By Sera Tikotikovatu-Sefeti
It is a beautiful Saturday morning; the sun is out, the sea is calm, and we are ready to board the ‘Sabre’.
The South Sea Sailing vessel—a 78-foot custom-built catamaran— stands out amongst the rest of the boats at Port Denarau with its beautiful yellow hull. Our captain, Poni, says he has been skippering various vessels since the 1980s, so we know we’re in capable hands.
Boarding the Sabre, the crew serenades us with beautiful Fijian songs. Seating is designed in such a way that you share with other guests and form new friendships, with large shaded canopies and bean bags amongst the options. My husband and I sit with two beautiful Americans, Patty and Kate, a mother-daughter duo vacationing together.
As the boat departs the marina, our attention is on the water; its blue-green mass glistening in the sun’s rays already have us daydreaming about jumping into its beautiful depths.
However, at the mention of morning tea, we quickly snap out of our daydreams. Chef Vishal’s buffet includes local fruits, assorted pickles, chicken pies, bacon and egg (my favourite), banana muffins and more. Vishal was laid off from his hotel job during Covid and joined South Sea Cruises last year. “It has been great. There is never a dull moment; I enjoy working with the crew, cooking out at sea, and with the great view, it’s never boring,” he says with a smile as he prepares lunch over what is surely, the best-positioned barbeque ever!
In no time, we reached the Mamanucas and a sandbar, where snorkelling gear had been spread out for our use. A slide on the boat drops straight into the sea, although some passengers preferred to leap from the Sabre’s sides.
The snorkelling session was closely supervised by the crew, who monitored everyone’s whereabouts. As an island girl, I love the ocean, and I have never seen so many fish in one section before, so I was lost in wonders below the surface.
After our underwater adventures, we were summoned to a buffet lunch that included grilled lemongrass chicken and pork, fresh herb marinated wahoo, kransky sausages with garlic aioli, assorted salads and dips and more, plus an endless supply of soft drinks and water, and for two hours, beers and wine out on the sand bank.
“The food here is amazing, the fruits taste so fresh and sweet; the onions, we love them; you cannot get this in America, the fruits may look good but taste bland, you guys are blessed,” our American friend Patty enthused.
Soon we were told we had another 45 minutes in the water, so I made like the little mermaid and slipped down the slide back into the ocean. My husband, never one to let food go to waste, well he preferred to linger over his delicious lunch.
I have to admit, I was disappointed when they announced boarding call. But after a quick change, sitting with a cocktail in good company, we bobbed to the rhythm of some old school funky beats all the way back to Port Denarau.
Again, we were serenaded, this time with a version of ‘Isa Lei’ as we disembarked. As the song goes, “Vanua rogo na nomuni vanua”. Our hearts were filled with pleasure, and we will be back Sabre, next time with our children, who are so mad that they didn’t come along this time!
This article first appeared in Fiji Traveller, April-June 2023.