Summer Love

Destination: Bligh Water, Wakaya, Gau, Makogai, Namena
Trip Date: Nov 25th - Dec 5th, 2023 - Comments
Author: Bel&Mike
Welcome Back: Jay&Suzy, Andy
Congratulations: Dale, on his birthday. Daniel and Alli on their 350th dive. Bekah on her 100th dive.

Summer is definitely upon us. For the past 10 days we had incredible weather to match the amazing diving Fiji has gifted us with once again. The abundance on the reefs, the health of the corals, The special encounters. The elusive eagle ray, sighted three times, making up for the absence of mantas, gone to forage for food somewhere else. Several hammerhead sightings, huge dogtooth tunas, enormous Spanish mackerels, reef sharks, baby sharks. Schooling trevallies, triggerfish, snappers, pinjalos, barracudas. Rarely seen nudibranchs and slugs, mating. Fiji at its best, ready to impress new divers, return guests, and Jemma and Scott, our dear friends and last cruise directors on NAI’A before us.

We had been looking forward to this trip for quite some time, as our friends from North Carolina booked this trip over 18 months ago. Jemma and Scott joining this trip only made us look forward to it even more, and our new friends (the remaining 8 guests) fit in with this great group of people. Great divers with a slightly inappropriate sense of humor is always a recipe for a successful trip.

We started this journey at the Sea Mounts E6 and Mount Mutiny, a great choice when the moon is full and ready to make trouble. These sites benefit from the extra current without adding difficulty to the dives. Our divers were mesmerized by the healthy and variety of these shallow reefs, the brightness of the colors at Rainbow Wall. We saw eagle rays, a few hammerheads, schooling snappers, turtles, barracudas, white tip sharks, hunting trevallies, huge tunas, and so much fish. Leandi claimed “We don’t need to dive anymore, we just saw everything”. And it was only day 1.

We moved to Wakaya to a full day of diving the amazing wall. No mantas for this trip, but we did see all our other regulars: the schooling barracudas, milkfish, leaf scorpionfish, some grey reef sharks, white tips, turtles, schooling cornetfish, snappers and a few hammerheads. As a special treat, an enormous humphead wrasse, some massive trevallies and a sleeping leopard shark. Daniel spotted a gigantic shark disappearing into the channel, perhaps the great hammerhead that lives there. On the night dive, various shrimps and crabs showed the Caribbean divers that in Fiji there are always eyes staring back at you on a night dive.

Photo by Jay: Rainbow Wall

Photo by John: Coral grouper gets his dental care

Photo by John: Mini anemone hermit crab

Photo by Daniel: Sleeping parrotfish

Gau welcomed us after a bumpy overnight passage with a dive on the Outer Ridge. Clear visibility, no current, very relaxing. We followed with two dives at Nigali Passage full of barracudas, snappers, trevallies and grey reef sharks, including at least 30 babies. Lefty saw a huge marble ray by the bleachers, Scott found a sea krait and Bekah found an octopus. While we dived Anthia’s Avenue, Mike found two mantas on the surface, but they were not in the mood for playing. On the night dive we saw an emperor shrimp, basket star and a very odd anemone yet to be identified.

We followed with a beautiful day at Makogai, starting with an exploratory dive around the south end of the island. The reef wasn’t the healthiest, but we saw so many critters! Anemone shrimp, skeleton shrimp, nembrotha nudis and several bubble snails (haminoea ovalis) mating. From there we dived Becky’s and Rick’s Rocks, both a big hit with all guests. More leaf scorpionfish, ghost pipefish, redfin anthias, lionfish and more mating snails (haminoea cymbalum). We followed that with our village visit and Andrew was our chief. All guests joined and the kids were adorable as always. After returning to NAI’A, Big Mo continued the kava and music until we were all too tired to keep up.

Photo by Jay: Nigali Passage

Photo by Annette: Scorpionfish

It was a short crossing to Namena, a favorite destination of many guests and certainly a place our previous CDs could not wait to return to. The marine reserve was as beautiful as ever, with it’s signature abundance spilling from every dive. The north was sharky with a couple of hammerhead sightings and many grey reefs, including some babies. Schoolhouse and GCS were covered in redtooth triggers, bigeye trevallies, huge tunas, spanish mackerels, bigeye barracudas, slender pinjalos, black snappers and midnight snappers. Kansas was stunning and, according to Annette, “more schoolhousy than schoolhouse”. It was so good, Andy even did three dives!

The south had ribbon eels, another eagle ray, barracudas, decorated dartfish, squarespot anthias, golden mantis shrimps, flatworms, pipefish, octopus and more mating snails. Bel tried multiple times (and failed miserably) to show a sponge crab on top of Mushrooms. The night dive there was a hit, with Alli finding a slipper lobster and Bekah finding a saddled snake eel. The kava party was once again one of the big highlights of the trip.

Photo by Suzy: Bigeye trevallies

Photo by Daniel: Mating bubble snails

Photo by Daniel: Golden mantis shrimp

Photo by John: Saddled snake eel

Photo by John: Slipper lobster

After two days of pure bliss at Namena, we moved to Vuya. Our morning dives were “a little windy” but absolutely stunning. The corals at Cat’s were in full bloom, the fish all out. The top of Humann Nature overwhelmingly beautiful. UndeNAI’Able Reef overwhelmed John and Andy, to the point that Tony ditched Lefty to go check it out. But Pinnacle was also so absolutely gorgeous, covered in fusiliers. It is hard to believe we also saw over 8 species of nudibranchs. Andrew, Annette, Karen and Len just hovered, surrounded by fish, for the second half of the dive.

Photo by Suzy: Anemonefish

Photo by Annette: Goby

Photo by Daniel: Scorpionfish

It was a short move from there to Vatu-i-ra Marine Reserve, where we spent the last two days of our trip. Jay and Suzy almost didn’t leave Coral Corner (Mike was “extra Harry Potter-y” there), Dale returned from Maytag as excited as a kid back from a day at the amusement park. GoMo was stunningly beautiful, but winded our Rightys a little bit. Maytag, oh… Maytag. Sharks, trevallies big and small, varied nudibranchs, several pipefish and various fish feeding on the pelagic tunicates. And Mellow Yellow… well, it was hard to get Jemma back from there. The vibrance of Vatu-i-ra is unlike any other place in Fiji, so we were happy to end our trip here, and send our friends home with nothing but great memories, and a new appreciation for currents!

Photo by Daniel: Coral hermit crab

Photo by Daniel: Gloomy tambja

Photo by Suzy: Octopus

Photo by John: Golden damsels feeding on pelagic tunicates

Our band of misfits


“NAI’A made a believer out of me! Fiji has been grossly underrated by both divers and scientists. Incredible fishes here and definitely worthy of protection.”

Dr. Gerry Allen, Ichthyologist & Author, Conservation International

~ Dr. Gerry Allen, Ichthyologist & Author, Conservation International