Just after Christmas we took our visiting friends over to Vanua Levu to experience a different island of Fiji. Vanua Levu is the second largest island in the Fiji Islands group (Viti Levu where Suva, Nadi and the Coral Coast are is the largest). However, it is approximately half the size of Viti Levu with a much smaller population as well.
Due to convenience and pricing we chose to fly from Nasouri Airport (Suva’s airport located approximately 30 minutes drive out of the city) to Labasa (pronounced lam-basa) the largest town on Vanua Levu. There’s not a great deal of things to do in Labasa so we picked up our hire care and headed for Jared’s recommended spot, Savusavu. He travels over here a lot for work and as such has seen most of the island.
The drive from Labasa to Savusavu is estimated to take approximately one and a half hours, despite being only 84 kilometres away. Fiji’s national maximum speed limit is 80km/h and with most of the roads containing lots of potholes, winding hill climbs and villages it can be difficult to maintain this speed. Thankfully we managed to have a reasonable run through the mountains across to the seaside town of Savusavu.
We arrived far too early to check in to our accommodation so had lunch, and went for a drive down near the flashy resorts located on the beachfront. Since we had time to kill we pulled up on the side of the road and wandered in for a swim and a snorkel straight off the beach. Had the tide not been so far out this may have been more successful than us spending most of our time trying to walk over the coral.
We stayed at the Savusavu Hot Springs Hotel (the only real accommodation in Savusavu township) which is within walking distance of restaurants with lovely views of the bay. There isn’t a huge variety of a places to eat in Savusavu and even less when needing specific dietary requirements so we ate most of our meals at Grace Roads Kitchen. With a couple of sneaky visits to Snowy House to please our sweet tooth.
On day two we headed out on a snorkel trip with Namena Divers to the marine reserve. Despite the anticipated sea sickness from bobbing up and down waiting to be dropped off the snorkeling was amazing! My initial reaction after jumping off the boat and looking down through the water was ‘I’m scared of heights!’ it took my brain a couple of seconds to catch up and realise that I can swim and float so I wasn’t going to fall to the bottom of the ocean. It sounds ridiculously cliche to say, but at times it was just like being in Finding Nemo with the coral, fish, turtle, reef sharks and the drop-off at the edge of the reef.
On the first snorkel within a couple of minutes of being in the water we saw a turtle (vonu) swimming off the side of the reef. It was on the short list that we made of things we wanted to see while out there. We followed the reef around and as we swam the dive leader gave us bits of trivia about the fish and the reef that made the experience that much more interesting. Sometimes when we ducked under there was a loud rasping noise, which was actually parrot fish eating the dead coral, which he said caused the beaches to be so white, from them spitting out the dead coral they eat. We also saw a couple of large clams and swam above a small reef shark. The swimming here was very clear with the reef reaching quite close to the surface in parts.
On the second snorkel there were far more reef sharks around and rather than swimming around the reef we swam over it and across a crevasse in the middle of it which was hiding lots of fish. At the end of the crevasse J got super excited and started pointing wildly. Turns out he’d found Nemo’s family, two adult and one juvenile clown fish swimming in and out of their anemone. This was right on the edge of the reef where the coral grew down as far as the eye could see. Along here we also saw a number of reef sharks swimming quite a way down directly beneath us. Sadly, towards the end of the swim it did get a bit murky from sand being stirred up so the visibility wasn’t as good.
We got back to Savusavu mid-afternoon and after a shower to try and tame the windswept, salt ridden hair that was defying gravity we had lunch at Grace Roads and then headed into the air-conditioning to try and recover from being in the sun most of the day. Dinner was a quite small down at the yacht club and turned into a takeaway order as we were eaten alive by mosquitoes. We had a very quiet night getting ready to head back to Labasa and Suva the following morning.
After a bit of a sleep in we left Savusavu to head back to Labasa for our flight home. The drive heading back was a little faster as the majority of it was downhill through the mountains, rather than climbing up through them. Despite some last minute stresses at the airport we managed to get back to Suva with no dramas.
Although we didn’t get to spend a lot of time in Savusavu it was nice to have a break in the quiet sleepy little seaside town. It’d be the ideal spot to have a little holiday house to run away to whenever we wanted have a little break.