The Great Fiji Expedition

Destination: Bligh Water, Namena, Ringgold Isles, Wailagi lala, Taveuni
Trip Date: Nov 25th - Nov 24th, 2023 - Comments
Author: Bel&Mike
Welcome Back: Karen W, Marjanna&Richard
Congratulations: Marjanna & Richard on their 8th anniversary!

What an unbelievable week we’ve had, yet again! Hammerheads, check! Reef sharks, check! Nudibranchs, check! Fabulous crater hike, check! Amazing private island and beach lovo, check! Wonderful people and great atmosphere, check! We even celebrated three birthdays and an anniversary, so it doesn’t get much better.

After being in Fiji for almost 2 years running a few special itineraries, this past week we’ve had an amazing trip that brought us to the fabulous Ringgold Isles AND back to Wailagi Lala. Our group leader, Marjanna (AKA Loopy), organized this trip for some special friends and family, and they wanted the trip to include culturally enriching experiences, as well as worldclass diving. We had a lot of ground to cover, so as soon as Richard and Marjanna joined us on board after dinner, we got moving to Vatu-i-ra.

Photo by Mike: Cobia crater

Photo by Mike: Wailagi lala

Photo by Mike: Wailagi lala lovo preparation

We started the trip far away from a full moon and new moon, so Vatu-i-ra welcomed us with mild currents and easy dives. We had the experienced divers on Mighty Right and sent those guys to some of our more challenging dive sites there, and they loved all the vibrance and fishiness at Maytag, Coral Corner and Mellow Yellow. Lucky Lefty got their dives on sites a little more sheltered, and lucked out to see Mellow Yellow both mellow AND yellow. Sharks, mackerels, barracudas and hunting tunas highlighted some of the dives, but the show was all about the healthy reefs, and the abundance that comes with it.

Vatu-i-ra is not an easy place to follow, so we took the group to Namena next, and they were not disappointed. We saw hammerheads on three separate dives, gray reef sharks, rainbow runners, redtooth triggers, milkfish, snappers (black, midnight, humpback, red and pinjalos), tunas, barracudas, trevallies, bannerfish, surgeonfish (including palettes) and tiny baby sharks. Grand Central, The Arch and Schoolhouse REALLY delivered. On the south, magic mushrooms offered the colorfulness of all the soft corals and gorgonians, schooling spadefish, nudibranchs and big fish getting cleaned. On the night dive, all different sorts of crabs and shrimps entertained the 4 brave souls that came out to dive. We had a long passage, so as soon as the night dive returned, we started moving to our next destination, the Ringgold Isles.

Photo by Al: Barracudas

Photo by Al: Sweetlips getting a good clean

Photo by Richard: Scorpionfish

Photo by Richard: Bluefin trevallies on the hunt

Photo by Richard: Anemonefish

Before we even left NAI’A, we were greeted by spinner dolphins right outside Yanuca island, where we did our village visit. This is something we do on every trip, but visiting a new village was truly special for us. We were welcomed with the traditional Fijian warmth, had some kava, heard a little bit about the village then watched some wonderfully rehearsed mekes. Again and again they performed for us, then invited us to join in, which we all gladly did, especially Ana. Who knew she was a party animal?

We had to drag our guests away so we could have lunch and head over to Cobia for a hike on the volcano crater, as we had to be in and out with the tide high. The hike was incredibly scenic, and as we looked down from every corner we thought “This is the best spot”, only to find even more stunning views 3 minutes later. The vegetation, the blue seas, the reef around us… just perfect. After descending, the guests went for a swim, snorkel, SUP or kayaking to cool down, then we moved to Qamea for dinner (once again escorted by spinners). Once at anchor, the crew started what was meant to be a “baby mix” of kava (and music, obviously) with the guests and ended up lasting until we lifted anchor at midnight. The animals definitely went wild.

Photo by Mike: Mekes at Yanuca

Photo by guest: Meke

Photo by Bel: We didn't want to leave!

Photo by Mike: Incredible views from our Cobia hike

Slowly but surely our party animals got out of bed to enjoy the day at Wailagi lala, Fiji’s only true atoll. We walked the grounds with our skiff driver, Vernon, who worked on the island long ago during the construction of what was meant to be a resort. We watched the birds, drank fresh coconut water, hung out with Smokey the dog, had some kava, walked on the beach and swam. There was also snorkeling by the island and on the outer reef, with sightings of turtles, sharks and many colorful fish. Our lunch on the “office” porch was luxurious and at the end of the day we watched the crew light the lovo, weave around the food, weave baskets (a bunch of guests helped!) and put the food in. We headed to NAI’A and dressed up to celebrate the November birthdays: Karen D, Linda and Marjanna’s big 6.0. Loopy was given special glasses and a fascinator, which Christl found, for some bizarre reason, at a resort gift shop in Fiji. Well, fascinate us she did!

Photo by Bel: Kim learns to weave

Photo by Mike: Boobie bird

Photo by Bel: Lovo preparation

Photo by Mike: Loopie and her new fascinator

Photo by Mike: The three birthday gals

We spent our following day at Taveuni diving some great sites at the Rainbow Reef. The Great White Wall was obviously the great star of the day, but Rainbow’s End got the Lucky Lefties very excited. So excited Jake even confused Mo for Jim… Maybe there was more than one Loopy on this trip! The soft corals are obviously the greatest feature in Taveuni, but the octopus stole the spotlight and the masses of fusiliers mesmerized the group. At the end of the day, another insanely beautiful sunset, and spinners following us once again!

Photo by Mike: Taveuni

Photo by Mike: On our way to the Great White Wall

Photo by Al: The Great White Wall

On the last day we dived Cat’s Meow and Humann Nature. The current wasn’t even worth mention, which means the soft corals were a little… flacid (Loopy’s word). But the colors were there, the critters, the fish and aaaaaaaaall the corals. The trevallies were having a gool old hunt and a couple of guests got dragged out of the water at 80 minutes. They just didn’t want to let go. We started our journey back, watched another marvellous sunset and celebrated the 8th anniversary of Marjanna and Richard, another dress up occasion, of course. Upon arrival in Lautoka, one more kava session closed this incredible journey with fantastic people. Sota tale!

Photo by Al: Turtle at Humann Nature

Photo by Richard: Healthy corals at Humann Nature

Our wonderful group


“After 60 years of diving all over the world, Fiji still surprises and intrigues me. Fiji is a destination uniquely safe and easy to reach yet it is the colour of our dreams.”

Stan Waterman, pioneering diver and filmmaker

~ Stan Waterman, pioneering diver and filmmaker