Sunday, July 10, 2005

Lau to Matagi & on to Budd Reef

Location: Budd Reef
Position: 16°29.74' S 179°41.78' W
Next Dest: Rabi Island

Budd Reef
Matagi Reef

We truly enjoyed our time in Vanuabalavu and the Bay of Islands (Lau Group). Flipper departed on the 30th (of June) and a few days later the last boat around also departed, leaving the Bay of Islands all to us! It was unbelievable serene having the place to ourselves. Unfortunately the weather didn't fully cooperate as we had a lot of wind and some rain, which didn't exactly motivate us to go exploring. However the anchorage was well protected so at least we didn't have to stress over the safety of Billabong (not too much anyway). We did manage to get in some snorkeling, kayaking, and to visit the "Vale Ni Bose", a spectacular cave considered sacred by the Fijians.

We left the Lau group early on July 6th, headed for Matagi. We were a bit disappointed in the passage, as we lost most of our wind about one hour out, and therefore ended up motor-sailing the remaining 9 hours (YUCK!). But we couldn't have been more pleased with Matagi …a horseshoe bay surrounded by high cliffs filled with green trees and unique rock formations; a perfect white sandy beach lay at the top of the horseshoe; fruit bats sang and fluttered among the trees; and the blue and turquoise water was so clear it was like a looking glass into an aquarium! And as if that wasn't good enough, nighttime brought out spectacular stars that lit up the sky!

The next morning we clambered (like Billy-goats) up the side of the mountain to the ridge with Karl & Julie (from Shadowfax). It was an exciting exploration as we attempted to avoid stinging plants and spiders the size of my hand, all while praying we didn't loose our footing and go sliding down the mountain! Once along the ridge things were much easier (there was actually some resemblance of a trail) and we were able to take in some awesome views of the bay below. We walked the entire ridge, making our way out to the both horseshoe edges. We than made our way down the other side of the Island, where a beautiful resort sits along the coast. After a few well earned beers we were in no mood to hike back and were lucky enough to hitch a ride in one of the Resorts motor vessels! Chris and I couldn't stop saying, "Wow - what an amazing

The following day Shadowfax departed, leaving us the bay to ourselves. We still can't believe how few boats we've seen on the East side of Fiji! We snorkeled, did some dinghy explorations and enjoyed the cloudless day. We met up with Shadowfax again on Saturday (the 9th), as we both made
our way to Budd Reef. Just having arrived we haven't yet explored the sandy beaches, high ridges, or underwater life … but from Billabong it all looks outstanding and we can't wait to get started!

Budd Reef

We spent our first full day in Budd Reef exploring the nearby beaches which provided some excellent shell searching and coconut hunting. The calm anchorage rocked and rolled during the night as the wind shifted around and started blowing directly in. The next morning, tired of the bouncing, we moved Billabong (with Shadowfax following) over to the other side of the Island. This was a great move, as not only were we now protected from the winds, but we also had easy access to the Village and were able to easily dinghy in to present our Kava for Sevusevu. After our meeting with the Chief and his son Willy, Willy gave us a tour of the village. We had expressed an interest in going over to Cobia (an neighboring Island with an extinct volcano that now hosts a lovely lagoon), and Willy offered to guide us on a hike.

We all gathered on Billabong first (for lunch) and then headed over to Cobia. It's about 2n.m. away and reminded Chris and I a bit of the Volcano in Northern Tonga. Chris had just asked Willy, "Are there Whales here?", when lo and behold, a fin surfaced nearby. Just as we were gawking excitedly yelling "Did you see that?", the whale surfaced again, barely 10 feet away from our little itty bitty dinghy (and no, I'm not exaggerating on the 10 feet)! The whale (which thankfully didn't hit us) gave us a perfect view of his tale before disappearing. We could see a few other whale blows off in the distance, but nothing nearby.

The hike on Cobia was spectacular. The views were outstanding and Willy was a fun and terrific guide. We ended the hike with refreshing coconut juice before heading back to our boats. It was an exhausting, but extremely rewarding day. We decided that we needed a day to veg out, and spent most of the 12th doing just that. Willy sold us a few lobster and we feasted with Shadowfax over a truly gourmet dinner!

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