Thursday, September 22, 2016

Exploring around Mana Island

We had been in Fiji for three months, and we needed to extend our visas or leave the country. Now that we were having fun with Chuck and Lauri on Free Spirit and with Tom and Lynn on Roxanne, we figured we’d stay a bit longer. This meant we had to head to the Immigration office in Latoka. All three boats left Robinson Crusoe Island and had a lovely sail north. We passed Cloudbreak and saw some surfers out there, but it was much quieter than during the competition we’d seen a few months ago. As we entered the main lagoon, Free Spirit headed off to Musket Cove for a big regatta that was starting there. The wind was still good, as Good as Gold and Roxanne continued sailing the 10 nautical miles across the lagoon towards Latoka.

Roxanne sailing past us on the way to Latoka

It was sugar cane harvesting season, and there is a large sugar processing plant next to the anchorage in Latoka. It was interesting to see the train cars and trucks bringing in lots and lots of sugar cane, but it wasn’t so nice to get a mild dusting of ash from the continual burning of the cane. We decided to make it as quick a stay in Latoka as possible, so we spent the day extending our visas and buying some provisions. The next morning we headed back out to the islands. Tom and Lynn had the same idea, so the two boats headed over to Mana Island. We arrived late in the afternoon, so we anchored on the north side of the island for the evening and moved to the lagoon in the morning. After negotiating the tight pass into the lagoon at Mana, we dropped the anchor near the Backpackers Resort which is run by the villagers on Mana. We were close enough to shore that some local children came out on their raft to say Hello. We invited them onboard and shared lots of laughs as we all took turns jumping off the bimini into the water.

Local kids on board

Local kids heading home
Jumping off the Bimini

When Roxanne came into the lagoon at Mana, we decided anchor the two boats in a quieter part of the lagoon. The island is small, with no rivers, so the water in the lagoon is very clear and the coral is pretty healthy. We went for a swim from the back of the boat and found a small lobster hiding in the coral.

Lobster hiding

We spent a couple of days at Mana, along with Roxanne. On a couple of occasions, we went on Roxanne for little day trips to nearby snorkelling destinations and beaches. The first was to a tiny island called Sand Cay and Nukuimana Reef, where we snorkelled the reef and saw some awesome coral and fish. The second was to Navadra Island which was also pretty good.

Clown fish and a protective neighbour

After about a week, Free Spirit joined us and the three boats made a plan to head north to a location known for Manta Rays.