This is one of the most beautiful anchorages and quite an interesting visit. After anchoring way back, right between the small island at the south of the large cove/harbor and the cliffs to the west, we came ashore at the boat landing and found the longest and most well built wooden staircase we'd ever seen. This must have been 15 stories high; we should have counted! There is a large coconut plantation covering most of the eastern side. We'd met Tony, in Lakemba. He owns the plantation and the 85' charter vessel, Tau. He gave us a letter of introduction that we presented to Fane, who is his plantation manager. At the staircase top we found the coconut plantation and tiny village of 5 houses, a "sometime" store and an open air church for the workers. Fane gave us a tour of 2 lovely homes with astounding views of the harbor, we bought coconut oil and walked back by the cows, and horses along the road to the landing instead of the tall staircase. We left gifts for the villagers and bought 4 amazing lobsters for $50 from Fane's husband so he could get a new diving mask and spear fish on the reef for his village. We'd offered him Chuck's spare mask but it was too large for him.
For anchoring in Banavu Harbor, we would recommend the eastern anchorage instead of the southern one due to lack of breeze and a few bugs. We do mention that behind the small island at the south, is a nice set of coral heads to snorkel at mid-tide.
To prepare to leave by Qilaqila Pass we moved to the larger U shaped cove behind the innermost range marker. There was some current and we set the anchor right in the middle between the big rock on the north of the eastern cut and the center island. The current took us over towards the island and out of the bumps of the waves. It was plenty deep right up to the steep rocks and we ended us spending several days waiting for the right weather. We found the best snorkeling right at the eastern cut at mid-tide and at a tiny beach beyond. Saw beautiful fish and interesting formations.
Cove anchorage 17deg 09.839S 179deg 02.094W
Info on leaving and entering by Qilaqila Pass:
There were 3 markers for this pass on the charts but we only found one at the inside and it was bent over, a white top just barely visible at high tide.
Approach, lining up range markers 17deg 09.502S 179deg 02.948W
Mid-pass Waypoint 17deg 09.361S 179deg 03.384W
Clear, at end of pass Waypoint 17deg 09.228S 179deg 03.908W
The last waypoint is a line up point to enter this pass if coming from the rest of Fiji and the range markers are very evident. We had no problem but we were at full tide in the morning with some overcast and didn't see the southern reef as well as well as we saw the waves on the reef on the northern side.
Our Navionics Gold software was still off by .4 mile in the whole area of Vanua Balavu .
On our return to main area of Fiji we tried to stop at a recommended anchorage called Nanuku Levu, a tiny set of 2 islets on a long N/S reef. The patch of shallow sand was just too close to the western reef and the chop was just too lumpy. We then tried to make it to Laucala by sunset but there was no pass marker as our chart indicated. We decided to heave-to in the 7 mile long bay just south of Budd Reef for the night. We should have motor-sailed in order to have an alternative and took it as a lesson. The next morning we motored sailed the brief 8 miles to the east side of Taviuni where we anchored about 1 mile south of the airport runway.
As a summary, our visit to the Lau Group was one of the best sailing experiences we have ever had and we would encourage cruisers to make this a part of their Fiji visit.
Lynn and Chuck on CYAN
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