Monday, September 2, 2013

Dravuni to Namara

Dravuni island was the first remote island we have visited where the economy is not mainly based on subsistence farming and fishing with a little copra thrown in. While there are plantations here and we met one boat load of fishermen, the majority of motorized long boats appear to be used mainly for transport.

Strumming in the cockpit
A cruise ship visits here once a month and disgorges 1300 people. You can imagine how this must change the life in a small village of maybe 200 souls. There are washrooms set up near the shore and what look like a series of stands presumably to sell crafts on the big day. There is also a substantial wharf under construction. The pilings are in place and a great stack of aluminum sections and floats await being pieced to together. I presume this will allow the cruise ship launches to land more easily at what would otherwise be a steep and surfy beach landing. The men are also busy working to build a resort at Yaukuvelevu, an island a few miles away that is under the domain of Dravuni. We were treated with courtesy when we did our sevusevu, but I got the feeling that visitors from far away are no longer a novelty here, at least to the adults. Children (as on every island we have visited here) seem happy to see new faces and were curious about us.

Ladybug anchored off Namara Island

However, we enjoyed our brief stay at Dravuni. The walk up the hill gives lovely views and we also crossed the island and walked back along the beaches around the north half of the island. But, we were looking for some privacy and our anchorage off the village was rolly and the water a little cloudy for snorkeling. So we sailed a couple of miles across the lagoon to Namara.

Wrasse on the reef off Namara
Namara is a small island under the control of the villagers at Dravuni. The anchorage is sandy, but full of scattered coral heads. I think there may have been a village here once or at least a fishing camp, for there is ample flat land on the leeward side of the island, with a nice beach to pull up your sailing canoes. Fruit bats squeal in the trees and there are a couple of small islands almost attached to the main one, which make for delightful snorkeling. The water is quite clear and there are plenty of hard corals and small fish.

Sailing back from Alacrity Pass in the dinghy
Alacrity Pass is 1.5 miles away and a few days ago with light wind and a small chop, we sailed across the lagoon in our dinghy. We anchored north of the pass and snorkeled around the walls and canyons that lead to the pass itself. In addition to large number of colorful hard corals and smaller fish, there were several schools of parrot and surgeon fish. Rani brought her shark stick (a broom handle) with her but we saw only one small black tipped reef shark, which high-tailed it out of our way as soon as it saw us.

Moray eel at Alacrity Pass - the head is almost a foot from top to bottom and don't you love those blue eyes!
The highlight of our snorkel was a large moray eel in a crevice very close to where we anchored our dinghy. Visibility was good except where quantities of what looked like eggs were drifting in dense clouds, almost like pollen in the air.

Sea slug or Beche de mer  caused a sort of  'gold rush' here in the 1830's when it was discovered that the Chinese would pay fabulous sums for these creatures when smoked and dried . They are still harvested for the Chinese market.
On our return trip we landed on the small island to the north of Namara and Rani gathered some shells from the beach. This little island looks like what you would imagine a cast-away's desert island should look, with a few coconut palms overlooking a white sand beach.

Our dinghy with sail brailed on the little island north Namara

At the little island north of Namara

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