Return to NAI'A

Diving with a Pterokleptomaniac
Date: October 4-14, 2003
Destination: Lomaviti - NAI'A Triangle
Special Guests: National Geographic photographer Tim Laman, assistant Zafer Kizilkaya and ichthyologist Les Kaufman

National Geographic photographer, Tim Laman, at Maytag.

On this trip guests were joined by National Geographic photographer Tim Laman and assistant Zafer Kizilkaya, making this their third time aboard NAI'A. Never missing a dive, and even squeezing in extra ones, these guys were hard at work on an upcoming Geo article. The subject? Well, that's all very hush-hush ... just watch the newsstands next year for an article that in some way involves the marine life on our beloved Fiji reefs.

Teaming up with Tim and Zafer was Boston University ichthyologist Les Kaufman. As well as working on the upcoming National Geographic piece, Les was also following on from Gerry Allen's trip on NAI'A back in May. Gerry had got Les all excited about the number of undescribed species in Fiji.

To describe a "new" species, ichthyologists normally collect whole fish specimens, but doing so on this trip just didn't marry with NAI'A's no-take philosophy. Instead, Les (with the help of Josh and guest John Hiltscher) collected fin clippings, in this case of different-looking tomato anemonefish. Scientific dedication, the steady hands of a surgeon, and the patience of a saint were required to catch and clip the feisty and evasive fish. The DNA from the clippings will be analyzed, and the anemonefish will grow back his fin and live happily ever after. Guest Jill Taylor, a psychologist, labeled Les a "pterokleptomaniac" (one who is obsessed with taking fin clippings), but it was in the kindest possible way as Les proved to be a Latin-loving, kava-swilling, crowd-pleasing kind of guy, and we hope to see him again.

Donn & Fluffy Winner.

Also onboard was Daniel Belanger, the lucky winner of a Sport Diver magazine competition that ran earlier this year. In return for coming up with a clever name for a dive site, Daniel enjoyed a freebie trip aboard NAI'A. His dive site covered the area where the sea snake sequence for the IMAX Coral Reef Adventure was shot. Fittingly, this previously nameless site near Nigali Passage will now be called "Degei Wall" -- after the Fijian snake god.

The middle of our 10-day adventure coincided with the full moon, and everyone jumped in for a couple of crepuscular dives to watch all the spawning action. Opportunistic fusiliers and midnight sea perch swooped in to munch on the efforts of the randy anthias, making for exciting viewing as darkness crept in.

The trip was wrapped up in fine Fijian form, with plenty of kava drinking and singing as NAI'A made her way back to Lautoka.

Heading out for another dose of Mellow Yellow.


Rob, Josh, Liz and the entire crew of NAI'A. Thank you so much. This trip was just "so cool dude!!!" You guys are amazing ... Hope to be back soon.
Daniel Belanger, Los Angeles

With fabulous reefs and a stellar crew, NAI'A will dance in our memories. We are grateful for your efforts on behalf of eventually pushing these pristine reefs up into the protected marine park status they deserve.
Betsy & John Hiltscher, Illinois

...this was a work trip for me and though all the necessary work got done, I was deeply remiss. I had immense fun, greatly enjoyed the company (and kava) of all the crew and guests, and usually forgot that I was deeply focused, intently concentrating, on my science and writing mission. I am grateful to all for burning Fiji as an enduring imprimatur upon my soul.
Les Kaufman, Massachusetts

We had a great time! The week was full of surprises - and to be treated as personal guests aboard a yacht was an experience we'll never forget.
Mark & Leslie Hessee, Florida

Leslie & Mark Hessee.

Boston University ichthyologist, Les Kaufman.

Competition winner, Daniel Belanger.

Betsy Hiltscher learns to love kava.

Te, Rusi & Mo sing up a storm with the rest of the crew.