Astrolabe Abovewater

After North Astrolabe Reef we headed the few miles over to Great Astrolabe Reef. The underwater was pretty nice, and so was the above water. We stopped first at Dravuni and had to complete our first sevusevu. In Fiji each village owns not only the land of the village itself but the surrounding land and water – and in some places (such as Dravuni) some of the neighboring small islands and waters. When you anchor in their front yard and start fishing for their fish and walking through their farms you’re expected to formally present yourself. Sevusevu involves taking a small, formal gift to the village chief and asking permission to visit their village and surroundings. Unless you manage to somehow be really offensive this is pretty much a formality.

And at Dravuni it was a very small formality. Dravuni has 200 people and a primary school, but gets up to 3000 visitors at a time when a cruise ship arrives (there will be four this October, otherwise once or twice a month). So, the three of us arriving by sailboat were pretty much a non event. But the formalities were still expected. We went ashore with our gift a yaqona (the root from which the Fijian kava drink is made) and were met on the beach by a young man who took us to the chief’s house. The chief wasn’t around so his nephew, George, stood in his place.

Even an informal sevusevu is a formal procedure. We all sat down on the woven mat at the front of the house and I placed the yaqona on the mat between myself and George (allowing him to accept it and pick it up or leave it there and thus indicate his non-acceptance of our gift). George picked up the gift and gave a short, formal speech of welcome. And that was about it. We spent another 15 or 20 minutes chatting about the village, the school, and other small talk before everyone had to get back to work (cruise ship coming on Saturday) and we were sent off to enjoy.

After Dravuni we went a few miles further down the reef to the tiny island of Namara. Found a nice patch of sand where we could drop the anchor in about 12 feet (4m). Crystal clear waters, white sand beaches, and no one around. Once or twice someone passed us by, and a resort snorkeling boat spent an hour or so, but otherwise we had the idyllic island all to ourselves. We spent a bunch of time in the water, more time walking up and down the beach, and the rest of the time getting schooled in Rummikub by Joanie.

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