Rent a car and explore the Hibiscus Highway. If you don’t want to rent a car, you can negotiate a taxi for a half-day’s exploratory tour for F$80 or thereabouts. Trek, dive, sail or windsurf. (Windsurfers should note that the nearby lagoon has some of the best sailboarding conditions in the world.) Grab a beer at the Planters Club, a classic South Seas haunt, and catch up on the local gossip. You’ll probably hear more than you bargained for. Have a cup of coffee or a scone at the Captain’s Cafe at the Copra Shed Marina and take in the view of incredible Savusavu Bay. The Copra Shed was formerly just that, a warehouse for copra before its shipment to processing plants. The structure was gutted, completely rebuilt and now is home to various offices including Beachcomber Shipping, Pacific Sun, Air Fiji, Savusavu Yacht Club, Captain’s Cafe, a gift shop, a marine supply store, a real estate office, an Internet cafe type facility and a travel company called Trips n’ Tours.
Also check out the new Wai Tui Marina, which is also quite popular with yachties and visitors. They offer barbecue night, curry night, and have local music. New eateries include the new German-Fijian operated Bula Re cafe that offers decent food, espresso, wine, and Internet service. There is a pearl farm nearby that provides educational tours (find out at Trips n’ Tours in the Copra Shed Marina) and the Tui Tai (a ship) which offers 3-4 day adventure trips. Adventure travel and dive enthusiasts should check out Rockin' Down Under, a full on PADI operation located at the Wai Tui Marina...
Shopping In Savusavu:
Black pearls (which are raised in the waters of Savusavu Bay) can be purchased in town at the J. Hunter Pearls Fiji showroom on the main drag just a few meters from the entrance of the Hot Springs hotel. Prices for inexpensive pearls start at $20 and range from $400 to $4000 for top grade. If you're in the market for black pearl 'set jewelry' you'll spend anywhere from $100 to $10,000.
Other very local products to consider purchasing are woven goods such as large mats ('ibe' in Fijian), tablemats or even purses derived from kuta, a locally grown reed indigenous to Vanua Levu. Kuta can be woven finer than more ordinary fiber such as pandanus and has a more lustrous sheen. You can pick up kuta products at Taka's Gift Shop over at the Copra Shed Marina.
The Copra Shed Marina has 8 stern to wharf berths for vessels up to 20 metres. Water and electricity are available at the marina berths. Seventeen moorings are available for vessels of varying sizes. Water and fuel (diesel and pre-mix) are available at our designated fuel dock. Services for yachts within the complex include hot showers, toilets, laundry, Internet office, telephone, waste oil and garbage disposal. Repair and maintenance services such as sail repair, refrigeration and electrical works can be arrange upon request. The Copra Shed Marina also houses the Captain’s Cafe restaurant, Captains Table, Savusavu Yacht Club, a marine chandlery, art gallery, handicrafts shop and booking offices for both internationa and domestic air travel.
The Waitui Marina is adjacent to Savusavu’s main street. It has a combination of (33) moorings (some drilled in helix and some heavy duty conventional moorings). Rental by day, week or month, fees include assistance in arranging Customs, Health, Immigration and Quarantine clearance available. Amenities include dinghy pontoon, hot showers and 8 weeks honorary membership to the Waitui Club, which entails a bar, TV reading room, library and daily weather information. (All tourists and yacht crews are eligible for visitor membership). Additional facilities include arrangement of onward cruising permits, mobile phone hire, Saturday night BBQ and band, Laundry, Underwater hull cleaning, typing, faxing. Tradewinds Marine operates the refueling and rewatering dock and Yacht Chandlers.
Barefoot Island Video (Fiji) Ltd is a Savusavu-based company that shoots digital stills and videos of weddings. It’s owned and operated by an American couple (John & Diana) who have lived in Fiji for more than 4 years now and understand the problems inherent doing this kind of business in Fiji. They come highly recommended and will travel anywhere in Fiji to get the job done.
Labasa (pronounced Lam-bah-sah) is a hot, dusty sugar mill town entirely dependent upon cane, which is grown in great quantities in the area. With a population of about 30,000, it’s much larger than Savusavu and entirely different in nature. The population is primarily Indian in origin and consists of Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs, with their distinctive turbans. The surrounding countryside, covered with cane and golden sun burnt hills also has volcanically sculpted black lava outcroppings in nearby Vunika. During cane crushing season (between June and January) keep an eye out for trucks overloaded with cane heading for the mill.
What to do in Labasa
Labasa is primarily a business town but shopping for Indian clothing such as saris or jewellery is first rate. Check out shops such as Meenos or the Kalynajipala Emporium for clothing or Vasram’s Jewellery Store for these items. Activities such as golf and tennis are available at the FSC (Fiji Sugar Corporation) Club. Other private clubs (which are available to visitors) such as the Farmers Club and the Labasa Club are good places to sip a beer and meet the locals. There are several good places to eat in town including Bhindis for a homemade samosa or a sandwich or Govinda Restaurant next to the Pacific Sun Office for a curry.
The Mission at Natuvu Creek I stumbled upon the The Mission at Natuvu Creek on a recent trip to Fiji. Their modern building near the rickety dock at Buca Bay, a pretty remote spot itsefl, certainly looked a bit incongruous. I introduced myself to a couple of kai valagi (white folks) who were doing some construction work and introduced myself. I was told they were running the Mission at Natuvu Creek a medical mission associated with the Seventh Day Adventist Church which provides all kinds of services to local people—eye care, dental care, etc. When I showed up, there was an orthopedist and trauma surgeon in temporary residence. I got a tour of the very modern facilities that included dental chairs and a room stocked full of donated eye glasses. A crowd of locals was patiently waiting in line for a visit with the ophthalmologist and perhaps a new (or slightly used pair of specs).
In their own words, taken from their web site, the Mission is “committed to alleviating human suffering by ministering the love of God (Jesus Christ) to the impoverished people of Fiji through the provision of world-class healthcare, education, counseling in the areas of healthful living, job and leadership training and spiritual growth thus empowering them to fulfill their God given potential… the Mission also promotes job training and income opportunities through the development of grass-roots industries such as tourism, coconut harvesting, and food production. In addition, the Mission is initiating plans for the construction of a secondary school that will be largely scholarship-based and will offer excellence in education while enabling local children to stay with their families rather than travel to the cities.
Here’s some history, also from the web site: In 1998, Steve Arrington, former lead diver with the Cousteau Society and founder of the Fiji-based Dream Machine Foundation, asked California dentist, Marta Tooma, to lead a group of dental students from Loma Linda University on the Foundation's first dental outreach program to Fiji. The accommodations were primitive and the equipment minimal, however, the need was so profound everyone felt compelled to return. While Fijians are surrounded by extraordinary natural beauty, they live with limited medical and dental care especially in outlying areas. In 2000, an 850 acre parcel of land at Buca Bay became available and was purchased by the Tooma Family Foundation. 100 acres were donated to the Dream Machine Foundation to allow for their future expansion with youth.
The Tooma's themselves desired to build a beautiful, state-of-the-art facility to give back to the generous and kind people they had come to know and love. "When mission groups leave Fiji, they will often make a gift of their non-essential clothing to the impoverished local people. We made a practice of this until one trip Marta's bags were lost in transit. The local people made a gift to her of their best outfits, for many their only nice one. Rather than giving out of their surplus, the Fijians gave their very best. Our desire was to build a clinic, not just to meet the basic needs of the people, but to build a world classfacility, an extravagant gift to the people of Fiji that is a reflection of the extravagance of God's love."
And so, in 2005, after much planning and countless miracles, the process of building the Mission at Natuvu Creek (MNC) began. Wayne and Lois Oldham and their two children accepted a call to become missionaries to oversee the construction. The facilities were completed in mid-2008, when Anibal Kalbematter, M.D., and his wife, Nani, R.N. took up full-time residence as Medical Director and Managers of the Mission. Development continues with ongoing medical outreaches expanding into an increasing numbers of specialties and the goal of beginning construction on a secondary school by the end of 2011. Since 1998 and that first dental outreach, thousands of patients have received free medical care by hundreds of volunteers. The org offer visiting docs and their families, accommodations and even recreational activities. It would seem to me a great way to spend a working vacation, and a wonderful opportunity for volunteer to introduce their children to Fiji. I was very impressed by the dedication of the volunteers I met—both vulagi (guests) and Fijians who worked at the mission.