Maytag Magic!

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Date: February 23 to March 4, 2008
Destination: Bligh Water, Makogai, Gau, Namena Marine Reserve, Fiji
Welcome Back: Karen and Kent E., Linda E. and Ron D., Juli T. and Dick G., Steve R., and Kirsten C.
Congratulations: Kirsten C., Olga G. and Ken E. on completing the TDI Nitrox course.


Whip coral gobies.
Juvenile yellow-tail coris.


Fiji would not be its old self without a few currents here and there, feeding the uniquely varied and colorful soft coral growth, so typical of Fiji diving. Flat seas, sunny days and mild currents make everything that tiny bit nicer, of course.


Poetic Xenia soft corals.
Give me wings to fly.


Our dive at Maytag, Vatu-I-Ra, certainly profited from these ideal weather conditions, and Maytag showed itself in its best light with crystal clear visibility. So we decided to venture out along the ridge, which connects it with Coral Corner and were greeted by two close up gray reef sharks, the huge resident school of big-eye jacks making several passes around us, a few big Spanish mackerels cruising by, and big schools of surgeonfish, yellowtail fusiliers and lunar fusiliers, crossing back and forth over the ridge, accompanied by a hawksbill turtle. We turned around at the end of the ridge, because we did not want to miss out on the dive at Maytag itself, and because we could not resist to dive that gorgeous ridge covered in fish, soft corals and whips all over again. Maytag also welcomed us with many pleasant surprises. The corallimorpharians were fully open, two NAI'A pipefish, eagerly searched for by Kirsten C., were very friendly and photogenic, and ascending, we had nudibranchs everywhere, some very special ones, too, like the rare Jorunna funebris, a Flabellina exoptata, and a Tambja morosa. Once on the top, we were yet again amazed by the dense carpet of anthias and chromis covering it, against the blue background filled with yellow-tail and lunar fusiliers, and a big school of double-spotted queenfish, with two giant trevally patrolling amongst them all. It was one of those dives, at the end of which, surfacing was not really our favorite choice.


NAI'A pipefish.


Welcome back, Linda E., Ron D. and Steve R. Linda's enthusiasm for diving is unbeatable, and of course, she did not miss a dive, especially being accompanied by her faithful dive buddy and spotter Steve. Ron, thank you for the medical assistance in the village, by both curing wounds and bringing big boxes of medication and bandages along.


Steve R.


Linda and Ron brought their friends Olga G. and Ken E., with them this time, and they liked it so much with us on NAI'A, that they will stay for another week…. and of course Linda as well. How could she possibly miss out on another week of diving the wonders of Fijian waters. Thank you, Olga, for sharing your music and your books, and thank you both for your wonderful smiley company.

Still at Vatu-I-Ra, and again taking advantage of the mild currents, we descended on Gomo and had a spectacular dive, spotting gray reef sharks, schooling pinjalo snappers, yellow-tail and chevron barracudas, big-eye jacks, surgeonfish and fusiliers, and then slowly drifting along the spectacular reef covered in fully puffed up dendronephthya and chironephthya soft corals, fans and tunicates, and amongst them scorpionfish and many colorful Flabellina nudibranchs, both rubrolineata, as well as exoptata, and a myriad of flatworms, too. On the top, the field of staghorn and table corals, and the dense cloud of anthias and chromis covering it all, was breathtaking.


Steve's ornate ghost pipefish.


At Howard's Diner, Vatu-I-Ra, Steve found a juvenile ornate ghost pipefish, red and very delicate, for Linda, good on you Steve! Another ghost pipefish sighting was a robust one, which our captain found at Alacrity passage.

Welcome back on NAI'A, Karen and Kent E. Neither critter nor fish nor coral escaped their eyes and their skillfully handled video and photo cameras. Nice bathing suits, Karen!

Exploratory diving usually pays off. It certainly did this time, when we visited one of Makogai's numerous unexplored pinnacles. We found dense yellow and purple soft corals, as well as a handsome juvenile bicolor parrotfish, and a very frisky white tip reef shark, feeding fervently, poking its head in many holes and circling the coral outcrops closely, looking for a yummy catch. A rare sight.
Some more exploration took us to Harbour point, on the North side of Makogai, where we saw a very giant clam, a nurse shark, and various special nudibranchs, like the Tambja morosa, Glossodoris atromarginata and Chromodoris coi.


Juvenile bicolor parrotfish.
Chromodoris lochi nudibranch.
Richie at the arch.
Richie going walk-about.


Madeline and Dale T. followed Richie closely, as he spotted ever so many underwater miracles with his eagle eyes, and celebrated his every find. Vinaka!

Pinballs at Makogai, was a favorite, as the critters were plentiful and the reef gorgeous. We saw a very rare shortnose pipefish, a golden mantis shrimp, a very evasive sharpnose wrasse, and plenty flame hawkfish on the top.


Blue ribbon eel.
Kirsten C.


Kirsten C., welcome back. She is a graphic artist and illustrator of children's books, and never dives without her drawing board. After every dive she had our noses poking over her shoulder, admiring her accomplished artistic creations. So glad you could have another photographic go at the friendly couple of NAI'A pipefish at Maytag. She brought her friend Dalal Al-A. along, who loves sharks. Don't we all! Dalal is definitely going to establish a permanent camp at Nigali passage.


Who gets eaten by whom ...
White-tip reef shark with garden eels.


At Nigali passage our friendly mate, the malabar grouper, welcomed us on descent, yawning several times at Mike B., our videographer, who was fearful it would swallow his camera. As we drifted along we observed that our other friend, the very giant slashing mantis shrimp, has opened its hole again, although it was not at home. As we were hanging on, admiring the gray reef sharks circling slowly in great numbers, we had three species of barracuda circling amongst them, as well as the big schools of big-eye jacks, and red and black snappers hovering in between … a very busy place, and simply awesome to watch … we stayed until our computers complained. The cabbage patch was also at its best, covered densely with streams of fusiliers of different species. There was also a very sociable octopus, having a leisurely walk-about on the cabbage patch, moving slowly and changing color.


Friendly cabbage patch octopus.
Three-spot angelfish.
Streaming fusiliers.
Manta at Jim's Alley.
Sea snake.


Jim's Alley and Anthias Avenue have turned into our manta corner, as this time again we had three mantas gliding past closely. My favorite place on Anthias Avenue must be the carpet anemone patch down between the two main pinnacles, where I like to sit for a long time, watching the three different kinds of commensal cleaner shrimps, which call it their home, as well as the two porcelain crabs feeding in the current with their feather-like appendices, and the thor shrimps doing their sexy moves around the anemone. There was also a tiny juvenile scorpionfish, and as we were lying there in the sand watching, a sea snake brushed me as it went by, sheltering itself from the current. Ascending through the swim-thru covered in fans, we spotted a huge flounder on the sand, many Chromodoris lochi, probably mating, two yellow leaf fish, several lionfish, and finished our dive enjoying the sight of thousands of anthias, which explains the name of this dive site. What can we say… magic!!


Men's meke at Somosomo.


Somosomo, Ron and Linda's adopted village, offered us again a very rewarding visit. We had sunshine for our walk-about, and the singing and custom dances by the ladies and gentlemen were much enjoyed by everyone, as was the kava …

Juli T. and Dick G., welcome back. Very accomplished and enthusiastic photographers, their favorite place in the world is Fiji, and if they could live on the two Tetons at Namena Marine Park they would; definitely their most beloved dive site.


Square-spot anthia.


The Tetons greeted us again with excellent visibility and mild currents, just enough to have all the soft coral polyps actively feeding, and the top of the reefs teeming with fusiliers, unicornfish, snappers and jacks getting cleaned on the first dive. On the second dive, when the current picked up a bit, the huge density of anthias and chromis swimming in the current, filling the whole space between the top of the pinnacles and the surface, reminded us again, why we are so grateful to be able to dive amongst Fiji's wonders. Teton I's two ribbon eels were home, and it is always special to spend some time in the deep water admiring the square-spot anthias, the blue-headed tilefish and the yellow Chromis analis.


Blue-headed tilefish.


We also found a not so shy sharpnose wrasse in a crevice and even managed to show it to Leanne B. before it disappeared. The definite highlight of this time's Teton I dive must be the dense blanket of deep blue lunar fusiliers, which covered the pinnacle completely from top to bottom, during the whole first dive. We also had a very cooperative porcelain crab in an anemone, sitting out in the open for the photographers. Teton II's leaf fish was there, as well as a small, very friendly hawksbill turtle, yellow-faced gobies living with red-lined shrimps on the sandy bottom, and two golden mantis shrimps.


Golden mantis shrimp.
Turtle face.
Kansas' great barracuda.


Kansas and Oz bestowed the fine sighting of a Halimeda ghost pipefish on us, and on North Save-A-Tack, gray reef sharks mingled with a big school of pelagic triggerfish.

Leanne B., an Australian living in London, is a definite fan of Vegemite, and now definitely as well, of Fiji diving on NAI'A. Great to see you again, Leanne. Maybe you will convert me to Vegemite next time …

Two Thumbs at Namena Marine Park, was definitely Leanne's favorite site. The exact wording of her personal rating would not survive the censorship filter, though, but it was definitely her most “absolutely awesome” favorite … She even found a nudibranch neither of us dive guides had ever seen in Fiji before, a Halgerda willeyi, very handsome.


Halgerda willeyi nudibranch.
Heller's barracuda.


Diane and Henry S., have been diving for years in all sorts of places, and had plenty of funny diving and other stories to tell.

Night dives after dinner were not very popular, but we managed one at Namena's Mushroom, and saw flashlight fish, a huge moray eel, a slipper lobster, red coral crabs, a barracuda, and lots of red shrimp plankton tickling everybody's ears.


E6 magic.
Mount Mutiny magic
Convict tang.


Our sea mounds E6 and Mount Mutiny had superb visibility in store for us, which, adding to the intense sunlight, made for awesome diving. Leanne spotted the resident silvertip shark in the blue at Mount Mutiny, and we had very many fusiliers moving in and out, a school of chevron barracuda, and the chironephthya soft corals were gorgeous. Lately we also have been seeing many different kinds of nudibranchs on Mount Mutiny, amongst which, several Flabellina bilas, indica and exoptata, and a couple of very small nudibranchs, covered in dense red bulging spots on a dark background, much like Nembrotha kubaryana, but not exactly.

Pete F. was a very happy camper and shared his astounding video clips with us. Thank you very much!!


Trapeze crab.
Long-nose hawkfish.


We finished our charter at Nukuravula, which is always a highlight, especially the first thirty feet of the main pinnacle, as it is covered in purple soft corals, pink fans, and anemones, and displays the highest density of fish I have ever seen on any pinnacle or reef in Fiji, being densely covered in fusiliers of at least two species, blue black-axil Chromis atripectoralis, and black blue-axil Chromis caudalis, as well as scalefin and magentha anthias, and heaps of indo-pacific sergeants, which seem to be very busy nesting all year around, truly spectacular!

Vinaka vaka levu again, Viti, for sharing your plentiful wonders with us!!


Juvenile rockmover wrasse.
Leopard blenny.


Guest Comments

Another wonderful dive trip on NAI'A
Good (mostly) weather, diving and most of all, a GREAT Crew!
Thanks to all of you for making another memorable dive trip for us.
Juli T. and Dick G., San Diego, CA, USA

“We only surface, because we have to!”
Thanks so much to everyone on board NAI'A for their kindness, hospitality and KAAAAAAAVAAAAA! Yum!
Brilliant diving and brilliant Crew.
In the words of Arnie …  I'll be back!!
Leanne B., Australia (yummy Vegemite) and London, UK


Guardians and busy bees.


Blenny face.
Hermit crab.
Jelly shrimp.
Sea spider.
Jellyfish beauty.
Linda E.
Ron D.
Olga G.
Ken E.
Flabellina rubrolineata nudibranch.
Splendid flatworm.
Karen E.
Kent E.
Madeline T.
Dale T.
Pipefish face.
Flame hawkfish.
Dalal Al-A.
Juli T.
Dick G.
Leanne B.
Commensal whip shrimp.
Yellow-faced goby.
Henry S.
Diane S.
Flabellina exoptata nudibranch.
Pete F.
Juvenile wrasse.
Pink Anemonefish.