A Perfect Composition
Water Temperature: 25-26C/77-79F and rising
What an incredible journey we had on our charter with the group from Bluewater Travel, led by one of Fiji’s biggest fans, Mark Strickland. It was Mark’s 6th trip with us, and he knew exactly where he wanted to take his group. He chose well, and the result was incredible underwater scenery and amazing encounters. We even had FIVE sailfish sighted at the end of a dive, plus hammerheads on six different occasions, as well as assorted nudibranchs, turtles, baby sharks and ribbon eels. Between the sightings, the clear visibility and the bright blue sky, our guests had everything to compose the perfect image!
Photo by Don: Mellow Yellow on FULL yellow mode!
Photo by Sylvia: A hingebeak shrimp (freaky eyes, incredible shot!)
Photo by Jeanette: A hawksbill turtle, probably high on soft corals
Our checkout dive was affected by a wrap-around wind that left us with no shelter, so we dived the beacon at Lautoka, and although it was NOT scenic, Mike and Mo found many nudibranchs we don’t normally see and Mike even found a disco clam! After our overnight passage, we spent a full day diving E6 and Mount Mutiny. Easy diving, yet incredibly scenic with the hard and soft corals. The Cathedral and Rainbow Wall certainly were the favorites and sightings throughout the day included a big school of barracudas, a turtle who was so very high, some enormous wahoos and even a hammerhead (while the guests were distracted by Bel playing “mom” with the lionfish, oh well). Our dinner was delayed as our guests were all out on the bow watching a pod of spinner dolphins that followed us for over 15 minutes! A great start to a fabulous journey.
We spent the two following days at Vatu-i-ra Marine Reserve exploring the many dive sites on different conditions to allow for the best shots of soft corals, scenery and fish. So many fish. Charlie’s Garden was a favorite for the hard coral garden, Mellow Yellow (dived both mellow and yellow) and Coral Corner delivered the scenic soft corals and the fish drama, GoMo was so incredibly active, Maytag was scenic, brilliant and easy.
By the time we took the group to Alacrity and through some very epic cuts covered in soft corals and gorgonians, the comment was “Anywhere else in the world, that would have been an incredible dive. But after what we just dived, it was “only” really nice. You guys are spoiled”. Yes, we know. Mark was particularly surprised by a school of queenfish on his safety stop, and Lucky Lefty saw another high turtle, this one stuck on its back. Mo, Bob and Pat, the hardcore trio, did the night dive and saw a flying squid, many decorated crabs and a giant pufferfish.
Photo by Bob: Fiji is famous for those
Photo by Bob: Sea fan
A gentle passage brought us to a beautiful day at Wakaya. The mantas were on the shy side, and only two appeared (Geo and Johnny) for Mighty Righty, although they did stay for about half an hour! Throughout the day we saw the great hammerhead, a couple of scalloped hammerheads, schooling cornetfish (30+), some leaf scorpionfish, purple queen anthias, decorated dartfish, a very friendly octopus, a giant moray eel getting cleaned and a clown trigger and a trevally hunting together. On the night dive, once again only the mighty trio joined, and returned with tales of pearlfish and many weird larvae, almost like a blackwater dive!
The crossing to Gau was a little rocky, but our day was nothing short of fantastic. Jim’s and Anthia’s had beautiful visibility and a lot of activity on the safety stop. The Outer Ridge was a gentle drift with great coral, some bluehead tilefish and dozens upon dozens of fire dartfish. The star of the day, Nigali passage did not disappoint with many grey reef sharks (and 30+ babies), barracudas, snappers, juvenile rockmover wrasses and humphead wrasses. We finished strong with the village visit, and Bel was slightly reprimanded for laughing so hard at the guests dancing that she snorted. Once we returned to NAI’A, the crew kept the kava and music going for another while after dinner. But not too late, as we had a long crossing to our next destination: Namena Marine Reserve.
Photo by Bob: Geo the manta
Photo by Sylvia: Cleaner shrimp right before they went a little too far in
Photo by Jeanette: A friendly octopus and a cheeky dive guide
Photo by Bob: Magenta dottyback
Photo by Bob: Fluorescent night reefs
Photo by Sylvia: Grey reef shark at Nigali Passage
We spent two full days enjoying the beauty, diversity and abundance that only Namena can offer. Grand Central Station delivered with two amazing dives filled with grey reef sharks, hammerheads, enormous dogtooth tunas, a gazillion scads, four milkfish, two pompanos and bigeye trevallies. Not to mention the five (five!!) sailfish that appeared on the safety stop for some lucky divers. Kansas was as scenic as ever, but the winner was Schoolhouse, with triggerfish, surgeons, pinjalos, bigeyes, trevallies, tunas, grey reefs, hammerheads, barracudas and bannerfish… all the bannerfish. We may have heard “We can dive here every day” from a few people.
The south of Namena was also amazing, with friendly spadefish, a great variety of nudibranchs, ribbon eels, orangutan crabs, golden mantis shrimp, more barracudas, decorated dartfish, reeftop pipefish and all the soft corals. On the night dive, Sylvia joined the mighty trio and we saw some funky crabs, a few intriguing worms and an overwhelming amount of skeleton shrimp (and discoved with Bob’s photo that they have evil red eyes!). Our kava party was a big highlight, and a chance for the group to show some more dance moves. Bel refrained from snorting this time. After Isa Lei, Dylan joined the crew and sang some classics with them. Suzy was VERY proud.
Photo by Sylvia: Kansas from below
Photo by Sylvia: Friendly spadefish
Photo by Don: One of five sailfish, shot with a macro lense!
Photo by Greg: It's raining bannerfish!
Photo by Sylvia: Barracudas
Photo by Bob: Skeleton shrimp and the evil red eyes
Photo by Sylvia: What is a bearded man wearing a fedora doing on top of this crab?
We moved smoothly to Vuya and enjoyed a day of spectacular dives. Cat’s soft corals were as beautiful as we’ve ever seen them and Humann Nature wow with the incredible health of the hard corals and the appearance of a small turtle and a big school of barracudas. At UndeNAI’Able Pinnacle, despite the many nudibranch sightings (including mating lined nembrothas), the highlight was the school of fusiliers surrounding the divers at the safety stop. And UndeNAI’Able Reef got compared (not for the first time) with Alice in Wonderland, and Tammy asked, as she returned to NAI’A: “Who dosed me?”. For the night dive, Jeanette joined the trio, but also Mark and Dylan, for Dylan’s first night dive. They saw two emperor shrimps, multiple lion’s paw sea cucumbers and a spotted stingray.
For the last day, we dive Vatu-i-ra once again. Mighty Righty dived GoMo as Lucky Lefty revisited Maytag. Upon returning, they were both claiming their dive site had “all the fish in the world”. At Maytag, Bel found a couple rare Phylodesmium Undulatum and lost her S*^T. Then both skiffs resivited Mellow Yellow and Coral Corner, both with mild current but full Fiji Scenery with open soft corals, beautiful sunshine and ALL THE FISH. It was the perfect way to end such a splendid journey. The best part was to see Fiji through the lenses of the talented photographers on board, and to have proof of all the cool stuff we saw!
Photo by Don: Cooperative subject = great results!
Photo by Greg: Cat's Meow and Fiji's world renowned soft corals
Photo by Jeanette: Hard corals and a handful of fish
Photo by Sylvia: Phyllodesmium undulatum, or "a squiggly nudi"
Our group photo, almost complete
“This trip was better than I expected. And I expected it to be pretty frickin’ great. Thanks to all the crew who made our first liveaboard so memorable.”