Well, I think we can safely say that Vanuatu has been one of our favourite destinations so far. It really is like walking through the pages of a National Geographic Magazine.
Most of the charts we’ve seen and relevant books we’ve come across always seem to refer to ‘Fatu Hiva’ as the southernmost island of the Marquesas. However, when we first arrived in Baie des Vierges (or Baie des Verges if we’re to use its original name) all those months ago, I saw a large signpost to welcome sailors and other tourists which clearly referred to the island as ‘Fatu Iva’. Since then I’ve got it in my head that it’s called ‘Fatu Iva’. As the locals clearly refer to it as this, I will continue to use ‘Fatu Iva’ opposed to ‘Fatu Hiva’, but to save any confusion I want to make it perfectly clear that I am, in fact, talking about the same place – Fatu Iva.
Last November, we arrived in the Marquesas Islands for the first time and our very first stop was here, in Fatu Iva. We we’re in a bit of a rush to pick up my friend, Charline, who was coming to visit and flying in to Hiva Oa. As a result we only had a quick pit stop in Fatu Iva before heading off to our next destination. Now we’re back to see the island properly. As the maintenance work on Bob is finally done and we’ve left the boatyard, we have some time to simply enjoy the places we’re visiting without having to worry (too much) about boat work.
People often refer to Baie des Vierges as one of the most beautiful anchorages in the world. It certainly is stunning with towering rocks protruding out of the ground like skyscrapers and lush green forest as far as the eye can see. Many people arrive here after sailing for many weeks, sometimes months, from Panama or Galapagos and I can completely understand that after so long at sea, arriving here could really take a person’s breath away. We first arrived here from the Gambier Islands where the mountains, whilst not as grand, are just as lush, the white sandy beaches are deserted and the water is crystal clear with the colours of the reef shimmering proudly in the sunlight. Whilst I can still appreciate the beauty of Baie des Vierges – the cloudy water, black sand and the beginnings of a new breakwater combined with a bright yellow crane was a little underwhelming. It was difficult getting Alex motivated to come back here to visit an island that we’ve already been to, and moreover, is a complete detour to where we want to go next. I’m really glad we did though, there are so many hidden gems that we would have missed if we had bypassed this place.
On our final night in Fatu Iva we decided to anchor in Omoa, a bay to the south of Baie des Vierges and where the main village is located. We had originally planned to sail to Tahuata, but a very large lightning storm prevented us from doing so. Instead, we anchored in the safety of Omoa bay and waited out the storm before leaving. Although the sea swell meant we were rolling around a bit, the bay is scenic, the village lovely and the people very friendly.
While we were on shore in Omoa we stopped briefly to talk to some fellow sailors, and when I looked down at my feet, to my horror I saw a dark cloud of tiny blood sucking midges – ‘nonos’. I’ve been bitten by the black nonos in Nuku Hiva and the result was hundreds of large, itchy, angry red lumps all over my body on any ounce of flesh that I had foolishly not covered with clothing. I looked like I was in the primary stages of small pox and would not have been surprised if people turned and ran in the opposite direction for fear of catching some contagious disease! Given that past experience, I started doing the hysteric chicken dance in the middle of the street whilst frantically trying to pull the insect repellent out of my bag to lather my legs in. It may have looked strange to everyone else, but I considered it absolutely necessary! Unfortunately, I knew that I’d been bitten a number of times before I got the insect repellent on (despite my dancing efforts). However, to my delight and amazement I hardly noticed the bites over the next few days. It turns out that the species of nono in Fatu Iva are different and nowhere near as nasty as the ones in Nuku Hiva. So luckily, I didn’t have to suffer another week of itchy skin welts. Thank. God.
There’s one shop in Omoa with good supplies and a bakery open in the early mornings. Like with many of the islands in French Polynesia fresh food is difficult to come by, but there are many mango trees growing at the side of the road towards Baie des Vierges which you can help yourself to. I had also heard that the dancing here in Fatu Iva is the best in the Marquesas. Unfortunately we weren’t able to see any performances, but if anyone else is thinking of visiting, it sounds like it would be well worth checking out.