Tag Archives: pinnacles

Snorkeling the Chimneys at Namena

The small island of Namena is the largest no-take reserve in Fiji.  Established in 1997, Namena is both a marine and bird preseve.  It is slowly coming back to its former glory after the 2016 cyclone devasted the island. Prior to the cyclone, this area boasted over 1,000 fish species, over 600 pairs of red-footed boobies and a major nesting ground for the critically endangered hawksbill sea turtle.

To access Namena you have to enter through one of few passes.  These passes were much easier to navigate than the passes of the Tuamotus in French Polynesia.  Near the island of Namena is one mooring.  We originally tried to anchor near the island but discovered too many bommies.  So, we checked out the mooring and determined it was safe to hold our home.  

The mooring is right in front of a small beach.  Perfect location to watch all of the nesting birds return home from a day of hunting.

Nesting birds are all over the island.  We saw lots of boobies!

We went ashore and found a trail that led us to the other side of the island.  Super pretty beaches.

Best Diving / Snorkeling in Fiji

Namena is the home of some of the best diving in Fiji.  They have many dive sites inside and outside the reef.  The most famous are the chimneys, teutons, mushroom, and grand central station pass.

We don’t have a compressor so we have to be selective about where we dive until we can find a place to refill our tanks.  We decided to snorkel the sites prior to getting all of our gear out.

The Chimneys

The Chimneys consist of two sheer towers about 10 meters in diamer and 25 meters tall.  The stretch majestically from the sea bed to the sun barely below the water’s surface.  My awesome GoPro doesn’t do well far away so I tried to take photos of one of the chimneys in sections.

The water was a bit silty or murky but it very well could have been the tide.  Both chimneys were teaming with little fish.  They stayed together in their schools and created these amazing blocks of color.

Blooming coral created small bursts of color on the top and on the sides of the chimneys.

Teutons and Mushroom Sites

My favorite sites were the Teutons and the Mushooms as there seemed to be even more schools of fish.  

Even the fish were getting into the Barbie craze…a pink comet trail of fish zoomed past me.

It was a strange feeling of being the new kid at school.  I stood out like a sore thumb in a sea of beauty.

Some fish were curious and came up to see me, but most fled at first site of my bubbles.

And then I found a large, beautiful soft coral with 4 nemos!

I simply love this coral and wish I had nemo protecting me!

Look at all of that stunning color! The best aquarium ever.

Namena Resort

Unfortunately, the Nemena Resort was destroyed in 2016 cyclone.  They have a great website that states they are rebuilding, but it sure does not look like it from where we stand.  It looks like there are people living in the houses up on the hill, but not much is going on.

We cetainly enjoyed our time in Namena.  It is amazing to see the underwater world and the land bounce back from the 2016 cyclone.  Nature is spell bounding and endures.

This blog post occured in mid-August.  Our blogs run 10-12 weeks behind actual live events.  Did you see the new Nawi Marina in Savusavu in our last blog?

Baie de Vaiehu, Ua Pou

Legendary Pinnacles of Ua Pou

Our first Marquesan island was Nuku Hiva.  Primarily, because we needed to refuel, reprovision, catch up on internetting, and just relax after our passage.  But our goal was to get to Ua Pou, the island with the legendary pinnacles and the official host of the Marquesan festival that only occurs once every four years.

Marquesan Festival in Ua Pou

Matt and I had been doing recognizance in Nuku Hiva to try to determine how we can attend this once in a lifetime opportunity.  We learned that there are only two small areas where anchoring is allowed for cruisers which will only hold 10 boats each.  And there are issues with both locations.  One has a horrible swell and is known as a “surf spot” and the other is actually located in part of the marine protected area. 

The other bays have anchoring available but there is no way to get from there to the main village.  The island only one main dirt road with only 10 licensed transport drivers.  The main village will have 4 cruise ships (not sure where how they are going to fit into the small bay of Hakahau.  So, at this point we need to head to Ua Pou to scout it out for ourselves.

Passage to Ua Pou from Nuku Hiva

Ua Pou is a short 28nm sail from Nuku Hiva.  Before we pulled up the anchor, Matt spent some time cleaning up the bridle which was covered in muck.  Nuku Hiva has some stuff in the water that dirties our waterline and makes a mess of the anchor chain.  It gave us an idea of what to expect when the chain came up and it was spot on – gross!  The pressure washer was needed to clean off the chain as we pulled her up and stowed her away.  I mean it was disgusting!

With clean (or cleaner) chain, we raised the main with 1 reef and let out the jib with 2 reefs.  We were sailing along at 8-9kts in 18-20kts of wind on a beam reach.  It was a lovely sunny sailing day.  About an hour out of Ua Pou we pulled in a 2nd reef in the main as we were seeing over 20kts of wind and 11kts of boat speed.    We made it to Ua Pou in a little over 4 hours – excellent timing! 

Ducking in and out of Anchorages

We swung into the main anchorage of Hakahau to try to determine the small approved anchoring area.  There were 4 boats already in the harbor and only one of them was in the approved areas (and that was just barely in the corner).  I’d say that half of the area is not safe to anchor in due to the swell.  We also passed by the airport anchorage Baie Aneo but there was no way to get to shore.  The next bay was Hakahetau which had another small approved spot.  When we swung in it was really rolly and we decided not to stay there either.Sugar Shack dropped the hook in Baie de Vaiehu.  There is no village in this bay, just beautiful, colorful mountains.

About Ua Pou

Ua Pou, has a very picturesque geology.  It has been described as having a collection of 12 pointy pinnacles that soar like missiles from the basaltic shield.  They form one of the Marquesas’ most photographed scenes even though they are almost constantly shrouded in swirling mist.  In addition to these massive pillars are a few oasis-like valleys bursting with tropical plants and beaches.

Pinnacles of Ua Pou

Pinnacles of Ua Pou

Four high basalt pillars are in the center of the island.  These pinnacles are Poumaka at 979m, Matahenua at 1,028m, Pouake at 1,034m and the tallest Mount Oave  at 1,203m.  Oave is the highest elevation in the Marquesas.  They reach high above the surrounding mountains. 

Ua Pou Pinnacles

Ua Pou Pinnacles

Legend of the Pinnacles

Legend has it that Ua Pou symbolizes the entrance pillars to God’s house. Huge basaltic columns reaching the sky and holding the names of legendary warriors: Poutetaunui and Poumaka. In 1888, they inspired poet Robert Louis Stevenson, who mentioned them as “volcanic arrows looking like a church bell tower.”

We are blessed to be visiting during a time when these majestic pinnacles are often standing tall and free of clouds.  From what I understand, this is a rare treat.  Yet, we have seen these giants at least 4-5 times per week since we’ve been here.

As we discussed in the history of the Marquesas’ islands, many inhabitants were ravaged by diseases introduced by European explorers and traders.  However, the Catholic priests on Ua Pou were able to preserve the population by quarantining the native population in the churches whenever visiting ships arrived.  Thereby reducing their exposure to external diseases and making Ua Pou one of the most populous of the Marquesas Islands until the 1980’s.  Today, the population is estimated to be 2,300 inhabitants which is roughly 1/3 the population of Nuka Hiva.

Drone Shots of Sugar Shack at Baie de Vaiehu

Baie de Vaihoe, Ua Pou

Baie de Vaiehu, Ua Pou