Close Encounters of the Marine Kind
Marine Mammal encounters in the wild certainly have a dimension to it that no encounter in captivity can hope to compare to. This week we had an unbelievable encounter with a pod of Pilot Whales that gave us goosebumps. They were so intimate, so curious, so trusting. When we give them the respect they deserve and interact with them in their own terms, it is almost spiritual. To look at them in the eye and see them look back into yours is a unique experience.
The highlights of this trip were definitely the multiple Hammerhead sightings and the best Pilot Whale encounter we have ever had. This charter was filled with sunshine, low wind and the fishiest dives. Funny how fishy takes on a whole new meaning when you’re a diver!
Photo by Bel: NAI'A and Pilot Whales. One of them is spyhopping.
Photo by Bel: Making eye contact with a Pilot Whale
Photo by Bel: Pilot Whales, sunshine and islands.
Photo by Bel: Soft Corals and Anthias
The first day of this epic journey was at Vatu-i-ra with juvenile Devil Scorpionfish, a very hairy Sea Spider, a HUGE Tawny Nurse Shark, schooling Barracudas, Turtles, Midnight Snappers, Moray Eels and other small critters. On the night dive, it was Shrimp and Crab fest, with Gosha being unable to take pictures due to the krill being too attracted to her camera. The bioluminescence was unbelievable, and special sightings go to a 6-inch Marble Shrimp and a Red Sponge Crab. A baby octopus caught a ride with someone’s fins to the skiff, and we let the little guy back in the water.
We moved to the Sea Mounts with their spectacular corals and jaw-dropping scenery. Aside from the abundance brough on by the healthy reef system, we saw many Scorpionfish, a few White Tip Reef Sharks, a couple of Turtles, a few Nudibranchs (including a 1/2-inch Chromodoris Kuniei) and Hammerheads! Lucky Lefty saw 5 together at the beginning of their dive, and Bel and Vera saw 1 at the end of theirs. On the night dive, many sightings of the Floral Crabs.
Photo by Bel: Soft Coral
Photo by Bel: Phyllidia Nudibranch
Photo by Bel: Soft Corals and Anthias
We woke up ready to explore Wakaya, and despite no sightings of Mantas that morning, the reef was just… very much alive. Fishy, very fishy. Slender Magenta Anthias danced on top of the bommies, Fusiliers of all kinds fed on the incoming Plankton, Humphead Wrasses cruised the wall, White Tip Sharks slept on the sand and Titan Triggerfish swam around protecting their nests. It’s that time of the year again! Big Tuna and Mackerels cruised by and a small Sponge Crab revealed itself right behind the Manta cleaning station.
We moved to Makogai and saw Pilot Whales as we were approaching the island. They were so relaxed, we decided to go snorkeling with them… and what a treat it was! We spent two full hours getting in and out of the water with them, and even had Bottlenose Dolphins come join for a while. Encounters like that are so rare, and watching them from so close, respecting their space and interacting on their terms was an incredible experience. On the village visit, Ammar was our Chief (he was craving that kava!) and Agnieszka said her mouth hurt from smiling so much. These visits are getting better each time, and we will miss them during our break.
Photo by Bel: Pilot Whale turns to make eye contact
Photo by Bel: A mom and her two teenagers getting to know us
Photo by Bel: Mom gives a lesson on spyhopping
Photo by Bel: Welcome to Makogai
Photo by Bel: Meke time!
We arrived at Namena Marine Reserve for two full days of amazing diving that only Namena can offer. We saw dozens of Grey Reef Sharks, a few White Tips, a couple of Hammerheads on different dive sites, big Humphead Wrasses, Flatworms, Pipefish (NAI’A, Brown-banded and Schultz), huge Giant Morays, Sponge Crabs, Yellow Boxfish, Black-blotched Porcupinefish, Oceanic Triggers and hundreds of Emperors, Barracudas and Trevallies. Our Kava Party was a lot of fun and on the night dive a Banded Sea Krait greeted the divers.
Photo by Bel: Sea fan
Photo by Bel: Roboastra Nudi
Photo by Bel: Vernon serves us Kava
Then we spent our last day in Vuya with some intense currents, courtesy of the New Moon. We saw Roboastras, Flabelinas, Blue Dragons, Lionfish, Fish Drama, Pygmy Seahorses and a lot of Fusiliers. By the time we got to UndeNAI’Able, the current had died down and we got to fully enjoy the scenic multi-layered Pinnacle. We headed home with a gorgeous weather looking forward to our next charter with 13 return guests!
Photo by Bel: Green
Photo by Bel: Pygmy Seahorse and soft coral
Photo by Bel: Polyp Forest
Photo by Bel: Fiji in one image
Our group of happy divers
“Lomaiviti is nationally significant for its important role in reseeding Fiji’s reefs and providing fish refuges.”
~ Dr. David Obura, Cordio and WWF Marine Biologist