New Year Lovo at Makogai village

divider line

Date: December 29, 2007 to January 8, 2008
Destination: Bligh Water, Makogai, Wakaya, Namena Marine Reserve, Gau, Fiji


Halimeda ghost pipefish.
Merry Christmas.
Red fluorescent anemone with tomato anemonefish.


Karen and Jack Dick came from Arkansas, and call Sportsco-Aquatrek Dive Shop their own. They brought a very merry group of sixteen divers to celebrate New Year on NAI'A. Karen's enthusiasm kept us all going, and Jack went around with his little magic green box full with spare parts for all possible equipment brands and fixed everybody's leaking and singing regulators. Thank you ever so much!

Makogai was amongst the top favorites this charter, as the sun was out and the sea was flat, visibility was excellent and the currents mild, making it easy to enjoy the lush soft corals and fans covered in anthias, damsels and fusiliers, with jacks coming in and chasing them into the reef in waves. We also were blessed with plenty critters, like two blue ribbon eels, three leaf fish, bubble coral shrimp, as well as two juvenile bicolor parrotfish, soft coral crabs, flame hawkfish, a juvenile Randall's goby, a tiny juvenile rockmover wrasse, and ever so many different kinds of nudibranchs. Some even said those were their best dives ever.


Blue ribbon eel.
Flame hawkfish.
Very young Many spotted sweetlips juvenile.
Rockmover wrasse juvenile.


Deborah and Paul Higham, and Kathy and David Davis always had many entertaining stories to tell. Deborah impressed us with graceful ballet dancer moves every time she put her wetsuit on, while Paul insisted Kansas is actually said “Kansawwww”. Kathy soon found out that having a well fitting weight system is all that matters in a diver's life, and David was our Nudibranch King, as he could not see enough of those colorful critters, thank God we have plenty of them in Fiji.


Chief Watson of Makogai and his family.
New Year lovo dinner at Makogai.
New Year celebrations.


It was an honor and a great joy to be invited by Chief Watson and the people of Makogai, to have our New Year celebration at Makogai village. We had a tour of the clam farm and the old Leper colony buildings first, and then enjoyed the meke (traditional dance) performed excellently by the children as usual, and then were treated to a very yummy lovo - earth oven cooked - dinner in the village itself, which was really very special. After dinner we invited the kids back to NAI'A to have cheese cake with us, and they loved it, but we loved their singing even more. We were invited to pre-midnight Mass in the village, but everybody was too tired to go, so we all welcomed 2008 sleeping, while the boys went back to the village and prayed for us. Vinaka vaka levu, Makogai!

Ramona and Mike McLean were our Kava Queen and King this charter. They both had plenty of kava, and while Ramona got very lively, Mike got very sleepy… kava works in mysterious ways…. Ramona never missed a dive and didn't miss a critter we spotted.


Vibrant Fiji.


Lion's Den at Wakaya must be one of the best dives in Fiji. I, for one, would dive it every day, if I was rich enough to have a tiny house on Wakaya Island. It was certainly the best way to start our diving on the 1st January 2008. We moved back and forth along the rim of the wall a few times, amongst the huge dendronephthya soft corals and fans, and also enjoying the sight of the small yellow and pink soft corals under the overhangs, having one eye on the soft corals and one eye in the blue, admiring the big schools of big-eye jacks circling close by, as well as black snappers, and rivers of yellow tail fusiliers. On the reef itself, densely covered in anthias and damselfish, plenty lionfish were hovering about, winged fins fully extended, the yellow leaf fish was home, too, as were the four spadefish at their usual cleaning station. A big marble stingray lay in a cavern and white tip reef sharks were exploring the reef. We also found a juvenile rockmover wrasse and a devilhead scorpionfish, and there seemed to be a crinoid clingfish congress along the rim of the wall, as all the crinoids had three to four clingfish on them, as well as very fat commensal shrimps. A truly unique way to start a new year.


Scorpionfish camouflage.


Mike Gregory, was busy reading Harry Potter and strictly did only two dives a day, it is a holiday after all. Everybody was jealous of his flatworm skin suit, but he also had a fluorescent squid suit as well as a blue ribbon eel suit, and, of course, a nudibranch suit, which David liked the most. Looking good!

Kansas (Kansawwwww…?) at Namena Marine Park is always a preferred spot. At least six different kinds of nudibranchs were a highlight, as well as a moray eel, and of course the sinularia soft corals from which the site gets its name. At North Save-A-Tack we descended on a big school of chevron barracuda, which circled all around us, and by the reef, four gray reef sharks moved in and out over the cleaning station several times. On the plateau the school of heller's barracuda made their appearance, as well as the longnose emperors and the red-tooth triggers.

Mark Brewer watched over our general health, making us laugh often and keeping us fit with his rubber band exercise programs. He also saw the most amazing critters under water, which nobody else saw, but we believed him, of course. We also tried hard to discourage him from eating all the nudibranchs at snack time. Especially David would never have forgiven him. We also admired his wetsuit covered in badges from all the dive destinations he has been to. Lucky I am not going to be the one having to stitch them all on his new wetsuit, once this one gets too old…

Two Thumbs at Namena Marine Park was yet again at its best, with excellent visibility and comfortable current, enough to make all soft corals look lovely and have all the anthias, damsels and fusiliers swimming about the pinnacles in big waves, awesome. We worked our way up starting at the deep ridges with the schooling humpback and blackspot snappers, and stopped to admire the dense soft corals and fans around them. Then we went back to the thumbs and slowly upwards along them, visiting the resident Roving coral groupers getting cleaned. This time we were also lucky with the nudibranchs, as we saw a big specimen of the gorgeous Reticulidia halgerda, as well as a Nembrotha lineolata, a Flabellina bilas and many brown and purple Chinese dragons.


Giant Chinese dragon nudibranch.


Sherry Young was her husband John's best spotter. She even found him a peacock mantis shrimp peeking out of its rocky home. John's advice in electric matters for camera housings affected by saltwater, was very much appreciated. Thank you again!


Gray reef shark at Nigali passage.


Nigali passage rewarded us again with two great dives. Drifting along the passage we found the monster white slashing mantis shrimp peeking out of its hole. We actually saved a grouper's life, which was swimming above the hole, just as we drifted past, making the mantis shrimp come out quite a bit, wiggling its eyes and its dangerous slashing appendices, close call… The barracudas were all there in great numbers, hellers, yellowtail and chevron, as well as many big malabar groupers and good amount of gray reef sharks, more than twenty circling about. We also swam through a nice big school of big-eye jacks on our way into the lagoon, as well as through the huge school of black and red snappers. In the lagoon a family of sizable napoleon wrasse welcomed us, and we found a new yellow leaf fish very near to the big, old bommie, where plenty pink-faced huge triggerfish were nesting close together… good time to surface and finish the dive…

Lana Loyd never missed a dive, smiled a lot, and looked most appropriate at dinner time in her charming fish ID dress.


Leaf scorpionfish.


Jim's Alley had everybody wide-eyed in awe, with the unique beauty of its densely packed dendronephthya soft corals in all colors of the rainbow. We also saw a sea snake, a lovely Chromodoris kuniei nudibranch, the resident golden mantis shrimp, and the carpet of fluorescent red anemones with the tomato anemonefish. Almost too much to take in for one dive.


Golden mantis shrimp.


Ann Brambl gave us precious medical advice against sore throats, which will be remembered forever, thank you ever so much. She also introduced us to Scubazoo, which we enjoyed immensely.

E6 was everybody's special dive yet again. Not only were we all amazed by the beautiful and plentiful soft corals, but Richie, our ghost pipefish whisperer, spotted one halimeda and three robust ghost pipefish for us. We also saw many nudibranchs of different kinds, and quite a number of scorpionfish, which beautifully blended in with their environment. The yellow one on the leather coral was especially gorgeous. We even saw a couple of dragonets mating, and many crinoid commensal shrimps and clingfish. Vinaka E6!
That evening, on the night dive at Alacrity reef, Richie found yet another ghost pipefish, this time an ornate one…. he really has a magic attraction on them…

No critter we pointed out escaped the watchful eyes of Pam and Mark Taylor, who celebrated all our finds with big underwater smiles and huge OK signs. So nice to share your enthusiasm for the underwater world yet again.

We visited Charlie's Garden at Vatu-I-Ra twice on this charter, and got rewarded for it every time. Especially the second time, we were lucky enough to catch it with no current, and thus were able to stroll along the south side slowly, taking in the beauty of its hard and soft coral garden, with plenty red fans everywhere. We also made excursions on top of the reef, visiting the fields of blue, golden, beige, green and brown stag horn coral with all the anthias and blue chromis hovering above them, ending our dive on the wall, where we were able to spot a baby peacock mantis shrimp in a tiny hole, as well as numerous nudibranchs, such as the biggest purple Chinese dragon nudibranch I had ever seen, at least twelve inches long, as well as three nudibranchs of the Phidiana indica kind, all close together, and a very colorful flatworm.


Coral hermit crab.


We all enjoyed admiring Barb Hinton's beautiful macro photography after every dive, which she always shared with a big smile. Her husband Jim is her very own special spotter, very much appreciated!

Golden Sunset and Nukuravula were yet again a highlight and a fine way to end the charter. Golden Sunset showed off good visibility and just enough current to have all the fusiliers patrolling the reef, as well as schools of red and humpback snapper swimming into the current, and gray reef sharks cruising around the lower pinnacles. The shallow pinnacles covered in small yellow and pink soft corals looked beautiful as ever, with their swim thrus filled with red and brown fans, and purple whip corals. Two big Napoleon wrasse greeted us on arrival, and lionfish were plentiful, as were moray eels. We found a few very attractive nudibranchs, one very delicate purple Chinese dragon, as well as two Flabellina exoptata close together, and one very lovely all purple Flabellina rubrolineata. At Nukuravula we had a special sighting, a school of about one hundred Chaetodon oxycephalus (spot-nape butterflyfish) swam past hugging the reef, very close to us. The safety stops on top of the pinnacles are always a highlight, as the latter are covered in pristine hard corals, lush soft corals and anemones, with anthias, blue chromis, sergeant majors and fusiliers covering the coral like a dense, waving blanket.


Flabellina exoptata.


NAI'A wishes you all a very Happy New Year, many happy bubbles, excellent health, and lots of adventures!
Vinaka vaka levu for reading us!


Cryptic Morrison's dragonet.
Robust ghost pipefish couple.


Guest Comments

Two Happy New Years!!
The Sportsco Gang

The welcome, diving, dining, and general hospitality of the Fijian people is the warmth of carcklin' wood fire on a cold northwest Arkansas winter day! The New Year's greeting from Chief Watson and many villagers was one of honor and grace, with true respect for life on the land! What wonderful people. Please thank them again for me, huge, especially those beautiful children, when you see them again. The NAI'A guys they are all to me and this merry band of fun loving divers, who travel together quite a bit. Thank you all for a wonderful time!
Hope to see my new friends again!!
Mark Brewer, Fayetteville, AR, USA


Siesta time for Mark Brewer.


Dear Fiji and NAI'A,
The ocean calls to me, it beacons with beautiful green jewels floating upon her,
with friendly smiling peoples with welcome in their eyes.
The ocean calls to me – her vastness, and depth,
her mysteries she waits to share, her vastness to show me all the gifts she hides.
Vinaka Fiji – Vinaka NAI'A
Lana Loyd, Springdale, AR, USA


Soft anemone bed.


Dear Sonia: Thanks for a great dive trip
Barb and Jim Hinton, Fayetteville, AR, USA


Sea spider.


Friends on NAI'A,
Thank you for 10 fantastic days.
We love NAI'A, all of the Crew and our experience in Fiji.
This has been fabulous!
Deborah and Paul Higham, El Prado, NM, USA

We certainly feel privileged to have started 2008 in Fiji …especially with the Crew of NAI'A.
Thank you for your warm hospitality and tireless assistance.
You are all great ambassadors for Fiji!
We especially enjoyed the diving and the Crew's serenades, but the New Year's water “fights” were great fun for all!
Best wishes in 2008,
Pam and Mark Taylor, Houston, TX, USA


Rush hour on the reef.


What a wonderful 10 day voyage aboard NAI'A.
The trip was everything we hoped for and more.
What a fabulous Crew and absolutely spectacular diving.
If the rest of this year continues as it has started it will be special indeed.
Thank you NAI'A, thank you Fiji!
Karen Dick, Springdale, AR, USA

This was a dream trip!
The Crew made our diving in paradise perfect!
Crew was warm and personal and worked hard to make everything perfect.
We will always remember NAI'A and our first Pacific liveaboard.
Ramona and Mike McLean, West Fork, AR, USA

Great Crew!
Great Diving!
Loved the Kava Party!
Sherry and John Young, Wichita, KS, USA

Had a wonderful time-
Thanks to the Crew!!
Enjoyed the diving!!
Ann Brambl, Forth Smith, AR, USA

NAI'A Crew -
What a party!
Happy New Year and Best Wishes for the year to come.
Kathy and David Davis, Fayetteville, AR, USA


Fijian sunset.



Karen and Jack Dick
Sportsco-Aquatrek, Springdale, AR

Barb and Jim Hinton

Pam and Mark Taylor


Karen Dick.
Jack Dick.
Paul Higham.
Deborah Higham.
Kathy Davis.
David Davis.
Flabellina bilas.
Girl from Makogai village.
Chromodoris coi.
Chromodoris kuniei.
Ramona McLean.
Mike McLean.
Crinoid commensal shrimp.
Mike Gregory in flatworm suit.
Booby visit.
Mark Brewer in badge suit.
John Young.
Sherry Young.
Tunicate glamour.
Lana Loyd in fish ID dress.
Ann Brambl.
Pam Taylor.
Mark Taylor.
Nembrotha lineolata.
Jim Hinton.
Barb Hinton.
Whip coral goby.