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UPCOMING TRIPS

Eat, Sleep, Dive, SURVEY, Repeat!

Destination: Fiji Bligh Waters
Trip Date: Feb 19th - Feb 29th, 2020 - Comments
Author: Jemma & Scott
Welcome Back: Half of the boat!!! Janet C, Doug, Janet E, Lillian, Sue, Kara, Chuck, Fred and Laura

After the NAI’A received some well-deserved TLC in dry dock, we were super excited to get back to our happy place: under the surface in Bligh Waters!

By : Frank Krasovec

By : Frank Krasovec

By: Frank Krasovec

By: Frank Krasovec

By: Frank Krasovec

By: Frank Krasovec

By: Frank Krasovec

By: Frank Krasovec

We welcomed aboard for our first trip of 2020 a Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) group from the USA. There was a mix of super experienced fish surveyors, to those documenting sightings with their cameras, to those just starting their obsession with counting fish!

We had a lovely sunny afternoon on arrival day to welcome REEF. We got briefings done and we were straight in the water…REEF slates and all…no messing around! It was clear from the beginning that we had some very serious fish nerds aboard and it was going to be a fun trip!

To explain, REEF divers survey the reef using a ROVING Diver survey method; they record the presence and abundance of every species of fish they see on a dive...so you can imagine how busy they are here on our wonderful reefs teeming with life!

After a short journey we arrived on the first full day of diving at Vuya for our morning dives. We sure made the REEF surveyors work with the diversity of fish to record. We were very happy to find our Pontoh’s pygmy where we left him last year on the shelf at Cat’s Meow, although by the second dive he was hanging on for dear life to a piece of halimedia in the current that had picked up. Also beautiful soft corals and schools of scalefin and slender magenta anthias and 3 spotted eagle rays (not a three-spotted eagle ray)! At Humann Nature (name fully appreciated by this group…named after one of the founders of REEF Paul Humann) everyone was happily surveying and photographing around the edge of the pinnacle and as they started to shallow up they were then amazed by the stunning hard coral top reef…better keep on marking down those fish till the very very end!

Picture by: Frank Krasovec

The afternoon was spent in the UndeNAI’Able region at the Pinnacles and the Main Reef…usually spots where the soft coral sea fans and swim through’s are the main attraction. Not for this group who were all about the fish! (No spine, no time eh Janet E!)

Each day before dinner Amy gave a REEF lecture on fish seen that day and on the most common species in each family.

After a short cruise the following morning we arrived at Vatu-i-ra and had some stunning dives at Mellow Yellow and Coral Corner. The soft coral was out with the current and the colour of the reef was stunning. It is just SO good to be back in our Bligh Waters. After lunch we headed over to the Whole Shebang and spent the dive on the beautiful hard coral garden. After dinner, we had some super keen night divers (max one hour Marie!) head out to Alacrity where Scott found a hairy ghost pipefish and Fred found another, decorator crabs with anything and everything attached (sponges, tunicates, hydroids, algae and soft coral), and a super curious white tip checking out Scott and Marie!

Another calm night at anchor before we headed over to our seamounts for the morning. First stop was Mt Mutiny, where we dropped down on the rainbow reef soft coral wall and gradually shallowed up to the hard coral reef top. Our second dive of the day was at E6 where we enjoyed the topography of the swim through’s and the Cathedral. A hug school of black fin barracuda joined Lillian, Kathryn and myself off the drop off, and Marie and Frank spotted a spotted eagle ray! Fred and Laura found lots of shrimp gobies in the Cathedral sand and we had a few white tip reef sharks swimming around us throughout.

Picture by : Frank Krasovec

That afternoon we planned something a little different for this group…on a previous trip Janet E and Lillian had spent the day diving around Vatu-i-ra Island itself finding all sorts of different kinds of fish (including the Eyre's dwarfgoby) so we thought it would be fun to go explore the area again. Great success! Lots of species were found that won’t be found on any of our usual dive sites in Fiji, which is a great exercise for the REEF team as they can get a broader idea of species present in the area to record in the Fiji region database covering a range of habitats. We were also able to report that the corals are recovering well as we haven’t dived there since before Cyclone Winston in 2016. There are some HUGE acropora table corals, important for providing homes for reef species and juveniles...so as you can imagine it was hard to tear our fish geeks away and I think Chuck was the last back to the boat after 100 mins plus!

The next morning we awoke in the picturesque bay of Wakaya Island for a day of exploring the expansive reef wall. We were met with beautiful visibility and conditions as we explored Lions Den, Vatu Vai and Blue Ridge. Throughout the day the REEF surveyors logged all sorts during their surveys adding new species to the trip, including a fantastic spot of the helfrich’s dartfish which was the mission of the day! Some were also lucky enough to spot a manta ray and hammerhead out in the blue, our leaf scorpionfish friend, grey reefs and Susan hung out with a HUGE napoleon wrasse! Up in the shallows we found a leopard blennie and coralgobies. Meanwhile Sue was busy doing her thing and found the palate surgeon (aka Dory!) whilst snorkelling above. But the video of the day was for sure Marie’s banded sea krait eating an eel! Fred was right when he said you could spend the whole week surveying this reef as there is just so much to cover!

Picture by : Frank Krasovec

Another night dive for the super keen before we headed down to our next stop, the island of Gau. We spent the first dive at Jungle Jig which proved to be so popular we repeated it the following morning. Here we were on the hunt for pipefish and our fish surveyors were super happy to find lori’s anthias, bundoon fangblennies and a flame hawkfish (great underwater directions Janet C!). Our second dive on both days was the Nigali Passage. Our divers dived the site in a number of different ways to get the most out of the varied environment to survey. We were met by our friends the grey reef sharks, schools of a variety of barracuda species, jacks, snappers and Kathryn and Scott were super lucky to also see a Manta!

Picture by : Frank Krasovec

Our first afternoon in Gau we visited the village of Somosomo. It was so great to be back and village spokesman Tom gave a fantastic tour of the beautiful village. We had so much fun during the mekes and chatting to the villagers! As always a wonderful experience, reminding us of why we love this place so much.

The second afternoon in Gau we spent at Anthias Avenue and Jims Alley, with an afternoon dive and a dusk dive. Bridget got her nudi fix and Janet C got her flasher fix! Plenty of life to survey down in the sand and rubble, as well as on the top of the pinnacles. Including in the crinoids …pretty sure I’ve started Bridget and Cathy’s addiction to check every feather star for a chubby little crinoid clingfish!

Picture by : Frank Krasovec

After dinner some of us stayed up and enjoyed an impromptu kava party to celebrate the one and only Big Mo's (aka King Neptune's) birthday! Susan and Marie joined the crew as we listened to them sing and play beautiful guitar! After the celebrations we pulled up anchor to make our way to Namena!

We started our first morning on the North side of Namena Marine Reserve and had beautiful conditions at Grand Central Station and Kansas. Kansas was beautiful with its swaying sinualria wheat field of soft coral (I’m waving my arms Chuck) and filled with nudis (as I desperately find someone who cares about things without a spine to show) and pipefish (I’m sorry did you say it was the network pipefish Janet E?!!). Grand Central Station had grey reef sharks, schools of snappers and jacks, and as he was flying by the drop off Big Mo only went and spotted a rumengani thread pipehorse!!! Hail King Neptune!

That afternoon we spent in the South of Namena at Tetons 1 and 3. We saw the NAI’A pipefish (well Laura and Doug at least were looking in the right crevice) brown banded pipefish, decorator dartfish, a pair of ribbon eels, got cleaned by cleaner shrimp, looked up a seacucumbers’ bum (thanks Robert), watched the dragonetes skip across the reef and tried to get a photo of the flame hawkfish! Doug even spotted a grey reef shark making a kill!

Picture by : Frank Krasovec

As always at these pinnacles teems of anthias and fusiliers with trevally darting in and out almost conducting the fish which is just so beautiful. I’m sorry Doug you can’t stay under for any longer…just come back next week!

That evening it was Kava Time! A great Kava Party with the entire crew…and a few tsunamis put everyone in a great mood!

Our second day at Namena started off the same as the first on the North side. At Grand Central Station Scott’s skiff were met by hammerheads off the drop off and golden coralgobies in the branching coral. Big Mo came back from Kansas finding a ghost pipehorse and THREE pontoh’s pygmy seahorses over at Oz (great shot Frank!)!

We headed back to the South side for the afternoon and dived Two Thumbs Up and Tetons 2. Again, stunning conditions for these sites and we barely left the main pinnacle at Two Thumbs as we were finding so much! Nudis (including the new Kathryn species), white-capped shrimpgoby, all sorts of pipefish, flat worms, leaf scorpion, coralgobies and a super shy juvenile leopard blennie in an acropora coral. The deep purple, pink, white, and yellow soft corals just popped in the sunlight, combined with the swarming anthias and schooling bright blue lunar fusiliers it was just perfect!

At Tetons 2 there were all sorts of shrimpgobie action down in the sand, pipefish of all kinds everywhere, a huge swimming flounder and the beautiful oriental sweetlips. Meanwhile Sly found a beautiful top reef for Sue and Kara to snorkel.

For our last night dive we went to Namena lala bay where we spent the dive hunting for critters! I was super happy to find two rumengani thread pipehorses (just call me Big Mo) to show Frank who got a great shot!

After the night dive we hauled up the skiffs and set sail for Nananu-i-ra for our last morning of diving. We awoke to a stunning sunrise and dived at Labyrinth and Pinnacles. Everyone had fun “getting lost” in Labyrinths soft coral channels and maze of bommies and were then amazed by the expansive shallow hard coral garderns on top. Over at Pinnacles the current was pumping up the yellow dendronephthya soft corals down the length of the tall pinnacle and the abundance of fish was just stunning!

That afternoon as we headed back along the top coast of Viti Levu to Lautoka, Amy administered REEF Fish Tests and everyone worked on their fish surveys and photo editing. Also thank you Eric for the signed Fish Behaviour book from Paul Humann, Ned and Anna DeLoach, a very thoughtful gift to the NAI’A!

The ten day trips really do highlight the diversity of environments we dive here in Fiji. From seamounds and deep walls, to shallow fringing reefs and pinnacles. This is just perfect to showcase all kinds of habitats for our avid REEF surveyors! We hope you were able to add to your life lists (as Eric said, he was the lucky one as he added new, never before seen species to HIS list every dive!). Now if only there was another category to choose above abundant in the surveys…say a billion or gazillion…

So after countless surveys (many divers surveying on every single dive), endless hours of reviewing reference materials and photos this super fish geeky NAI’A trip came to an end. We had a great time helping with your surveys and look forward to the next REEF trip. We hope to see you back on the NAI’A to dive with us again….as long as there is no faffing, or falaffaling, or pottering, or puttering….

 Quotes

“Vinaka!!! Best crew ever – I love you all!!” – Kathryn

“From start to finish this was an amazing trip…the crew were awesome and made us feel so welcome…your reefs and fish life were magnificent and healthy, vinaka” – Laura & Fred

“The strength of this operation is the wonderful staff and crew. They made everything as easy as possible with never ending good cheer….best food I’ve ever had on a liveabaord boat, vinaka” – Cathy

“Great diving, great crew! Really enjoyed my time on the NAI’A! Vinaka” - Bridget

Comments

“I have just had a marvellous 10 days aboard Nai'a. As usual, your Fijian crew are rather special, and all the other guests felt the same. It was so great to be aboard again.”

Quentin, 6-time passenger, New Zealand

~ Quentin, 6-time passenger, New Zealand