Sights in and around Savusavu
There are a legion of Savusavu activities that stimulate the mind and body. Consider renting a car and exploring the Hibiscus Highway, which is stunning. 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 but you’ll have to bring your own gear. It’s almost impossible to hire a windsurfer.)
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 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:
- Foreign Currency Exchange
- The Captains Café
- Fiji Airways
- Bayleys Real Estate
- Asco Motors
- Tradewinds Marine Yachtshop
- The Remote Resort
- Tako’s Gift Shop
- The Captains Table (Wine & Dine)
- Pacau Fiji
- Savusavu Yacht Club
Nakama Hot Springs
If you’re strolling down the main drag, one thing that’s almost impossible to miss are Savusavu’s Nakama hot springs, conveniently located in the middle of town.
The upwelling of piping hot water in the springs has been used by Fijians as a natural cauldron to cook dalo, breadfruit and other items for centuries.
Thanks to the hard work of the Savusavu Blue Town Committee with a $75,000 of funding from the Commonwealth Local Government Fund and the Savusavu Town Council, Namaka Hot Springs have been transformed into a geothermal park. That said, this is no “Disneyland” theme park.
These springs are a natural wonder, with some features of Yellowstone National Park in the US or geothermal areas in New Zealand. It’s a welcomed development for the local visitors industry.
There’s a professionally landscaped rest area with shade and ample signage that clearly articulates the geologic phenomena at your feet.
Just observe some caution. The steam emitted from the bubbling water offers a clue–the temperature is roughly 100 degrees centigrade! In a word, boiling hot.
If you’d like to read more about the Nakama Hot Springs visit my blog.
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), table mats 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 Tako’s Gift Shop over at the Copra Shed Marina.
Karen and Shane Bower–resident artists
Karen and Shane Bower (mother and son) are among Fiji’s most renown artists. They still create their works locally but nowadays sell their art exclusively online.
In recent years acrylics have become Karen’s medium of choice and she enjoys experimenting with new styles and techniques. Her inspiration is drawn from her tropical surroundings and she likes to depict both urban and rural life in a vivid color palette. She’s won many local awards and in 1996 gained the distinction of being the first person to scoop all four awards at the National Art Exhibition in Suva.
Working in copper and other metals, Shane’s work has included everything from large scale sculpture to decorative gates. His visual language conveys an acute understanding of form, whether expressed in three-dimensional sculptures, or translated into two-dimensional compositions.
Those interested in seeing Karen’s work can visit her website Karen Bower Art.
Shane’s studio is located in Savusavu, next door to the car wash (near the Hot Springs Hotel) but sells his work on his Facebook page Shane Bower Metal Fiji.
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.
THE COPRA SHED MARINA – FEES & CHARGES. All the following rates are inclusive of Government Tax (9%)
Per Day $ 18.50
Per Week $ 111.00
Per Month $ 444.00 Subject to full payment in advance
Per 6 Months $ 2,220.00 Subject to full payment in advance
FINGER DOCK BERTH
Per Day $ 0.80 per ft
Per Week $ 4.80 per ft
Per Month $ 19.20 per ft Subject to full payment in advance
Per 6 Months $ 96.00 per ft Subject to full payment in advance
Electricity (per day) $ 6.50
FACILITIES (Dinghy Pontoon, Toilets, Showers, Garbage Disposal – for vessels at anchor)
Per Day $ 9.00
Per Week $ 54.00
Per Month $ 216.00
PARTIAL FACILITIES (Showers & Toilets only)
Per Day $ 7.50
Per Week $ 45.00
Per Month $ 180.00
DINGHY DOCK BERTHING
Per Day $ 2.50
Per Week $ 17.50
Per Month $ 75.00
Clearance Fee $ 25.00
Cruising Permit $ 10.00
Water (Full Tank) $ 8.00
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 chandler, art gallery, handicrafts shop and booking offices for both international and domestic air travel. Phone +679 885 0457
Adventures in and outside of town
Visit the local villages where the traditions of the meke dance are kept vibrantly alive, and you will be swept into the exuberant rhythms of the Cakaudrove ways. (Book through your resort).
A trip to Natewa Bay, either through your resort or by finding a local guide in the nearby villages, will get you up close with the local pod of dolphins. Spinner and bottle-nose are both common. In the unlikely event that you are unable to find them, the bay still offers great diving and snorkeling spots to make the trip worthwhile. Ocean Ventures Fiji (see below) features some Natewa Bay diving tours.
Take a trip to the Tunaloa peninsula to see the rare silktail, a small bird found only in this area and certain parts of Taveuni. Whilst there, you may see the Orange dove, which is more widely distributed and a spectacular sight.
If you can manage a full day trip, drive to the village of Dakuniba on the far eastern coast to see the massive fallen obelisks and hear the legend of how the first people to come to Fiji brought them with them.
Diving with Ocean Ventures Fiji
Ocean Ventures Fiji focuses on Natewa Bay and is the only PADI dive center in the area. A 40 minute drive from of Savusavu, they have an excellent reputation for customer service, safety, and environmental responsibility. The company offers half day scuba diving and snorkeling trips, PADI diving courses, and conservation educational courses.
Run by Matthew Norman and Sara Carlson, the Anglo-American instructor/conservationist couple established their business in Natewa in 2017, whilst setting up a new marine site for Operation Wallacea, an international volunteer conservation program.
Attracted by the pristine beauty of the bay, they started their business slowly, being careful to observe local protocols and seek the correct permissions from local communities around the bay. In March 2019, they took delivery of their custom-designed dive boat, built in the capital Suva, with full sun canopy, proper divers ladder and scuba tank racks. Since then they have been offering half-day scuba diving and snorkeling excursions for up to 12 people.
Although their operation is further from town than other dive companies, it’s well worth making the extra effort to dive Natewa Bay, which has the most pristine hard and soft coral reefs to be found anywhere in Fiji.
Waisali Rainforest Reserve
The Waisali Rainforest Reserve is a 120-hectare (297-acre) property about 30 minute drive from Savusavu, high into the mountains. It’s home to a variety of native birds, flowers (including 30 species of orchids), trees and plants, some of which are used in traditional medicines. It’s also home to an endangered species of frog, threatened by rats more than man. The hour long walk is an up and down loop with steps created from back-filled gravel and wooden planks. The trail is steep at times but easy to navigate and mostly well maintained with rails and signs describing the species of trees and shrubs. At the bottom is a lovely stream and a pool. Benches are placed at strategic spots along the way. The land is visited by everyone from cruise ship passengers to local students and scientific researchers from around the world. Great place for a picnic or simply a stroll through a virgin rainforest. $5 admission.
Flora Tropica Gardens
The Flora Tropica Gardens is a splendid collection of 250 palms and other ornamental plants from around the planet. Many of the palms are classified as rare and endangered species. Other plants include various flowering trees, many varieties of variegated and flowering shrubs and more than 40 types of tropical fruit trees. There are also orchids, heliconia, water lilies and more.
With the exception of a few existing rain trees (Albizia saman) the other plants at this venue are no more than 20 years old. Established by Jim Valentine in 1998, all of the collection was raised from seeds.
Located five kilometres from Savusavu on the bay-side (next door to Tavola Fiji) it is comprised of five acres of hillside and creek flats. One traverses the garden via elevated timber walkways and stone paths. Along the way are vistas of glorious Savusavu Bay.
For plant enthusiasts this is a no miss proposition.
Another tour not to be missed is the Kula Palms soap factory. Your hosts are Vesi Simpson, a 5th generation coconut planter and is wife Ruby Hopkinson. This family has added value to their crop of coconuts by developing a line of soap and body oil infused with native medicinal herbs and even charcoal. When you first arrive at the Simpson estate you’re greeted by Vesi’s broad smile.
You can help but notice a white chapel, constructed around the turn of the last century directly opposite the family home. You’ll see a bit of local history as he ushers you inside the modest house of worship (which is still used). Inside are portraits of the Simpson patriarchs going back to Mathew Simpson, the progenitor of the family, born in England in 1820. Behind the chapel is a family graveyard where many of those featured in the portraits lie.
After the chapel tour Mr. Simpson will direct you inside a small cottage where he will explain how coconut oil is processed from the raw copra (coconut meat) to the final product. When I was there several employees were slicing bars from lengths of soap that resembled 2×4 lumber.
On the top of the roof are huge glass flasks filled with medicinal plants marinating in coconut oil that will be later used in the products. The soaps have found a customer base who use the concoctions for any number of skin ailments. If you’re fortunate enough to meet Ruby, Vesi’s wife, you’ll learn that she’s the source of all the formulas.
I can personally testify to the efficacy of their soaps and the Dilo Oil which helped me rid myself of tinea versicolor, a common fungal infection of the skin. Thank you Ruby.
KokoMana-where chocolate is created from the ground up
KokoMana, is a cacao plantation tucked into a 2 acre pocket valley next door to Daku Resort. It’s the creation of Richard Markham, an agronomist, and his wife Anne Moorehead, a science writer. At first glance it seems to be a natural rain forest where cacao has been planted but as you take the tour you realize it’s actually an agro-forestry system that includes over thirty other species of trees and shrubs that have been carefully placed to both replenish the soil and protect the land from erosion. The rich tapestry of plants attracts all manner of birds, insects and butterflies that make this visit even more enchanting.
During their tour you’ll get up close and personal with cacao plants to witness how they are grown and harvested. After that you’ll be ushered into a cottage where Anne will demonstrate how the beans are processed and eventually turned into chocolate. Naturally there will be a tasting. KokoMana does produce limited amounts of chocolate for sale and I can attest to the pleasure of eating it. The tour is a must for any chocoholic as well as anyone with an interest in botany and gardening. Tours cost F$25 per person and the property is open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 am – 4 pm. Call them at 679 298 9426 for more information.
J Hunter Pearls
J Hunter, which sells pearls, has a tour for F$50. The tour begins in their showroom with a presentation and from there, guests are taken out to the undersea farm in a glass-bottomed boat to view the pearl oyster culture. Snorkelling over the farm is an option, however, guests must bring their own gear. On this 40 minute cruise, you will see pearl oysters at different stages of growth, suspended on 200 metre long lines that run 3 – 5 metres below the ocean’s surface. The boat also comes alongside one of the cleaning platforms where you can observe farm workers cleaning and checking on the health of juvenile and adult oysters. Bookings can be made through your resort or at our Showroom (679 8850-821).
If you thought Freediving was just about holding your breath and going headfirst into the blue, you’d be wrong. As I learned from Liquidstate Freediving founders Toby and Neleem, there’s a whole different technique around equalizing your ears. Most divers are taught to equalize by pinching their nose and blowing gently. However, Freediving properly means learning the Frenzel technique, which does not entail using your diaphragm. According to the Liquidstate founders, learning the Frenzel technique can increase breath-hold time and depth. Essentially it’s a yoga-like technique that entails compressing the airspace held between your Glottis and your lips/nose. By only compressing this area one can minimize the amount of air needed to equalize thus leaving more air to achieve greater depths. This is especially useful if you’re are a spearfisherman, a surfer or even a scuba diver wanting to improve air consumption.
I was intrigued enough by the theory to give it a shot. As someone who has done yoga for years, I thought the technique might be easier for me to learn. I was wrong about learning it in an afternoon but confident with some practice I could eventually learn. Toby and Neelam are terrific teachers who offer an AIDA (International Assosiation for the Development of Apnea) approved instruction. (AIDA is the governing body for international freediving competition and world records)…
If you’re a diver or any kind of a person who spends time in the ocean, I’d highly recommend checking out Liquid State Freediving, based in Savusau. They will pick up clients from their resort. Call them at +67 9258764 \ +679 9738947
Other things to do:
Drive out to Naweni village and see the sacred red prawns (Urubata) in a pool on a volcanic islet off the beach. Legend has it that they only come when called by the villagers.
Bathe in the therapeutic thermal mud pools that are found near Levuka Koro village, just a half hour drive from Savusavu.
The Vuadomo waterfall is also a must see. Most resorts go there and most taxi drivers will also take you.
Snorkeling and diving are excellent in the Savusavu area. Daku and other properties will take their clients out to the Namena Island Marine Reservation, which has been described as world class.
The bottle tree was an iconic Savusavu monument. Of course you might trace it to Dionysus, the ancient Greek god of the grape-harvest, wine making and wine, of fertility, ritual madness and religious ecstasy. It summed up the Vanua Levu lifestyle. Somebody removed all of the bottles. Shame on them.
Labasa (pronounced Lam-bah-sah), is a bustling town and the largest on the island with a population of about 30,000. It is much larger than Savusavu and entirely different in nature with the inhabitants primarily IndoFijian consisting of Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs. The surrounding countryside, covered with cane and golden sun burnt hills also has volcanically sculpted black lava outcroppings in nearby Vunika.
Labasa is the industrial centre of Vanua Levu based on sugar production and during cane crushing season (between June and December) keep an eye out for trucks overloaded with cane heading for the only mill on the island.
What to do in Labasa
Labasa is a bustling business town, with well stocked supermarkets and a local market offering fresh fruit, vegetables, fish and spices located beside the river and having a Fijian handcraft centre upstairs. Shopping for Indian clothing such as saris or jewellery is first rate. Activities such as golf and tennis are available at the FSC (Fiji Sugar Corporation) Club. Tours are available to visit the working sugar mill.
There are several good places to eat in town including Gopal’s Hare Krishna vegetarian restaurant on the main street for homemade samosas and curries.
Naag Mandir is a greatly revered Hindu temple visited by devotees from around the world. Know as the “Snake Temple” it contains a large stone that is shaped like the head of a King Cobra. Legend has it that the stone, which is several meters high has been growing since 1969, when the temple was first constructed.
Korovatu Beach is a popular haunt outside of Labasa. You can check out the action below:
The Mission at Natuvu Creek
Near the Labasa area is 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 itself, 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).
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.
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.