There is some excellent news for cruisers visiting Fiji this year. Instead of having to clear into Savusavu (for those coming from the East) before beating into the trades to explore the Lau Group, a new trial clearance facility will be open for 10 days in Vanua Balavu from today, June 10th to the 20th.
While originally set up for the arrival of the 25 yacht strong Oyster Rally that arrives today, Fiji customs have decided to extend the service for a ten day period to accommodate the ICA Rally which is due to arrive on the 15th June. During this time, they will also be providing for general yacht traffic.
Customs and other clearance officials will fly in to Vanua Balavu on June 10th and set up a clearance facility at the Royal Exploring Isles Yacht Squadron (REIYS) on the northern tip of Vanua Balavu Island.
In 1840, Commodore Wilkes of the U.S. Exploring Expedition, named Vanua Balavu and its adjacent islands within the barrier reef, as the ‘exploring isles’. The REIYS is located on the waters edge on the point of a snug little cove about halfway down the western side of Turquoise Harbour (named for its hue) and was officially opened in 2003 by the late King of Tonga.
The Philp family, who own the majority share in the 600-acre estate called Nabavatu, on which the REIYS sits, established the Yacht Club. The family name is synonymous with sailing in Fiji (they also own Vuda Marina, Copra Shed Marina and the ‘Yacht Shop’ chain of chandleries throughout Fiji.
The private Yacht Club facility includes a new floating pontoon and pull back moorings for approx 6 yachts stern to, dinghy space on the back of the pontoon, a BBQ, bar, outdoor shower, toilets, fresh water & lawn. There is ample room in the bay for 30 plus yachts at anchor.
The yacht club is usually only open whilst the owners are at the estate, but to accommodate the impending flurry of yachting activity in the Lau Group, it will be open from June from 8th – 20th for all yachts.
Speaking to Noonsite – a favourite website for global sailors, John Philp explained, “The Oyster Rally is really what has precipitated this chain of events leading up to a yacht clearance at Vanua Balavu. All of this comes at a cost and we have found sponsors to take up these additional expenses. These include a local resort island (Kaibu) who are kindly transporting the Customs officials on their private plane, Tourism Fiji for flying in a journalist from ‘Yachting World’ to cover the rally in Fiji, the Philp family who are hosting the government officials on the family yacht ‘Tau’ for the duration of their stay, and also kind support from the Fiji Hotel & Tourism Association, the Lau Provincial Council and of course the Government and Border Control officials of Fiji.
“We are hosting all yachts at the REIYS at no charge. Our only wish is that yachting tourists enjoy themselves, and are mindful of the sensitivity of both the cultural traditions of these islands, and the natural environment. We’re looking forward to meeting a bunch of new people!”
Of course each of the yachts participating in the Oyster Rally were given a copy of ‘A Mariners Guide to FIJI Shores & Marinas’ to help prepare them for their visit, and there are many of additional copies waiting for YOU (our dear reader), at whichever Port your chose to enter into Fiji. The Royal Exploring Isles Yacht Squadron is no exception, and long-time friends of Fiji Marinas, John Philp is armed with copies for you should you choose to make the most of the opportunity of clearing into Vanua Balavu!
If you are interested in clearing into Vanua Balavu over the next 10 days, call: +679 999-7719 email: [email protected] or radio: vhf 11 & 16 at the Royal Exploring Isles Yacht Squadron (REIYS).