Channel Surfing In New Caledonia
June 25 - July 5, 2004
Destination: New Caledonia

Guest Host: Paul Humann
Returning Passengers: Rob Mougey & Darcy Charlier, Dick & Judy Spann, Fontaine & Judy Richardson, John & Donna Zumbado, Jim Stringer, Mindy Cooper-Smith, Dan Wile, Wendy McIlroy, Nancy Vuidet

Underwater photographs
by Wendy McIlroy
Topside photographs by Wendy McIlroy, Liz & Josh

About to head off for another adrenaline-fuelled ride.

Paul Humann gets a shot of a leopard shark.   Paul Humann, topside.

Looking for big fish action in the South Pacific? You'll have a hard time finding a better place than New Caledonia. Our 10-day exploratory turned up a magnificent surprise: this place really does offer some world-class diving. The north section of the country has two parallel ribbons of reef and sand islands, each strand broken by narrow "false passes" through which the open ocean surges in and out. The plan: find these channels, drop in, cruise with the current, and see what we can find. On every drop we were circled by a welcome wagon of "agro" sharks -- whitetips, grey reefs and silvertips -- they came close enough and often enough to unnerve even our most seasoned shark divers... Rob was even chased back into the skiff on one occasion. Usually, though, the toothsome bullies would eventually leave us alone and let us take in the rest of the sights -- barracuda, manta rays, eagle rays, dogtooth tuna, spanish mackerel and schools of humpnose unicornfish. All this while drifting over walls lushly adorned with fans and soft corals... at a speed of up to 4 knots!

Beachcombing on a deserted coral island.

And let's not forget the mammal encounters... dolphins jumping in NAI'A's bow wake or circling our skiffs at the end of a dive. And, the friendly minke whale that swam around and around NAI'A while we were at anchor one day allowing us to jump in and snorkel with her.

A minke whale comes up for air and checks out our skiff.   Nancy Vuidet, our honourary translator and diplomat.

The macro photographers were well taken care of, too. On the eastern side of New Caledonia lie the Loyalty Islands, which offered some absolutely beautiful reefs with plenty of sought-after small subjects: watanabe angelfish, magenta-streaked wrasse, black butterflyish, key-hole angelfish, harlequin tuskfish, juvenile barramundi, white-capped shrimp gobies, and the one very tiny, very cute red frogfish. The whole 10-days offered some rare and wonderful treats indeed.

NAI'A Newbie, Naomi Stern, leads Richie, Wendy and Nancy in the conga line.

Onboard, the memories were of a different kind, although they will be as equally long-lived... Donna and John Zumbado turned out to be this trip's never-miss-a-dive, hard-core duo. Jim Stringer was the boat's eternal optimist bringing a cumbersome wide-angle rig with him in raging up-and-down-and-sideways currents. Dan Wile won the NAI'A Purple Heart award for bravery in the face of rough seas and personal injury. Dick Spann was our handy Mr. Fix-It while Fontaine Richardson was our handy human encyclopedia... keeping both their wives nodding at us knowingly. Naomi Stern was the trip's only NAI'A newbie, and the biggest night dive fan. Darcy Charlier did manage to remember her fins when it came time for some octopus voyeurism. Our guest host Paul Humann was eluded for days by a certain wrasse, Rob Mougey was "conspicuously" after another particular fish, Wendy McIlroy was the whale expert, and Mindy Cooper-Smith baffled us all with her thermal super-powers. Last, but not least, was Nancy Vuidet -- our onboard interpreter, diplomat and shell-collector extraordinaire.


A Fijian boat sailing in French territory with American guests onboard. That is a success! It proves the ocean realm is an open door on the world and NAI'A is sailing on its surface. Go on like this!
Nancy Vuidet, Monaco

Thank you for the wonderful opportunity to see so much sea life, from tiny whip coral gobies to a whale! The back-to-back Vanuatu and New Caledonia trips were a great combination, with varied creatures and experiences. Twenty-three days at sea, and I was never at a loss to find something to do... and I never know I could dive in 72F water in a 3mm!
Mindy Cooper-Smith, Ventura CA

The NAI'A plus the crew plus the diving is an unbeatable combination. The Royal Flush of diving!
Judy & Dick Spann, Carlisle MA

Fabulous trip as always. A little cool... but the crew, fellow passengers, and great dives made it all wonderful. Even the "agro" sharks provided some Rob-flying-out-of-water entertainment.
Wendy McIlroy, Sedona AZ

An excellent boat with an excellent crew. Really enjoyed the trip, especially the harlequin tuskfish (my first) and the teeny tiny frogfish. Thanks to all.
Naomi Stern, New York NY

Dear NAI'A, thanks for great Vanuatu and New Caledonia trips. We enjoyed out whole trip - great food, diving, service and attitude. We are really going to miss all of you. We had a wonderful time. I'm sure you will see us again.
Judy & Fontaine Richardson, Carlisle MA

WOW! 23 days with the NAI'A crew! Could this be what heaven is like? Well... maybe not the crossings. A wonderful time, as usual, exploring new places in Vanuatu and New Caledonia. A great crew, great ship, fun new friends. Where shall we venture next?
Rob Mougey & Darcy Charlier

Fontaine Richardson.

Judy Richardson.

Great Barrier Reef anemonefish, Amphiprion akindynos.

Mindy Cooper-Smith and Jim Stringer.

John Zumbado.

Darcy Charlier and Dick Spann.

Judy Spann.

Horned sea star, Protoreaster nodosus.

Dan Wile.

Donna Zumbado - just because we're in New Caledonia, doesn't mean we can't have a Fijian kava party.

Hey Josh, that rinse tank is for cameras only!

Rob Mougey.