Snorkelmania Part 1

Destination: Namena, Taveuni, Wakaya, Makogai, UndeNAI'Able and Sea Mounts
Trip Date: May 11th - May 18th, 2024 - Comments
Author: Bel&Mike
Congratulations: Anthony on his birthday, Chris&Linda on their anniversary, and Chris on finishing this trip in one piece (more or less)

Another week in paradise, this time with a groups of Snorkelholics (that’s what they call themselves!) from Hawaii. Some still live there, some left, but their friendship and love for the ocean has kept them together. The weather wasn’t exactly perfect for surface dwellers, but we stretched far and found shelter for the worst days in Taveuni. We still managed to get back to Loma-i-viti to see manta rays, do a village visit and take them to see our most pristine shallow corals.

The first leg of our journey was a long one, 14 hours to Namena, so we started heading there as soon as our guests checked in. We’d normally do only 9 hours on that first day, but we had to move as far from Bligh Water as we could due to the weather. Namena island provided us with a sheltered first snorkel session right inside the bay. We saw some beautiful corals as well as one of our endemic species of fish: the Fiji tomato anemonefish. Our guests fell in love with the lemonpeel angelfish. Many small groups of longnose filefish, a big barracuda and a few white tip sharks swam around. Some of us even saw an octopus! In the afternoon we headed out to the outer reef, and the conditions were challenging but the ocean swimmers faced them well. We saw our first turtle, some clown triggerfish. Some guests just enjoyed seeing the deep drop-off! At night the bioluminescence was crazy, and we saw some big crabs and a baby squid.

Our move to Taveuni was shorter than the previous night, although a little rougher. But Taveuni provided us the much needed shelter for two glorious days. The first day we snorkeled the Rainbow Reef, Fish Factory, Nuku Reef and Cabbage Patch. The corals were beautiful, so many colors! A friendly octopus danced for us a little, a few white tip and black tip reef sharks cruised along, schooling surgeonfish and humpback snappers teased us, but didn’t let us approach. Fusiliers danced along the edge of Cabbage Patch and a thick cloud of sergeant majors and chromis almost kept us from seeing the reef. Schools of longjaw mackerels raised the expectation for mantas, but none showed up. A few frantic exquisite flasher wrasses zoomed around. What a day! At night we saw a possible starrynight octopus and a few enormous bluntend seahares.

Photo by Gail/Cheli: So many longnose filefish!

Photo by Mike: Some much needed shelter

Photo by Gail/Cheli: SHARK!

Photo by Gretchen: Bluespotted stingray

Photo by Karen L: Nudi time

Photo by Karen L: And more nudis

Photo by Gail/Cheli: And big nudis...

Photo by Karen L: Crown jelly

Photo by Karen L: Many sea stars

Photo by Mike: Our mangrove-muck during low tide

The second day in the area we decided to revisit the night snorkel spot, as they enjoyed it so much! So we returned to Viani Bay at high tide and did a muck snorkel by the mangrove. What a great idea! So many slugs, nudibranchs, flatworms, sea stars, shrimpgobies… Even a sea krait! We also saw a bluespotted stingray, a few moray eels, purple urchin shrimps… Sadly, also an alarming number of crown of thorns. In the afternoon we went to Rainbow Passage, and the current made everyone work out, changing directions every few feet. Back on NAI’A, we said goodbye to one of our guests, who had a family emergency and had to head back home. We had dinner and again headed out early, as we had a very long rough passage, and an early date with manta rays.

We crawled out of bed early in order to catch the mantas at their cleaning station before the arrival of the scuba divers. We know the mantas prefer to start their day at 7, so we faced the choppy waters and arrived at their favorite spot to a very relaxed Shirley getting cleaned, and she stayed with us for over an hour! Distinguished visited us for about 5 minutes, and at the end we had Flapuccino and Dyllon hanging out with Shirley, dancing beautifully. It made all the efforts to stay in place worth it! In the bay the snorkelers encountered a few lobsters, white tip sharks, huge Spanish mackerel, a Tahitian stingray and calm waters! After lunch, we all napped to recover from the previous night and headed to the village visit in Makogai. Gretchen was our chief and did us proud! Our guide Bill could not get us to the graveyard, but he did take us to see the old jail “where the naughty leppers got sent to”. But the best really was watching the kids present the mekes… What a warm, wonderful experience these visits are.

Photo by Anthony/Karen E: Fiji reef top

Photo by Gretchen: Shirley, our favorite manta!

Photo by Gretchen: Nothing stops these guys!

Photo by Mike: Village visit

Then the wind finally truly died down and our crossing to UndeNAI’Able was smooth as can be and we enjoyed a full day exploring the huge reef. The hard coral tables were absolutely stunning, including the ones on the backside of the site, which we had never visited before! The most adventurous swam down around the cracks and checked out the huge fans and soft corals. We saw another shy turtle, a zooming eagle ray, a friendly white tip that kept circling around us, a moray eel, our endemic bicolor rabbitfish and a huge patch of the fluorescent red anemone. They all agreed it was the best day yet, so we had to bring the big game for their last day, so we took them to the sea mounts.

Another smooth day and we started it snorkeling at E6, our biggest sea mount. We chose the bay covered with bommies for our group and they could not have been happier. Some even ventured swimming under some swimthroughs. The corals really are the main attraction here, and it was no different at Mount Mutiny. Sure, the zillion fusiliers, couple of turtles, white tip sharks, boxfishes and red anemones were nice, but the health of these two reefs are sometimes hard to grasp. A very happy group of snorkelholics had to be pulled out of the water so we could start heading back home. It’s been a tremendous trip, and no amount of bad weather could keep these badass snorkelers out of the water. We wish you all a safe journey home and lots of good ocean swims!

Photo by Gail: Cheli comes up from 

Photo by Gretchen: Fans!

Photo by Gretchen: Busy reef

Photo by Gretchen: Colors

Photo by Gail/Cheli: Little turtle

Photo by Karen L: Coral salad

Photo by Karen L: Giant clam

The Unstoppables (minus Pauly, Bob and Hans)!


“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.”


~ Craig