The Great Lau Survey

Destination: Lau- Vatoa, Lakeba, Fulaga, Ogea, Yagasa, Oneata, Aiwa, Vanua Balavu, Malima
Trip Date: Mar 6th - Mar 20th, 2024 - Comments
Author: Bel&Mike
Welcome Back: Kristian, Meo, Amanda

We love our regular charters, taking tourists diving on the best reefs Fiji has to offer. But we also really enjoy seeing different ways in which scuba diving can contribute to science, and we spent the past two weeks with the team from Conservation International surveying the Lau Seascape. They were equipped with temperature loggers, 50m transects, cameras and a lot of knowledge. The weather wasn’t always on our side, but we made the most of it, diving from Vatoa to Malima. The great Lau survey.

We started at Vatoa after a 42h crossing. We were very excited, as we had heard rumours we may encounter bumphead parrotfish there. The swell, however, seriously limited where we could dive that day. Our two dives were used to get into the swing of things, finetune weights and redefine the teams. We saw eagle rays, grey reef sharks and a big school of bluefin trevallies.


Photo by Mike: Vatoa

Photo by Bel: Top Black butterfly fish (in Fiji only in the Lau group), bottom two other species far more abundant in Lau than in Loma-i-viti

Photo by Bel: Temperature logger

We had a 10h detour to the island of Lakeba, and the team used the day to get those surveys done. Since this island is much less remote, our team was just very happy to have some very relaxing dives. Right after dinner, we moved back south towards Fulaga, where we managed to go inside the very narrow passage and spent the Sunday resting. On Monday we got the survey dives done where the swell (even bigger than before) allowed. The last dive of the day was chosen unanimously as the best dive of the trip, with healthy coral coverage and plenty of sharks.

Photo by Mike: Lakeba

Photo by Mike: Entering Fulaga

Photo by Bel: Take 2- Meo and Mike put in a different type of temperature logger. They made sure to tell the villagers it isn't a safe.

We moved to Ogea and had a productive morning diving/swimming with Notcho Manta, the manta we named on our last Lau trip this February, and two survey dives. At the end of the day we had a little sunset cruise and saw the endemic Ogea Monarch. The following day we dived Yagasa the whole day, then moved on to a morning survey at Oneata and an afternoon one at Aiwa, which was a last minute adjustment to the circumstances but turned out to be a beautiful dive with healthy corals and great fish life, including several flame hawkfish.

Photo by Mike: Ogea

Photo by Doug Smith: Notcho Manta

Photo by Bel: One of these fish is not like the others

Photo by Bel: Clam pattern


Photo by Mike: Aiwa

Photo by Bel: Aiwa's beautiful reef

Photo by Bel: Boxfish and Damselfish in Yagasa

Then we moved to Tuvuca but the weather didn’t allow for us to stay there. We relocated to Vanua Balavu and did two dives on the southwest end of the passage, and they could not have been more different. The next day we put in one more around that side, then got shutdown by the strong winds once again, so we rested on Sunday and moved to the north end of the island on Monday morning.

Trigger Rock, a sea mount we dive whenever we’re around this area, was certainly a great way to start the day. The many pociloporas on top of the site were occupied by spotted crouchers, normally a rare sight, and a couple of panda gobies. The next dives were close to the passage, again very different to each other, but both had very curious sharks and one had a super friendly octopus.

Photo by Mike: Vanua Balavu

Photo by Bel: Spotted croucher and blackfin (or panda) goby

Photo by Bel: Rosabelle surveys the top of Trigger Rock

Photo by Bel: A friendly white tip reef shark

Photo by Bel: A friendly octopus

We finished with a dive at Malima, and the sun was shining for the end of our journey. The reef was average, but at the end we saw several palette surgeonfish, which tells us the place normally gets crazy currents. We got back to the boat and headed back to Lautoka. Our long journey was helped by the winds and currents, getting us back in  26h instead of the expected 29h. It was great exploring Lau, but we’re now ready for our regular dive sites. The 2024 season holds some great promises!

Photo by Bel: A yellow pygmy angelfish gets cleaned. The black patch on the rear dorsal fin is a SW Pacific variation

Photos by Bel: A multitude of corals. Various colors, some day-glow, healthy or dying/dead.

The team


“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