Friday, 29 January 2016


Itinerary Planning

Captain David Jamieson has over 10 years sailing knowledge in the Fiji Islands, he has been asked to speak at many conferences regarding his knowledge and itinerary planning, and he can ensure that you have the best itinerary to get the most out of your cruising.
Fiji has many stunning and remote areas just waiting for you to explore. There is differently something for everyone.

Yasawas and Mamanucas Islands

These 2 groups of islands provide a wide range cruising for a 7 to 10 day Cruise.
Their Location on the leeward side of Fiji provides them with dry sunny weather. The Mamanucas islands lie within the reef providing smooth sailing.
The Yasawa Group gets more spectacular the further North you go. Swim with the Manta Rays at Naviti Island, anchor in the turquoise waters of Blue Lagoon where the film of the same name was made, explore the huge Lime stone caves at Sawa-I-Lau and finally stand on the fine sand of the 10km of pristine beaches of Yasawa Island.

Vatu-I-Ra Channel and Lomaiviti Group

The Vatu-I-Ra channel contains some of Fiji’s best dives. The constant flow of water through the channel produces some of world’s most colourful soft coral gardens and in the deeper water there are pinnacles rising up to the shallows that are the domain of the large pelagic species. These are for experienced divers and a local guide is recommended.
The Lomaiviti Group includes the islands of Makogai an ex leper colony and now home to turtle hatchery, Gau well known for its shark dives, and the remote Namena which is a marine sanctuary.

Savusavu and Taveuni

Savusavu is quaint little town with volcanic activity producing hot springs that steam along the foreshore. The town has shops and a market for fresh provisions. Across Savusavu bay is the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort which offers fine dinning ashore. Heading East to the Island of Taveuni know as the garden island because lush rain forest and waterfalls here you will find little evidence of tourism and an opportunity to experience traditional Fijian life.

Lau Group

This group is Fiji’s hidden paradise with no tourism this is one of the most traditional areas of Fiji. Vunua Balavu Island has some of the most spectacular scenery in Fiji. Here traditional etiquette needs to be strictly observed.

Bega and Kadavu

Beqa Lagoon has one of the world’s most highly recommended shark dives where Tiger and Bull sharks are seen daily. Ashore the people of Beqa are known for their ability to fire walk over red hot rocks.


Is a must for keen divers and sites abound inside the Astrolobe reef where fish life is bountiful among the huge coral gardens. Turtles, large pelagic’s, schooling Barracudas and Mantas are regular sights. Ashore there is little tourism and you will be assured of a traditional “Bula” Fijian welcome.

Lau Group 
This group is Fiji’s hidden paradise with no tourism this is one of the most traditional areas of Fiji.

Vanua Balavu Island has some of the most spectacular scenery in Fiji. Here traditional etiquette needs to be strictly observed. You need to bring with you a gift of half-a-kilo of the root of the pepper plant from which kava, the social and ceremonial drink is made. Now begins an ancient ritual known as Sevusevu. This usually takes place in the village longhouse, where your party sits on the floor opposite the Ratu (chief) and his elders. The Ratu appoints a spokesman to speak for the visitors, although the entire proceedings are held in the Fijian language. The spokesman ceremoniously requests the Ratu to accept your gift of kava. The Ratu places his hands on the gift, and thanks the visitors. All present clap three times. You are now officially the guest of the village.

There is plenty of exploring inside this large lagoon and is worth staying a few days. The village will put on a traditional feast or Lovo with meat, fish and local vegetables baked in an underground earth oven this is followed by a Meke (Fijian Dancing) in honour of their guests. For the more adventurous you can cruise south through the Lau islands to experience more of these little visited islands.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Clearance Procedures – Fiji.

Clearance procedures Fiji

Clearance formalities for yachts arriving and departing Fiji (Dec 2013)

Before you depart for Fiji you MUST lodge a 48 hr Notice of Arrival on the correct form, A copy of the correct form can be downloaded “Advance Notice of Arrival Form

On reaching Fijian waters, you must first call at a port of entry where Pratique, Customs, Immigration and Quarantine formalities must be completed.

Fiji has four Ports of Entry and departure: Suva, Lautoka, Savusavu and Levuka. Plus Vuda Point Marina is now an approved Boarding Station.
"Warning: Your first landfall in Fiji MUST be made at an official Port of Entry. Do NOT stop at outlying islands before checking in - heavy penalties are imposed.
Fiji Customs must be notified a minimum of 48 hours prior to arrival using the form C2C downloadable from FIRCA (Fiji Inland Revenue and Customs Administration). Fax the form to Customs at one of the Fiji ports you wish to enter (Suva - (679) 3302864, Lautoka - (679) 6667734, Savusavu - (679) 8850728 or Levuka - (679) 3440425) or email Fiji Customs. Failure to comply can attract heavy penalties.
Please note the word minimum means that you can fax it in before you depart your last port in order for it to be on record upon your arrival. 
You may not leave your boat until all of the officials have cleared you. In Savusavu, Waitui Marina and Bosun's Locker will perform the clearance for you free of charge if you pick up one of their moorings, Copra Shed Marina has a minor additional charge.
Do not get caught dropping an anchor anyplace in Fiji without being cleared into the country. Heaving-to is acceptable if outside a port, just keep an eye out for small, unlit fishing boats. 

Working hours of clearance are from Mon to Thurs 0800-1300h, 1400-1630; Fri 0830-1300, 1400-1600h. Overtime charges may be enforced outside of these hours.

It is the vessel master’s responsibility to ensure that all people on board are in possession of valid travel documents.

Documents required prior to arrival are:

√ Certificate of Clearance from your previous port/country (even if it is your home port)

√ Crew lists with details of passport numbers, nationality, age, position on vessel.

√ Valid passports for all personnel.

Once cleared into Fiji, if you intend to sail to another clearance port (either directly or via the other islands), you must first obtain a cruising permit from Fiji Affairs in Suva then clear out with Customs from the Port of Entry you cleared into Fiji at. Once this has been done you are then free to travel Fiji Waters. Weekly yacht position reporting is a requirement while in Fiji waters, this can be done by email to

If your vessel is in excess of 100 tons you should contact a yachting agent prior to arrival. There are many differences in clearance formalities for vessels over 100 tons which would be worthwhile knowing.

Entering into or departing Port of Entry

Before proceeding to a Port of Entry, all vessels are required to communicate with Port Control on VHF channel 16 to request permission to enter the port, and to obtain information on all vessel movements in the harbour. On entering the port, proceed directly to the designated quarantine area indicated on your chart. Fly the international yellow “Q” flag (requesting Pratique) and await instructions or arrival of the correct authorities. Apart from Pratique, Customs, Immigration or Quarantine Officers, no one should be allowed to board the vessel, nor any person or article leave the vessel until all clearances are granted.

The Ports Authority of Fiji levy a fee applicable to all vessels entering any of the ports of Suva, Lautoka, Savusavu and Levuka. Vessels up to 100 tonnes pay a maximum of $10.45 FJD.

Prior to departing a port of entry, you should notify Port Control of your intended movement.

Pratique On Arrival

The Health Officer should be the first official to clear the vessel. You will be instructed to await the arrival of the Health Boat or to proceed directly to the wharf and await the Health Officer’s arrival. The Department of Health levy a F$150 plus VAT fee for this clearance which must be paid at the Divisional Medical Officer’s office, usually at the local Hospital.

Customs On Arrival

After clearance by Pratique, you are required to moor your vessel until cleared by Customs. You must facilitate the

Customs Officer to board your vessel. The Customs Officer will process you with a thorough declaration of the yacht’s intentions and stores held aboard whilst in Fijian waters. Please do not take this declaration lightly. The penalty for falsifying declarations is severe.


Visiting yachts may enter and be kept temporarily in Fiji without payment of Customs dues provided:

√ The yacht is the sole property of the bona fide tourist;

√ The yacht is on a bona fide cruise or participating in a yacht race;

√ The yacht shall remain in Fiji for a period not exceeding 12 months of its arrival;

√ You are classified as a “Superyacht” wishing to charter for up to 6 months & hold the necessary approvals.

Your yacht will become liable to pay duty if:

√ It is put to commercial use or for other consideration whilst in Fiji waters (taken for commercial charters, hired or lease, cruises, etc.);

√ The owner is associated in any way with any entity in Fiji as an employer or employee, either upon arrival or subsequently;

√ The owner is a holder of a Fiji Immigration Permit to enter and reside in Fiji either upon arrival or


√ The yacht is not exported within 12 months of the day of the yachts arrival in Fiji.

(unless extensions have been approved)

Personal Allowances

Upon arrival you will be allowed “landing passengers allowances: regarding high duty goods such as liquor, beer or wine and tobacco (cigarettes), per each adult person above 17 years of age. All spirituous beverages in excess of allowance on arrival will have to have duty paid. Sealing of stores on board the yacht will not be permitted. No duty free spirituous beverages or other bonded or drawback goods will be allowed on board for any vessels less than 100 tonnes. Customs will allow a full list of all dutyable items to be stamped on arrival. On departure this list will be amended to that currently aboard and duty paid on the difference.

Only duty paid goods will be permitted to be exported on vessels less than 100 tonnes. Other than duty applicable on the above, all equipment on board or imported for the boat shall be kept “duty free” provided such goods depart the country with the boat. For all such equipment you are visitors aboard “yachts in transit”.

As with most countries world-wide, Fiji is taking a very hard line attitude to persons or yachts found with drugs, dangerous weapons (see below), pornographic material or other prohibited items. If you have any doubts as to the legality of items aboard, you are strongly advised to contact the relevant authorities prior to coming to Fiji. Being caught with prohibited items aboard, once you arrive in Fiji, can lead to a prison sentence.


If you wish to visit another Customs Port or cruise within Fiji waters, you must clear outwards at the Customs Port where you first entered your yacht inwards.

No cargo, stores or any other goods whatsoever are to be unloaded from the craft.

If you are in possession of firearms and ammunitions, you must surrender both arms and ammunition to the Customs officer who clears the vessel. Whilst the vessel is in Fiji, the firearms and ammunition are held in safe keeping at the port of call Police Station. These may be collected before leaving Fiji by timely arrangement with the Police (at least 48 hours notice to be given).

Extensions beyond 12 months are available by application. Extension of the initial 12 month stay is not automatic and must be applied for in advance, and is at the discretion of the Minister of Finance. Remember, apply in advance before your initial 12 month permit expires. It is advisable to contact a yachting agent for advice on this application.

Customs On Departure

Within 24 hours of your planned departure from Fijian waters, you should proceed to the Customs office on the main wharf and complete Customs Clearance formalities. You will need your inbound clearance papers, crew details, the details of your vessel and next port of call. You are required to sail from these waters within 24 hours. If you are delayed beyond this time, contact the same Customs people immediately. Customs must be cleared before Immigration, and Customs will not clear you unless all Port dues and Health fees are paid.


On Arrival Yachtsmen require permits from an Immigration Officer before they disembark. If an Immigration Officer does not meet the yacht on its arrival, a message should be sent via the Customs Officer requesting their attendance.

Immigration will clear all persons at the yacht and no one is to disembark before approval to do so is given. The Immigration Department may expect you to pay for the taxi costs to get the officer to the wharf and back.

Notification of vessels arrival and its need to clear Immigration should be relayed through the harbour’s Port Control.

The owner or captain of the yacht will have to ensure that the Immigration Department sights every person aboard, their passports, and receives from all concerned a correctly completed passenger arrival card.

If a crew is signing off the yacht, he should produce a return ticket to his country of nationality or permanent residence. It is the owner or captain’s responsibility to ensure that all crew who signs off/on should first obtain the approval of an Immigration Officer.

Last port clearance should be presented while clearing with Immigration Authorities at a clearance port.

He/she should also produce a list of the arrival crew to ensure that all crew who have arrived on the yacht are leaving. The only exemptions will be the ones who were officially signed off/on by the Immigration Officer.

Clearance will be done on board the vessel (not ashore) and if you are not along side a port controlled wharf, you will be required to dispatch your tender to take the Immigration Officer to your boat. The Immigration Officer will require you to pay (on production of a claim form) for the transportation cost to get him to the wharf and back. The clearance will be provided free of charge. Also there is no overtime charge applicable to Immigration clearances that are needed outside of normal working hours.

Immigration On Departure

Immigration is the final authority to clear the yacht out of Fijian waters. An appointment should be made in advance of your departure advising where you wish to clear from, (it is not essential to clear out from the main wharf as it is on arrival). Immigration will expect you to physically depart the Port immediately on receiving this clearance, therefore, it is advisable to complete all business ashore prior to this clearance. On departure, the Captain of the yacht will be required to complete, in duplicate, the Department Statement. In addition, he will be required to surrender the following documents:

√ Authority to Disembark

√ Arrival Statement by Master/Owner; and

√ Cruising permit (where necessary)


It is an offence to call in at any islands before arrival clearance or after receiving departure clearance.

The penalty for breaching any requirement can be severe. It is therefore advisable not to rely on hearsay information.

Always inquire with the proper department for the correct advice and up-to-date information.


A Quarantine fee must be paid on arrival in Fiji of FD$150 plus VAT.

On arrival in a Port of Entry, you should make it known to all authorities if you have any prohibited items aboard.

Otherwise, Quarantine will be notified by Customs if an inspection is deemed to be necessary.

Overseas yachts are requested to declare on arrival the following:

√ Foods (tinned or packaged), including meat, sausages, salami, ham, pork, poultry, eggs, fats, milk, butter, cheese.

√ Plants/parts of plants (live or dead) including vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, bulbs, flowers (fresh or dry), mushroom, straw, bamboo or any other articles made of plant materials.

√ Animal products including semen, feathers, fur/skin, shells, hatching eggs and any other.

√ Animals, reptiles, fish, birds (or parts thereof), alive or dead, stuffed or mounted.

√ Soil or equipment used with animals or any kind, or that have come in contact with soil.

√ Biological specimens including vaccine cultures, blood or any other biological specimen.

√ Domesticated pets to be bonded (cats/dogs/birds).

Many of the above items will not be permitted to be kept aboard the yacht for the duration of the visit in Fiji. What is allowed to stay aboard will be at the sole discretion of the Quarantine officer at the time of Quarantine inspection.

Garbage should not be discharged without the permission of the Quarantine officer and subject to such terms and conditions as he may impose.


To visit any ports, island or anchorage outside of Suva, Lautoka, Savusavu or Levuka, you need to file a Customs cruising permit as well as obtain a permit to cruise the islands. This permit acts as a letter of introduction to the ‘Turaga ni Koro’ (the village head), the ‘Buli’ (head of the provincial subdivision), or the ‘Roko Tui’ (provincial head). Along with the permit, you will be briefed on the protocol to be observed when visiting the outer islands. Following such protocol will help ensure that your visit is pleasant and memorable.

Cruising permits can be obtained from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs located at 61 Carnaon Street in Suva, or from the Commissioner Western’s office in Lautoka, the Commissioner Eastern’s office in Levuka, or the Provincial Office in Savusavu. You must bring with you your Customs papers and details of all crew members and skipper.

If you wish to visit the Lau Group, this may now be included on your cruising permit.

If you would like to visit the Lau Group, the least expensive way is to do the leg work yourself in Suva. Per Rich and Jude: Lau is easy. You will need a police clearance from central police headquarters at 4 Mile (a suburb of Suva), or current police clearance from your own country (this will save time). Make an application to the Lau provincial council which has a little office up the arcade opposite the Suva bus terminal. You need to provide personal and boat details, explain why you want to visit the area and state specific dates at each island. Cost is F$50 for the permit plus $5/day monitoring fee (all vessels need to be tracked).

Do not think about trying to cheat. There is an active coast watch system with the Turaga Ni Koro's. In times past, some yachts have received a scolding the first time, large fines on the second. Some have received large fines and expulsion on their first flaunting of the law.


Yachts visiting Fiji for less than one year are exempt from the Fiji Marine Department Regulations.

Countries whose nationals do not require a pre-entry visa to Fiji include Australia.

Lau Islands

Lau Islands

Cruising the Lau Group plus other useful Fiji info.

By Sue Richards last modified Oct 18, 2011 10:07 AM

Published: 2011-10-18 10:07:33
Countries: Fiji
Our thanks to Adrian Faulkner of Sail Yacht MANDALA for this interesting and useful report. Adrian is happy to help others with info. Contact him at
The following has been written with the assumption that the reader understands (or has been warned about) Fijian orthography. Fijian words, other than place names, are written in italics: both need to be read as Fijian words.
Commodore Voreqe Bainmarama was the leader of a military coup that ended an elected government in 2006. He has appointed himself Prime Minister. I choose to call him PM/dictator, which is factual but not judgemental.
Contents of Report:
LAU GROUP – special conditions
LAU GROUP – cruising
Fiji has been built on British civil service, with a large dose of Indian development. The two threads have inevitably created a formidable bureaucracy. While officials are honest and polite, meeting the demands of the state takes time and lots of paper. Go with the flow as you cannot avoid it!
Having cleared in (foreign) at one of the five official ports – Suva, Lautoka, Levuka, Savusavu or Rotuma – outwards clearance is required before leaving that port for any Fijian cruising waters. This is granted by Customs in a process similar to gaining foreign clearance. Each official port is associated with a region of adjacent coasts and islands, and clearance from that port is required before visiting those islands and coasts.
The Customs regions are:
Suva: adjacent coasts, Beqa and Kadavu
Levuka: adjacent waters, islands and the Lomaiviti Group
Savusavu: coasts of Vanua Levu, and adjacent islands including Taveuni and adjacent islands
Lautoka: the Mamanuca Group, and Yasawas.
Lau Group: the Lau is not associated with a particular official port, but a specific permit is required for clearance to the Lau (see below).
Rotuma: newly-declared as a Customs port, this remote island has only one or two anchorages. Clearance will only be needed for going foreign again, or for heading to Fiji.
In principle one is required to clear into the official port before visiting the region, and clear back in again after visiting them; and then clear out again so as to move to another port where the process is repeated for that port’s region. Some flexibility seems acceptable when passing through an area e.g. when sailing from Savusavu to Suva one passes through the islands under Levuka’s control, and stopping for a night or two without doing the clearance at Levuka should be acceptable. In general, though, a sailor will be happy to spend a week or two in each region, so the clearance issue is not too onerous. The paper-work is taken very seriously, into computers, and without any charges.
Each yacht’s clearance is given a “rotation number”: mine is LY 11/415. This number is essential for the clearance of any packages imported duty-free, and probably for other official issues.
A CRUISING PERMIT is required by Customs before any cruising clearance can be granted. This permit is issued on request at the iTAUKEI AFFAIRS BOARD (Indigenous Affairs Board - TAB) office at 87 Queen Elizabeth Drive – Government Buildings, Suva, or at the the Commissioner Western's office in Lautoka, the Commissioner Eastern's office in Levuka, or the Provincial Office in Savusavu.
Following a directive from the TAB dated 12 August 2011 permits are issued free of charge for all areas of Fiji, including Lau Group: previously permits for the Lau were only issued by the Lau Provincial Council, and at substantial cost. A specific permit, now only issued by the TAB, and also free of charge, is required for the Lau Group, while another permit covers all other islands. Permits are issued promptly, often "while you wait". The permit is a one-page letter, entirely in Fijian, and valid for a period up to six months. An English version of the permit was "not available" when requested. Unless you can read Fijian you will not know what the permit says, or when the permit expires, so it is important to clarify this: clearance will not be given once it has expired (this happened to me).
In the major tourist areas traditional customs are less important than visitors, but in more remote areas, understanding and following Fiji’s customs is strongly advised. A visitor who ignores these customs will feel less welcome, and your hosts will be offended. Indeed they will sometimes express this with anger, and they will be less willing to help should you need their help.
Sevusevu is the process that must be followed when first visiting a village. It simply involves asking for the "turaga ni koro", the village headman, and taking him a gift of yaqona (often also called waka, kava or grog). Your gift will be accepted, and you will be given the freedom of the village. In the Lau you may also be asked for an "anchorage fee" (see below). If staying for a few days the sevusevu is a nice introduction to the village, and will always lead on to valuable contacts. If just passing by, anchoring for a night or two, it can be a nuisance. If taking a long walk, through several villages, the obligation is not clear.
A supply of yaqona is needed before leaving port: it is not easily available when cruising. In major cities there is a section of the market that sells yaqona in bundles at about F$15 – 20, which is considered suitable. The powdered product is not favoured for sevusevu. The challenge is deciding how many bundles to buy (how to decide how many villages you will visit). Having a stock of rice, sugar and corned beef will allow an alternative gift for when the yaqona has run out.
Qoliqoli refers to the customary ownership of wet-lands, beaches, waters, reefs and fisheries that is vested in an adjacent village, and which is the subject of a controversial law, THE QOLIQOLI BILL 2006. For the sailor it means that all anchorages and reefs belong to a village nearby, and permission must be sought for any use of them. While this goes against the western assumption that the sea floor is in "the commons", to ignore this in Fiji will lead to offence and ultimately to conflict.
The qoliqoli rights extended to surf-breaks. A recent decree from the PM/dictator has removed this right, making ownership of surf-breaks illegal. This decree does not apply to anchorages, so permission must be still sought from the qoliqoli owners.
LAU GROUP – special conditions
The recent directive from the TAB advises those who want to visit the Lau Group that the qoliqoli owners will be charging for anchoring. In the more remote areas permission to anchor must always be sought from the Turaga ni Koro (village head), and presumably this charge will be requested after giving the sevusevu gift. The TAB advises that the Qoliqoli owners in the Lau will be charging F$10/day for the "Anchorage Fee" for yachts (and up to $3500/day for cruise liners). No such charge is ever made in any other area of Fiji, and it is not explained why Lau should be different.
On MANDALA’s recent 6-week cruise throughout Lau, no charge was made for our permit (issued just after PM/dictator Bainimarama had visited Lau, and insisted that tourism be encouraged for the sake of the economy). Only once were we asked for an anchorage fee, in the village of Daliconi on Vanua Balavu. Daliconi is the village that "owns" the Bay of Islands, a popular and beautiful area for yachts. After sevusevu, we were presented with a demand for F$150 + $25/person for anchorage fee (with no time period attached) for the Bay of Islands. We politely declined to pay, made a donation to the school, and left a 4-page paper detailing a plan for tourism developments that would help the village with revenue – and why charging for anchoring would not help them. Our approach seemed to be well-accepted.
In the rest of the Lau there was never any charge mentioned, but this visit was before the TAB directive mentioned above. How it will be handled by village leaders at other islands is not at all clear, but almost certainly it will sometimes arise. Cruisers need to be prepared to be asked for an anchorage fee, and to be clear how they will handle this. I suggest they point out that this demand will keep visitors away, and will be harmful to the reputation of the Lau – and to decline to pay.
LAU GROUP – Cruising
There are scores of islands in Lau, but many lack good anchorages. MANDALA visited five islands with good anchorages in 2011, and some pointers about them may be useful. There are NO cruising guides for Lau (other than Calder’s, and he does not go beyond Vanua Balavu), but I found the BRITISH ADMIRALTY PACIFIC ISLANDS PILOT VOL II (The Central Groups) very useful. I had sailed to most of these islands in a previous yacht, in 1976, and found them still just as wonderful, and unchanged.
The island life is very simple, and the people are very poor in material terms. Most villages have a store, but there is little for sale. Fresh fruit and vegetables are hard to find, and villagers are not used to the idea of selling these things that are normally shared with friends and family. Premix petrol (and sometime diesel) is often available in bigger villages. Most villages have a telephone at the post office, but internet is rarely available. Vanua Balavu and Lakeba have the only airports in Lau, and both have once-weekly flights. Cargo ships, with passengers, visit some islands roughly monthly (in theory), but this is as unreliable as the ships are old. Some islands we visited had not had a ship for two months. This means that their already meagre supplies are running out. Do not rely on buying any of your needs.
Often the best-stocked shop is associated with the Post Office: Post Shop sells everything from very-old eggs to groceries and school books! The Post Shops are always well-run and well-organised (apart from 3-month old "use-by" dates on the eggs, still for sale in one in VB!).
The region is dominated by the SE trade winds which are usually from Force 3 - and mostly 5. Quite frequently these bring occasional showers. When fronts pass through heavy showers and rain are more frequent, making navigation in lagoons difficult. We had one period of frequent rain and Force 6 SE, E and NE winds, and this made cruising in the lagoons of Vanua Balavu too dangerous.
Largest island group in Lau, has 5 wide passes into a lagoon 15 miles by 15 miles. With many islands inside the lagoon, and many excellent anchorages (including several hurricane anchorages), there are many cruising options here, and one could be happy for a month or more. There is superb diving on the reefs, but no facilities for divers. 
The Bay of Islands, an area of raised coral and jungle in the NW is well worth a visit, but the unrealistic financial demands of the "qoliqoli owners", at Daliconi Village, rather spoils the feeling of welcome.

Population of VB is about 3000, in about 10 villages. The main village, Lomaloma, on the east coast, offers almost nothing beyond history, a post office and bread shop, and some very basic stores. The airport has once-weekly flights to Nausori, near Suva. Occasional ships bring stores and people, perhaps monthly. There is a high school, one rather basic guest house near Lomaloma, and a health clinic.
This roughly circular volcanic island, about 6 miles across, is the political centre of Lau, and the main village of Tubou is near the only well-protected anchorage. The channel through the reef off Tubou is very narrow (23 m wide), is only roughly marked and very challenging. Leading about half a mile inside the reef, the channel leads to a long jetty, and past this to a narrow anchoring basin about 6m deep on sand. Without swinging room I needed to use three anchors to hold the yacht centred. With care there could be room for two yachts. The anchorage is calm, but difficult. I recommend taking a dinghy ride in before entering with the yacht. There is a large lagoon east of the island, with a pass into it, but it does not look attractive.
Population is about 2000, in 7 villages spread around the shore, with a road running right around. The island has an airport with weekly flights, and very basic shops and a clinic. There is a basic guest-house, and no other facilities for visitors or tourists.
This island consists of an oval rim of jungle-covered hills of raised coral, around a lagoon about 6 miles by 5 miles. There is one 50m-wide pass into the lagoon, straight but challenging - and dangerous in bad weather or strong tides. Inside the lagoon are countless mushroom islets, and some larger islands, countless anchorages over white sand, usually <10m deep. At least one anchorage could be considered hurricane shelter. I consider this island to be Fiji’s most beautiful!
Population is about 400 in three villages, one village ((Naivindamu) on the W shore inside the lagoon and the other two outside, on the southern edge, with tracks leading from the lagoon to them. The head-village, Monacake, has the school and clinic, and is on the outer edge. No airport, and very infrequent ships make this a very isolated world, rarely visited by yachts.

The island is about 5 miles wide, being the rim of a volcano with the crater open to the south, and a barrier reef around most coasts. The crater is accessible through a clear pass on the west side, and by a passage inside the reef. Anchorage in the crater is far from ideal, and very deep (20m+). We anchored on the N coast, open but calm in S winds, but did not go into the crater.
This is a beautiful, verdant, high volcanic island, with its crater open to the west through a wide, clear pass. There is an excellent, sheltered anchorage, 10 – 15m over mud, inside the crater off the village of Lomati. Other deeper, less sheltered anchorages are in the channel inside the pass, to the north of the main channel (17m over sand), or south of the main channel, amongst coral (6m over sand). There are more marginal anchorages inside some narrow passes on other coasts.
Seven villages are spread around the coasts, with total population about 800. No airport, only occasional shipping and yachts (mostly surf and dive charters). Currently, a road is being built around the island, but the only vehicles to use it are horses. The main village is Yaroi, on the NW coast, with a clinic and school. Anchorage is possible off another delightful village, Makadru, south of the pass. 

Thursday, 21 January 2016


The Tongatapu (TOHNG-ah-TAH-poo) group is composed of approximately 30 islands: Tongatapu, the Kingdom’s archaeological and cultural center; 'Eua, possibly its most scenic island; Pangaimotu and 'Atata, where excellent anchorages, snorkeling, and informal resorts can be found; Fafá, an upscale resort island; and numerous smaller motus (islands) that provide limitless opportunities for exploring.

Tongatapu’s coastline varies from whitesand beaches and outstanding surf on the W end; to the spectacular Mapu'a 'a Vaea Blowholes (“the Chief’s Whistles”) on the S shore; to caves, rocky bluffs, coral reefs, and world-class fishing around the E end. The Kingdom’s most famous cave, ‘Anahulu Cave (“Vast Cave”), treats adventurers to a dramatic display of stalactites and stalagmites, followed by a refreshing dip in a large freshwater pool at the bottom.

Good overnight anchorages can be found on Pangaimotu and 'Atata. Both locations provide secure holding and protection from the sea if not the wind. They have scenic anchorage on 'Atata (5.4nm NW of Faua) or Pangaimotu (1.2nm NE). Both islands have restaurant and bar facilities, good swimming and snorkeling, and their own respective charm.

A small boat harbor on 'Eua was destroyed by Cyclone 'Eseta in 2003 but has since been rebuilt.

Pangaimotu in Nuku'alofa, Tongatapu: The benefits of stopping here

By SY A-Train — last modified Nov 11, 2014 02:30 PM
Published: 2014-11-10
Greetings from Canadian yacht A-TRAIN, currently anchored in front of Big Mamma's at Pangaimotu in Nuku'alofa, Tongatapu, Tonga.  First, thanks for the hard work you all do to provide the cruising community with so much useful information. We really appreciate it!  Second, we would like to offer a current opinion regarding the benefits of stopping here in Nuku'alofa as the final Tongan stop or the first one, depending upon your direction of travel.
Contrary to recent reports we have read and heard via the jungle telegraph that there are very few reasons to stop here, or that it should be avoided altogether, our visit here overthe past two weeks has been awesome.
Anchorage: The anchorage in front of the town harbour is excellent holding in sand and despite 20 kts rather calm with no rolliing at all.  The anchorage over at Pangaimotu across the bay is even better in pure sand and today it is blowing in the mid 20's, very comfortable with a slight chop, no rolling and close to shore. We have been making water since arriving without even thinking about the water conditions, it is clean here!  The town of Nuku'alfoa and the inner harbour are not filthy and to be avoided, rather we found town as clean or cleaner than Bora Bora, with far less trash blowing around. The harbour is clean save a few plastic bottles in a constant gyre in one corner and the facilities are more than acceptable.
Provisioning and Supplies: Yes it is true, Costco and Walmart have not arrived here but the several grocery stores are quite adequate.  However, the fresh fruit and veggie market which takes up about half a block, is indoors and is a shocker after months of remote cruising. Everything from lemons to celery to hot peppers to cilantro and virtually any fresh item you want were there every day and all day. Prices could only be described as cheap!  Vendors are no pressure types and happy to help. Many times other items would find their way into our shopping bags as gifts for shopping with them.  While the hardware and general department style shopping are certainly more limited than found on the continent's, shopping is not why most of us came way out here to begin with.
Clearance: That said, the towns folk are shy but very freindly and accommodating in every way; clearing in and out was a matter of less than two hours total, which included walking slowly to both Immigration and Customs /Port Authority offices a dozen blocks apart.  Friendly, courteous, no need to bring the boat alongside and no hassles at all.  A nice experience!  You can do it all even quicker via taxi for less than ten local dollars including the waiting times. Cabbies are super nice, shy but very helpful;  Mark, is a good cabbie to line up with.
Duty free fuel: (Today it was $1.78 TOP, Tongan Official Panga, about 0.92 Canadian, cheapest you will find for some time) was a simple matter of requesting and completing the form from Customs, walking down to the Total fuel office five minutes from Customs, paying in advance for the amount of fuel you require and arranging a time to be alongside where it is delivered via tanker and pumped aboard. Easy stuff. Three caviats, you need to pay up front for fuel with cash, (easily acquired from two separate ATM's right near Customs); it can be a little challenging to get along side if the East wind is above 18 or so and tanker delivery requires a minimum of 1,000 ltrs. So we obtained the cash, no big deal.  Next, as everyone else was doing, we arranged to buddy up with another boat to ensure we had more than 1,000 ltrs, then arranged to help others with shore lines in exchange for same. Easy and the fuel was clean!  Much of this was made even easier by the availability of the water taxi provided by Big Mama's Yacht Club and Bar across the harbour at Pangaimotu. The other option is to dinghy across, which is a ten minute ride at speed but with strong winds it just gets a bit too wet to be any fun.
The owners of Big Mamma's Yacht Club and Bar, Earl and Ana, aka Big Mama, are about as kind a couple as you can find. They are welcoming, and invite you to hang around and enjoy their facilities which are modest but oh so South Pacific, including a safe dinghy dock, great food, (awesome fish and chips!) cold Cruisers Ale, rum punch, wifi, beach, kids park of sorts and a host of services that make the stop really worth while. Kids love it at Big Mama's....where they can run freely through the place, onto the beach and swing from a rope tied to a palm tree and land in the clear blue water!  Ana and Earl and staff will do anything to help out yachties!!!  Need, jerry jugs of fuel or gasoline, propane, laundry, groceries, water, a good game of darts, Tongan history lessons, help with just about anything, go in and see Earl and he will make it happen. For hauling jugs or propane bottles there and back and filling etc... he charges a very modest fee as with anything else and it is gone and back same day. Not worth even considering doing it yourself. Our propane bottle was about one third full but we decided to top off and received a written receipt with start weight and finish weight and paid only for fuel added, imagine that, no flat fee. Needless to say we are really glad we stopped. Earl and Ana are salt of the earth folks, staff are friendly and will help you with speaking some of basic Tongan conversational phrases, which we used everywhere garnering laughs and smiles and pleasant responses.
All in all a fantastic experience!  They really appreciate it that we spend time and some money here, but nowhere did we feel any pressure to buy anything at all. So if you find yourself passing through the area, or even nearby, make the effort to stop in and you will be rewarded with a safe, relaxing stop and kind, welcoming people.
Russ and Gwen Hobbs

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Tonga to Fiji

Outward Clearance
Vessels must receive outward clearance before departing Tonga or when traveling between the archipelagoes. When leaving Tonga, clearance forms are required from Immigration, Customs, and the Ports Authority. Harbor Fees (T$1.80 per gross ton per month or part thereof) must be paid at the time of departure.

When traveling between island groups, it is not necessary to clear Immigration. Duty-free fuel and items at the duty-free shop (near the Customs building) may be purchased by presenting proof of outward clearance. Duty-free fuel is purchased at either the Shell or BP station and delivered to the vessel by truck. A minimum purchase of 500 liters is required. In Faua Harbor, vessels should moor medstyle to the breakwater and wait for the truck.

This section describes the passage in a west to east direction, from Fiji to Tonga.

Passage between Tonga and Fiji previously won the reputation of being the most hazardous in the South Pacific—many vessels have been lost in this area. Due to the distance involved, it is impossible to pass all the dangers before nightfall, and the 180nm route passes through an area riddled with reefs (where only a few dangers are marked by lights) and strong currents. To complicate matters further, any passage to Nuku'alofa or Vava'u will primarily be hard on the wind.

If it is necessary to make this passage, do so toward the end or before the onset of cyclone season prior to the SE trades settling in. Vessels departing from Suva will thread through the islands of the Lau group and then head for the open sea through Lakemba or Oneata passes. If traveling to Nuku'alofa, it is possible to travel SSE, steering E when well below the hazards.

Another route is to pass between Matuku and Toyota islands, running parallel to the reef S of Toyota. From there, it is safe to pass through the gap separating Vatoa and Ogea Levu islands. Vessels bound for Nuku'alofa should use Ava Lahi or Egeria channels to enter the lagoon and then head to Faua Harbor.

Vessels bound for Vava'u should follow the same directions as far as the gap separating Vatua and Onega. Then set a course to the N of Late island. From that point, steer toward Neiafu using Faihava Passage (W of Vava'u) to enter the harbor.

Faihava Passage is a straightforward approach and leads to Neiafu at its terminus. Tall bluffs line the passage on both sides, and the water is deep except for a small, wellmarked stretch directly before Neiafu.

Jimmy Cornell says that during July and August, when the Southeast tradewinds are at their strongest, the passage from Tonga to Fiji can be rough. At the beginning and end of the winter season the winds are lighter, but the sky is often overcast which can make navigation through the dangerous waters quite difficult.

Because of the risks involved in passing through Fiji's Lau group, boats leaving from Vavau should avoid the more direct Oneata Passage and sail instead through the wider passage between Ongea Levu and Vatua Islands (Route PS 47C). The latter passage is also used by boats leaving from Tongatapu. If using Oneata passage, one should be aware of the dangers of sailing at night through the area west of Oneata, where none of the islands have lights. For similar reasons, Lakemba Passage should also be used with great caution.

Route PS 47D offers the option of approaching the Fijian islands from the north east by using the Nanuku passage. Waypoint PS479 (16º45'S, 179º10'W) is about 5 miles east of the Welangilala light, which marks the eastern side of the pass. This side of the wide pass should be favoured because the southern extremity of the extensive Nanuku Reef, which lies on the north-west side of the passage, is not marked by a light. Great care should be exercised when approaching Nanuku Passage because of the strong currents and the reports that the Welangilala light is occasionally not operational.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Charts and books


Sailingbird's Guide to the Kingdom of Tonga. iBook on iPad.

The Moorings' 'A Cruising Guide to the Kingdom of Tonga'. 30 page pdf covering Vavau Group.

The Moorings' Vavau Islands Cruising Guide. 14 page pdf on iPad.

Vava'u, Ha'apai, Tongatapu, Nui Cruising Guide. 30 page pdf on iPad.

Vava'U group

VHF Channel 26. Marine and ports repeater channel. 0830 - 0900. Then channel 06.

Friday night friendly race at the Port of Refuge Yacht Club in Neiafu Harbour.

Neiafu Harbour in Tonga’s Vava’u group is very well protected and experiences fewer cyclones than Fiji and there are several operators who rent cyclone moorings for that season which conform to insurance standards. Some will also provide an excellent, reliable caretaker service.

Moorings can be rented from Aquarium Café, Beluga Diving or Moorings for approx T$15 per night. Weekly or monthly rates can be arranged. All moorings are marked. When secure, call the company on their designated channel (marked on the mooring). Moorings (Charter company) own most of the moorings and are making these available for private yachts, moving their own boats elsewhere. They’ve also changed their service model to provide water, fuel by jerry cans and a new laundry.

In the outer anchorages, the moorings in Hunga (anchorage #13) belong to Ika Lahi (CH 71); in Tapana (anchorage #11) belong to The Ark/Tapana (CH 10) and in Mounu (anchorage #41) belong to Mounu (CH 77).

The following anchorages (#6, #7, #8, #19, #32 and Maninita) have moorings put down to protect the coral and are free to pick up but donations are expected to help maintenance & placement of future moorings (receipts given at Tonga Visitors Bureau, cafe Tropicana, Aquarium and Moorings). Maintenance of these moorings is questionable so be sure to check.

Check with Vavau immigration to extend visa from 31 days to >33 days.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Ha'apai Group

The Ha'apai Group



3rd April - Take Nimrod to Coomera
Extend insurance with Topsail.
Mon 4th April - Liftout at Gold Coast City Marina.
Survey by Peter Kidd. Booked.
Yanmar service. Booked.
New gas stove

Fri 8th April. Lift back in.

9th April - 11th May. Royce Black takes Nimrod to Faua Harbour, Nukuʻalofa, Tonga.

Saturday 14th May. G & D fly from the Gold Coast to Fuaʻamotu International Airport, Nukuʻalofa, Tonga.

'Landfalls of Paradise' says: 'Flights to, from, and within Tonga are often booked far in advance'.

Plane ETA at 8.55pm. Taxi from Fuaʻamotu International Airport to Nukuʻalofa costs between T$40 and 50 one way and takes around 30 minutes.

Faua Harbour is where Nimrod should be.

Noonsite information here.

Sunsail information here, and here.

Tonga: the island kingdom

Cruising the Kingdom

Meketi Talamahu
Sounds like a fabulous fruit, vegetable, and fish market. About 1.5 km from Faua Harbour.

From Pangaimotu in Nuku'alofa, Tongatapu
Provisioning and Supplies: Yes it is true, Costco and Walmart have not arrived here but the several grocery stores are quite adequate.  However, the fresh fruit and veggie market which takes up about half a block, is indoors and is a shocker after months of remote cruising. Everything from lemons to celery to hot peppers to cilantro and virtually any fresh item you want were there every day and all day. Prices could only be described as cheap!  Vendors are no pressure types and happy to help. Many times other items would find their way into our shopping bags as gifts for shopping with them.  While the hardware and general department style shopping are certainly more limited than found on the continent's, shopping is not why most of us came way out here to begin with.

From 'World Cruising Destinations'.
A coastal clearance permit (Local Movement Report (Small Craft) from customs is required when moving between island groups served by different customs offices. On arrival at the next group, you must contact customs. When travelling between Tongatapu and Vava'u the costal clearance can be requested to include Ha'apai.

Extended Visa 
No visa is required for a stay of less than thirty-one days. Visas for periods of thirty-one days to six months may be granted by the principal Immigration officer in each port of entry. The fee for extending a visa is T$40 per month— visitors are required to present a completed application, the correct fee, and a passportsize photo to the Immigration office. Since we arrive on the May 14th, and leave Tonga on 15th June (33 days), this will be necessary. It should be done at Vavau, a few days before the 31 day visa expires.

Re-entry letter for Fly in - Sail out.
Greetings - you might wish to travel to Tonga on one-way tickets. If you would wish to do so, you would be required to have an authorisation in order for you to depart Australia and to arrive to Tonga. A letter of authorisation with AUD$34.50  charge per person can be obtained from this High Commission. Please be informed that such a letter would require 2 documents,  i.e. scanned copy of each passenger's passport biodata page and a copy of each passenger's air ticket.

Please keep us posted if you have any further inquiries in the interim.

Kind regards,

High Commission of the Kingdom of Tonga
7 Newdegate Street
Deakin ACT 2600

Telephone: +612 6232 4806
Fax: +612 6232 4807


Annual rainfall in Nuku'alofa averages 58 inches, with as much as ten inches falling in April and as little as one inch in May and July. During the Tongan winter (June to August), temperatures can occasionally be quite cool.

In Nuku'alofa, mariners can receive weather information and marine warnings over VHF. They are broadcast daily (except Sundays) at 0900 and 2100 on VHF channel 12 by Nuku'alofa Radio, which announces its broadcasts on VHF channel 16 before changing frequencies.

At the end of the May - June cruise in Tonga, we will leave the boat in Neiafu Harbour, and fly home.

Arranged with Shane Walker, of The Moorings, (Ph + 64 9 3787900, Mob + 64 27 4944030) we will leave it on a mooring 500 m from the town between 14th June and 6th August. "Its no problem to collect you and drop you to your boat, we will also the rounds and keep an eye on it while you are away." TOP300 per month.

Wednesday 15th June. Real Tonga Air. Vava'u to Tongatapu. Depart 08:30. Check in time 07:00. Booking number is 660841. Ticket.

Arrive Fuaʻamotu International Airport, Nukuʻalofa. ETA 9.30 am.

Then fly Air NZ 973 to Auckland, Depart 11.40 am. Gate closed at 10.40 am.

ETA Auckland 1.45 pm. Stay the night in Auckland. (Yet to be arranged).

Thursday 16th June. Fly on to the Gold Coast on Air NZ (Virgin) 7925, Depart 12.30pm.  ETA 2.10 pm.

Weather Forecasts
To obtain weather forecasts for Tonga, type “send nadi.Tonga days=14” to (omit the quotation marks). This message will result in a subscription to the local weather forecast, as issued by NADI Fiji, for two weeks. To receive this report indefinitely, change “days=14” to “days=0.” For information on obtaining files, send a blanke-mail message to