|VvS1 on Charter in Fiji|
|Crewed Yacht Charter Reviews|
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A charter in Fiji aboard the 111-foot Alloy motoryacht VvS1 brings international service standards to some of the most remote fishing, diving, and cultural locations on Earth
By Kim Kavin
I am floating face-down in 2- to 4-foot swells. Nasty bits of Pacific chop are breaking over my back. My top-grade fins are of little help against the cut’s rushing current, so I kick harder—as hard as I can—trying not to choke on the salt spray running down my snorkel and into my throat.
The manta ray’s wingspan is easily 10 feet. Its body is tuxedo black, gliding effortlessly through the deep blue into a storm of white plankton as thick as December snow. I try to keep pace above the ray as it passes over a coral mound the size of a Mini-Cooper. Its shadow is ominous, like that of a spaceship overtaking the moon.
A second manta ray enters my peripheral vision from the right, just as big, just as shockingly big. It banks like an aircraft carrier into the current with its mouth stretched open and ready to feed.
There’s an awful lot of plankton between that second ray and me.
It’s not stopping. Or slowing.
“Do these things attack?” I wonder, briefly assessing the damage I might do with a plastic, purple snorkel.
After a few minutes, I can no longer keep up. The rays swim on as I lift my head and look for my ride: a 21-foot Protector with bright-orange tubes and a hard top that make typical white tenders look like bathtub toys. I toss my gear over the side and slop my dripping-wet feet onto the nonslip sole. I feel as secure as a Coast Guard rescue.
There are no drink holders. No speaker system. No frills.
And why, exactly, would I trade safety for frills when I’m chasing 10-foot manta rays through 4-foot swells?
“That’s pretty much the owner’s attitude, as well,” says engineer Ben Cameron-Saul, who regularly pitches in with deckhand duties aboard the 111-foot Alloy motoryacht VvS1. “The Protector is ideal for the kind of charter program we’re running. For people who like to fish and dive, it really doesn’t get any better. “
My adrenaline is still pumping when the Protector deposits me safely on the aft deck of VvS1, where, I am pleased to report, there are frills galore. She is a custom motoryacht built to be the Range Rover of the sea, developed specifically to bring luxury service and style to off-the-beaten-course destinations like this one: Fiji.
VvS1 plans to spend six months in Fiji each year, alternating with six months in the owner’s native New Zealand. My charter was at the end of VvS1’s first season in Fiji’s Mamanuca and Yasawa archipelagos, which are closest to the international airport in Nadi (pronounced NAN-dee). The farther you cruise from Nadi, the more authentic the islands become. We spent one afternoon on Nacula Island in the Yasawas, at a village overlooking Malakati Bay where the tribespeople performed a meke—a traditional dance presentation. We sat cross-legged as drums banged, voices chanted, and dancers in grass skirts told visual stories about their lives. I got to be our group’s chief, which meant that I sat in the middle and received a few sips of kava, the local equivalent of Greek ouzo or Scotch whiskey, as the village’s offer of welcome.
It’s quite an experience, having a 200-plus-pound Fijian man in a grass skirt crouch down, make unrelenting eye contact, and inch toward you with a half-coconut shell full of liquid calm. Beating rhythms marked his pace while village children peeked as close to the ceremony as they were allowed, necks craned to see how I would receive the gift of drink. All went silent as I reached out to accept it.
I clapped once, shouted “Bula!” to say hello, and gulped the kava with a smile. Then the drums started again. And the dancing. And the singing. The goodwill and joy were palpable and infectious, so much so that our entire group was up and dancing before the meke’s end.
It’s interesting how quickly you can feel in step with a place so foreign if you simply receive a proper introduction. That’s what VvS1 is offering, and it’s truly a charter experience unlike any other.