Words by Donna McDonald, owner-operator at Matanivusi Resort.
We wondered who was pranking us when we got a phone call at midnight back in August. The not-so-funny person on the other line simply asked us “what’s the weather like?”. As it turns out, this wasn’t a joke at all! The call was from the emergency rescue team in Fiji, informing us of a yacht stranded on the reef in front of our resort.
We frantically jumped out of bed and ran outside to find a 40ft catamaran about to go under on shallow reef. We had to think of a plan fast, as the emergency rescue team weren’t going to make it on time. Between the 3 of us left at Matanivusi, all still half asleep, we rescued the crew of 5 French sailors and brought them back to the resort safely, managing to salvage a few bags and some valuables too. By this stage it was about 3am, and we were running on pure adrenaline. All of a sudden Matanivusi was back up and running! We had to set up rooms, prepare food and serve drinks for our first guests in 4 months, and with very little warning.
A few weeks earlier, Fiji opened the ‘Blue Lane’ for yachts travelling from New Zealand to Fiji during Covid. They had to sail directly to Denarua Marina to meet the local immigration authorities, who would instruct them to self-isolate on their yacht for another 7 days. Later, we found out that the French crew had endured a pretty rough sail from New Zealand, and were granted approval to rest in Vunaniu Bay overnight (a safe anchorage bedside the resort). They were not to leave the yacht and had to continue to Denarua Marina at first light the following day, but instead they left at 10pm and sailed straight on to dry reef.
In the morning, we woke up to an offical Covid Response Team ready and waiting for us at the resort. There were 2 doctors, a couple of nurses and a military representative. We were told that because we were not able to maintain social distancing rules during the recuse, that we were all required to quarantine for 14 days at the resort. Soon after, another 4 military representatives were sent to monitor and enforce various Covid rules during our lockdown period, which meant we had a total of 9 guests at the resort - a very abrupt re-opening for Matanivusi indeed!
The first few days of lockdown with our new guests were spent inspecting the yacht for all the damages. The port hull had been totally sheared off, and the starboard hull was taking in water after a bit of a pounding on the reef. We contacted a yacht repair duo who came to offer their services, but we were quickly and harshly reminded by the military representatives that we were supposed to be in lockdown, hence potentially exposing the yacht repairmen to the risks of Covid. So, 9 guests turned to 11 - our quarantine family was growing!
That was just the beginning of the Matanivusi Rescue Mission. For the rest of our 14-day lockdown, we had to take everything off the yacht, clean it, retrieve as much debris as we could from the reef, refloat the yacht, and organise to have it towed to Denarua Marina. Eventually, everyone was given the all clear from Covid. The military representatives packed up and left along with the yacht repair duo, the 3 French crewman left for a Fiji holiday, and the 2 owners of the yacht went to Nadi to decide if it was worth fixing their vessel – it wasn’t!
Now, it’s back to being just the 3 of us, and although we can’t wait to welcome more guests back, we just hope the next group come from the airport!