Exceptional Winter Sightings

Destination: Nananu-i-ra, Vatu-i-ra, Sea Mounts, Wakaya, Gau, Namena, Vuya, Nukurauvula
Trip Date: Jun 29th - Jul 9th, 2024 - Comments
Author: Bel & Mike
Welcome Back: Judy, Jess, Jim and Ken
Congratulations: Carol on her 500th dive, Rhonda & Larry on their anniversary!

Water Temp: 26C/79F and dropping, Minimum Air temp: 22C/72F

Well… winter is definitely here! Our last journey to Fiji’s best dive areas has been an incredible one, if a little cold at the very end. We saw eight octopuses during this trip, encountered two new leaf scorpionfish (Namena!!), watched the beautiful manta ray ballet, swam through 30+ juvenile grey reef sharks, observed in awe as massive tunas dwarfed the adult grey reef sharks and hung out with a few hammerheads. So yes, the water is colder, but who cares when the diving is that good??

We started our trip missing 3 guests: Colin (our return guest who got sick and headed back to NZ, but sent his daughter Jess to represent the family) and Rhonda&Larry, who setup to meet us later on the trip. Our first octopus sighting was on the checkout dive, otherwise uneventful. After our night crossing, we arrived at the Sea Mounts and set the bar high with splendid dives in what has to be two of the world’s best hard coral gardens. We saw schooling barracudas, two octopuses, juvenile rockmover wrasses, a turtle, huge mackerels and tunas, a few reef sharks and scorpionfish, as well as a curious hammerhead who made enough turns to make sure all of Lucky Lefty saw him!

Photo by Francesca Trotman: Coral garden

Photo by Mike: Sunset

Photo by Bel: Octopus

We anchored at Alacrity that night and rested for our following day at Vatu-i-ra. Mellow Yellow, Maytag and Coral Corner were all at their best and the currents allowed for abundant life yet relaxing dives. So many fish, everywhere! Again we saw several scorpionfish, a variety of nudibranchs, a few grey reef sharks and a turtle who was high, so high. The old comment that we couldn’t see the reef through all the fish reemerged, but that’s one we can always live with! A detour got us back to Nananu-i-ra and the night dive was “littered” with parrotfish sleeping in their mucus bubbles. Yum.

Photo by Bel (archive): Blue eyed coral crabs

Our day at Wakaya was exceptional, and we saw at least eight different mantas and had lasting encounters. Django, one of the oldest mantas on record, spent 10 to 15 minutes with each group. She’s normally shy and elusive, so that was a big treat, especially since she showed us her discreet baby bump, and that’s 2 years in a row for her! We also saw leaf scorpionfish, reef sharks, humphead wrasses, avid cleaner shrimps and a cool turtle. Larry and Rhonda joined us after lunch and in no time were fully integrated with the friendly group. And on the night dive we saw some big mantis shrimps and cyerce nudibranchs, which made Bel squeal!

Photo by Mike: Wakaya Island

Photo by Bel: Mantanomi, one of the mantas we named in 2022

Then we moved to Gau. With a reluctant current, we decided to do our first dive on the outer ridge, followed by a dive in the passage. Despite the mild current, Nigali delivered snappers, barracudas and reef sharks. Special mention to the 30+ juveniles and the banded sea krait by the cabbage patch. Jim’s and Anthia’s had a healthy incoming current, great visibility, open soft corals and copious amounts of fusiliers and surgeonfish. The sun even came out at the end of the dive. We finished the day with a village visit, and despite everyone’s participation in the dancing, Charles definitely won the prize for most enthusiastic. We hadn’t been to Somosomo in a while and the visit was truly special, leaving some guests on the verge of tears.

Photo by Bel (archive): White tip shark

Photo by Mike: Somosomo village

Photo by Mike: Somosomo sunset

The move to Namena was rocky and long, but the marine park certainly provided us with enough amazing dives to make it all worth. Both days were incredible. The currents acted as predicted and the sightings reflected all that. On the south we found two new leaf scorpionfish (a black one and a white one), the orangutan crabs (now two together!), four octopuses, crinoid clingfish, whitecaps shrimpgobies, bubblecoral shrimps and a variety of nudis. On the north we checked every item on the list, including humphead wrasses, eagle ray, two hammerheads interacting, enormous tunas (bigger than the grey reefs), and even a manta ray! Rosie even found a pygmy seahorse! The kava party night was extremely lively (special mention to Ken’s cow) and the night dive had white tip sharks, a huge pufferfish and a whale spouting right next to NAI’A! We should soon be seeing more of them!

Photo by Bel (archive): Dot and dash butterfly fish

Photo by Mike: Namena reef

Photo by Francesca Trotman (archive): Garden eels

Photo by Francesca Trotman (archive): Kansas

The crossing to Vuya was gentle and the day there was absolutely perfect. Humann Nature and Cats Meow both had just enough current to make them as vibrant as they get, covered in fish and with all the splendor of the soft corals. Spotlight for the pigmy squid at Cats, an absolute treat. UndeNAI’Able didn’t disappoint, offering us even more fish drama, too many species of nudis and a very funky snake. Jim and Ken liked the Reef so much, they almost didn’t ascend, returning only because they didn’t have any more gas in their tanks!

Photo by Bel (archive): Flabelina rubrolineata

Photo by Bel (archive): Giant clam detail

Photo by Bel (archive): Anemone fish

We then returned to Vatu-i-ra and did three dives there before the wind sent us to shelter elsewhere. We revisited Maytag and dived Howard’s, Charlie’s and Whole Shebang. Being the end of the trip, our guests were prepared to what turned out to be a day of intense currents, and we’re happy to say they graduated with honors! We saw more amazing corals, more nudis, scorpionfish and endemic species. We moved to Nananu-i-ra for shelter and watched a scenic rainbow followed by a spectacular sunset.

Photo by Bel (archive): Princess damselfish

Photo by Bel (archive): Blue dragon nudi

Photo by Bel (archive): Hawk anthias

We finished our trip diving Nananu-i-ra and Nukurauvula, two areas that provided us with shelter from the very gusty winds. We saw a zombie sea krait, a few jawfish, a bluespotted ray, a couple of eagle rays, more scorpionfish and beautiful corals. It was windy, but the sun was out and before heaving anchor we were visited by excited spinner dolphins who put on a show for us. What an amazing 10 days, but we’re glad to have a break while the wind is howling!

Our intrepid group!


“Thank you to everyone on NAI’A who makes NAI’A what it is – an exceptional operation and a gateway to underwater wonders. What a fantastic crew! Thanks for an incredible life experience!”


~ Scott