melville, 1844

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Exploring the Great Astrolabe Reef.....something for everyone!

We've recently returned to Suva, after a couple of weeks in the southernmost island group of Fiji, known as the Kadavu group, named for the biggest island there.  All are surrounded by the Great Astrolabe Reef, an incredible, pristine barrier reef, one of the largest in the world, cut by several passes of varying sizes and complexities.  We chose to enter (and eventually depart) the 40 mile long lagoon through one of the largest, Herald Pass.  Since we had heard cruise ships could fit, we figured Bravo would have no problem.....the logic paid off!!!

Our first stop was Dravuni Island, a fairly small, very pretty island, just about 1.25 miles in length.  We dropped anchor in a logical spot off the village, and went in to present our sevusevu to the chief.  After accepting our yagona (kava) offering, we were given permission to hike, snorkel, dive, fish, and explore the village and island.  "Cool, thanks, chief".   "Oh, just one last thing.....you'll have to move your boat.....it's in the way of the cruise ship that's arriving early the next morning!!!!!"

Nonstop stream of tenders shuttle the masses to and from all day.
Cruise ship????  You've gotta be kidding us.  Here we are on an island with 80 inhabitants, and they told us that by 9 a.m. they would be hosting nearly 2,000 new friends!!!  Needless to say, we were hugely disappointed.  Since Mexico, Bravo has done a terrific job of keeping many a mile between us and these behemoths.  The impact of such a huge crowd of folk descending on a small remote native outpost completely spoils the cultural interaction for us.  (Bora Bora was a typical example.....yuchh)  Granted they do bring badly needed money to the village, but strictly from our selfish point of view, they are to be avoided at all cost.

We were then told that Dravuni would have still another cruiseship the following day, that's two in two days!!!  They have already had 30 call on the little island this year!!!

Quite a welcoming party awaited  us as we got out of our dinghy!!!

 Well, we decided to stay for a couple of days to see if our biases were warranted.  Uh, yep, they were!!!  We found the island people to pretty much ignored our presence, focusing instead on the interaction with the big fish (MUCH bigger) that was about to come in.  We had read that the folks on Dravuni were "unfriendly".  While we wouldn't say it quite so harshly, they clearly had a much different agenda than all of our other village experiences so far in Fiji.  The village is very pretty, though, and clearly fairly well off when compared to other villages we've visited in Fiji.

Bravo at anchor down below.  Cruise ship was just to the left.

We hiked up to the high point of the island, with a spectacular view of the whole Kadavu group, then headed back to the boat and decided to "vote with our keel", and head south in the lagoon....

We dropped the pick off a little uninhabited island, Namara Island, attracted by the beautiful white sandy beach.  The beach didn't disappoint, but the real surprise was the quality of the coral reef around the anchorage.  Together with friends on s/y Legacy, we went for a snorkel, and were amazed by the terrific hard corals, some of the healthiest we've seen anywhere.

The weather wasn't great, and though our anchorage provided decent protection from the SE trades which were blowing, we decided to head further south to the large island of Ono, and anchored in a deep bay on the NE corner.  Though we anchored in about 70' of water, it was on a nice flat bottom, with no coral bommies to grind the chain throughout the night.  Sweet!

After our visit to the chief for sevusevu, the kids of the village at the head of the bay, Nagara, were thrilled to show us kaipalangi's around their home turf, starting with their school.


When they learned the name of our boat, they couldn't wait to show us the book!

One day a friendly guy from the village, Johnny, came out to BRAVO in his fiber (the common Fijian open boats, like the panga of Mexico and central America).  He offered to take us on a hike through his plantation to the other side of the island.  But first we needed to stop in the village to help make coconut oil.  We'd never seen how the natives make the oil so we really wanted to see the process.  It turned into another lovely hour or two spent in the village relaxing with oil makers and kids under a tree.  Ahhh, Fiji time, gotta love it! 

Kids LOVE digital cameras!!!

OK, back to the coconut oil.....Here's the deal:  First they grate the meat of the nuts, and let it dry for 2 days in the sun.  Then it's mixed with some leaves to give it a nice lemony smell. 

They make long rolls of the mixture in old flour sacks, which are then hung from a tree and squeezed with a steel bar, like an old fashioned "Spanish windlass".  The oil just flows out into a bowl.  Pretty cool!

We finally did hit the trail with Johnny, first tramping through his plantation, where he grows bananas, plantains, coconuts, casava, sweet potatoes, and kava.  (Fiji's best kava is grown in the Kandavu group).

Fresh coconuts whenever we got thirsty.....sweet as!!!
While hiking we mentioned that one of the main reasons we came down to the Astrolabe area was that we'd heard  about the fantastic diving in the passes around the reef.  Johnny told us about a man in the village, Sewa, who used to work for Mai Dive, a dive company on the other side of the island.  He thought Sewa might be able to take us out to show us around, and take Johnny's fiber to get there.  Bingo, things were looking good!!! 

Back in the village, Sewa was keen to go, but he had no gear of his own.  We finally figured that he could guide from the surface, with mask and snorkel, and we could follow down below.  Different, but what the hell, we said sure!!!

Sewa with his kids
Sewa had a pretty interesting dive story to tell as we motored out to Alacrity Rocks, together with friends Jim and Jeanette from s/y Dancer.  Seems that a few years ago, he was spearfishing down 60 meters, (nearly 200 feet!!!) when he shot a 2 meter tuna.  Now apparently this tuna wasn't at all happy to have a spear hanging out of him, so he rocketed to the surface, pulling Sewa up with him!!!  Sewa didn't let go (!!!!!) and he was unconscious when he hit the surface.  He was flown to the decompression chamber in Suva, where he actually recovered!!!!  That's one very lucky guy.  They even kept the tuna!!!

The diving was truly world class, some of the best we've ever done.  Fantastic swim thru's, tunnels, and canyons, with very healthy hard and soft corals and lots of fish.  We did two dives at Alacrity, and they were both incredible.  Sewa snorkeled on the surface, pointing directions for us with a stick, and we followed down at about 70 feet!  Here are a few shots fom Alacrity Rocks.

Finally, after a couple of weeks on the Great Astrolabe Reef, it was regrettably time to return to Suva to prepare for the passage back to New Zealand.  It was a wonderful visit, made even more special by the people of Nagara village.  Johnny and his family and friends had us over for kava and a terrific farewell dinner on our last night.  Vinaka, Johnny, for a terrific visit.


  1. Fabulous pics! Stay safe and have a good passage to NZ!

  2. Looks like Fiji was able to keep your attention for an entire season. I've now added more pins to my Google Earth, of "places to see".

    Looks like we'll FINALLY be on our way in the next 2-3 weeks. Still waiting for the FP long stay, but we think it'll be worth the wait.

    Safe travels back to NZ!