A Tale of Whale Songs
We have had the most incredible experiences in Fiji, but this week we had a new first, and a very special one at that: we heard humpback whales during a few of our dives. We also saw them spouting on the surface, sighted a false killer whale during a dive, watched mantas getting cleaned, and enjoyed the mesmerizing scenery of Fiji’s healthy and abundant reef life. Ratu Lynn, the fierce leader of this incredible group, and her husband Mike (one of four Mikes on this trip) had a clear idea of what parts of Fiji they wanted to see, and we made it happen.
Photo by Steve: Anemone, Dascyllus and Anthias
Photo by Bel: Reception at Makogai
Photo by Greg: Anthias
After our checkout dive at Mike Boom’s favorite site in Fiji (Samu reef), we headed to Vuya and enjoyed four dives on our amazing reefs. We had sightings of several nudibranchs, a free-swimming flatworm, a hawksbill turtle, ocean triggerfish, big pufferfish, a friendly clown trigger, some sweetlips getting cleaned, and so much action. Some divers said they had a hard time seeing the corals because “there were too many fish between us and the reef”. Well… that’s a good problem to have.
Photo by Marie: Sea fan
Photo by Greg: Anthias and fan
Photo by Lynn: Longnose filefish
Photo by Marie
We headed to Namena Marine Reserve for two days filled with the best diving Fiji has to offer. With a full moon around the corner, we had some challenging dives with intense currents, and they were worth the extra workout. Mike Boom said the current at Kansas gave him a haircut, but it attracted trevallies, huge dogtooth tunas and some grey reef sharks. Mo also found a magnum sea cucumber, a first for us! At Schoolhouse we saw an endless school of bigeye jacks and another of ocean triggers, as well as some barracudas, rainbow runners and so many snappers. Grand Central Station delivered the sharks… so many sharks. Nature just the way it’s meant to be.
On the south we had sightings of ribbon eels, decorated dartfish (our usual suspects plus another 2 found by Lynn), squarespot anthias, a NAI’A pipefish chilling with a moray eel, two orangutan crabs, longnose hawkfish, golden mantis shrimps, bluefin trevallies hunting in large numbers and wire coral crabs (which we didn’t even know were a thing. Thank you Mike K). The highlight goes to the false killer whale that visited Tetons I for a quick spin, then circled Mighty Righty 3 times before disappearing. Fiji just keeps surprising us! For our last dive, we sheltered from the wind at Namenalala and had a pleasant relaxing dive looking for critters.
Namena was also the stage for our Kava Party. I must say we have heard a lot of funky animal sounds over the last 17 months, but the monkey sounds produced by Mike S and Richard will forever make me laugh. Mike Boom decided to tsunami all night, and ended up making the wrong goat sound (well, right sound, wrong end of the goat).
Photo by Marie: Spadefish
Photo by Marie: Barracudas
Photo by Steve: Decorated dartfish
Photo by Steve: Wire coral crab
Photo by Steve: Baby anemonefish
We had a rocky passage to Wakaya and most of our guests got little sleep. The ones who pulled themselves out of bed were rewarded with an incredible encounter with Shirley, one of our favorite mantas. Our girl danced for us for over 30 minutes, showing off her big pregnant belly. On dive 2 we saw Juanita, but she was much shyer than Shirley and only took a few spins for us. And it wasn’t all about mantas, as we saw countless purplequeen anthias, a hawksbill turtle, some huge tunas, schooling barracudas and a few grey reef sharks. But the most incredible was hearing humpbacks during our second dive. So unexpected, so very clearly, so incredibly touching.
Photo by Steve: Anemonefish
Photo by Marie: Shirley, very pregnant, dancing for us
We had a short crossing to Makogai and slept in peace to recover from the previous night. Diving our favorite bommies were the perfect way to spend this somewhat sunny day. We saw scorpionfish (including another leaf), redfin anthias, multiple nudibranchs, and Mighty Righty saw Polyp, one of our regular Wakaya mantas, do a flyby right next to Rick’s Rocks. And that’s not all… we heard humpbacks again. Less clear, but just as beautiful. Then, we saw humpback spouts right outside the lagoon. Big, clear spouts. Some of us geared up and took the skiffs towards them, but they were no longer there. We changed quickly and headed to our village visit, where Ratu Lynn represented us as our chief. We were guided through the island and the remains of the old lepper colony, outdoor cinema and graveyard. We saw the giant clam babies. We watched the sevusevu ceremony, and the mekes performed by the children. We joined them, and we had a blast.
Photo by Steve: Morisson's dragonet
Photo by Bel: Village visit
Our overnight crossing brought us to Vatu-i-ra, and we started the day diving Howard’s Diner and Coral Corner. Both sites were beautiful, although Coral Corner’s current kept everyone on alert. As the waves and winds picked up, we moved to Alacrity for shelter and our guests loved all the soft corals and fans on the beautiful wall. Matt even found us all an ornate ghost pipefish! We headed home to Lautoka glad for a fabulous group who had the best time, despite the weather conditions. We look forward to seeing this incredible group again one day, just maybe without Greg and his bad weather mojo!
Photo by Marie: Reef life
Photo by Lynn: Endemic Marjorie Flasher Wrasse
Photo by David: Ornate ghost pipefish
“We loved NAI’A and it superlative crew 12 years ago. We adore you truly. Thanks for a sublime experience – an unparalleled opportunity to marvel, laugh and sojourn with the best of nature and humanity.”
~ Sandra & David