A Bluewater Adventure
This week we welcomed back Mark Strickland and his group, many of whom have dived with us in the past. A group of serious photographers means that not only do we get to enjoy a bunch of gorgeous photos at the end of the trip, but we get to go back to the same spot multiple times so they can perfect their photos in that particular area. And we love that, as it allows us to show off our best dive sites in all their glory.
Our guests created some really beautiful images so we’re largely going to let the pictures do the talking here…
Photo credits (Left, top right, bottom right): Greg, Phil, Mark V
We spent our first full day of diving in the stunning Vatu I Ra area, showing off some of our favorite dive sites: the likes of Mellow Yellow, Maytag, Coral Corner and Go Mo. We knew many of our photographers had come to Fiji to shoot soft coral reefscapes and, boy, do these sites deliver! As guides, we didn’t really have much to do for these wide-angle dives: we’d get our divers out to the area with the best soft coral coverage then sit back and watch as they got more and more absorbed in their work, often not leaving the same spot for the full hour! Mellow Yellow was a definite favorite with everyone keen to dive it a second time and some even asking to return to it later in the trip. We had wonderful conditions – great viz, sunshine and calm seas – although the current was picking up just a little TOO much by the time of the 4th dive (Coral Corner was a wild ride!) so, unsurprisingly, no one opted to join our post-dinner night dive.
Photo credits (Left, top right, bottom right): Phil, Mark V, Barry
The next day, we enjoyed three fabulous dives at our sea mounts in the heart of the Bligh Waters: Mount Mutiny and E6. The rainbow wall of Chironepytha soft coral at Mount Mutiny is so photogenic and kept our divers amused for hours. As did the seemingly endless anemones covering the shallow section of the reef: with the light pouring in they looked gorgeous and who can resist a good ‘Nemo’ shot?!
Photo credits (Clockwise from top left): Lionel, Nili, Jessica, Lionel
For the third day, we stayed in the same general area (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!) and checked out Cat’s Meow and Humann Nature as our two morning dives. Our divers were so impressed they asked for an exact re-run in the afternoon (we feared a mutiny if we didn’t agree!). We understand why: there’s something for everyone on these dives sites. Wonderful, healthy soft corals for our wide-angle photographers and a ton of cool small critters for our macro fans. We found a cute little Pontoh’s pygmy seahorse as well as a couple of new nudibranchs we’ve never seen before: the joys of keen photographers who are willing to go slow and really hunt for the small stuff! Everyone was so satisfied by the end of the day that another night dive offer was passed by.
Photo credits (Top, bottom left, bottom right): Phil, Greg, Barry
Overnight, we traveled to our most southerly point, the island of Gau. We started the day with a little ‘warm-up’ dive at Jim’s Alley and Anthias Avenue, where we largely went on a ‘macro hunt’, finding some cool nudis, fangblennies and scorpionfish. We then tackled our ‘main event’: Nigali Passage. This is one of NAI’As signature dives with its incredible abundance of grey reef sharks, as well as schooling barracuda and other big predators. A few of our divers were even fortunate enough to have a manta ray join them, cruising right alongside! Everyone came back absolutely buzzing: one of our divers – who has been an active diver for decades – even called it one of the best dives of his life. We ended an incredible day with a peaceful visit to land, to hang out with our friends at Somo Somo village. We had a lovely walk around with Tom, before being entertained with ‘mekes’ (traditional dances) and kava time.
Photo credits (Clockwise from top left): Lionel, Alan, Steve, Steve
We spent the following two days in the stunning Namena marine reserve. We love this area for its diversity and varied topography: a wonderful mix of bommies, pinnacles and wall diving, offering both the ‘big stuff’ and the ‘small stuff’ and with no shortage of blooming soft corals… Every photographer’s dream! Both Grand Central Station and Schoolhouse were looking fantastic and had the perfect amount of current, offering our photographers a chance at some of the bigger predators, with sharks, jacks, barracuda and huge tuna on show. Our pinnacles were also showing themselves off in all their glory: the (rare!) blue skies and sunshine really helped with that! Tetons 1 and 2 Thumbs Up had our wide-angle enthusiasts in seventh heaven with their abundance of color, while Tetons 2 and Kansas left our macro fans very satisfied too, with plenty of pipefish, nudis and even a leaf scorpionfish. We celebrated two wonderful days with a kava party on deck with the crew: the animal song was even funnier than usual with a few very confused sounding contenders!
Photo credits (Left, top right, bottom right): Nili, Mark V, Phil
By popular demand, we headed back to the Vatu I Ra/Vuya region for a further two days on our way back west. We’re pretty sure these divers would have gone to Mellow Yellow for every single dive of the trip given half a chance! And everyone was pretty happy to get another go at Cat’s Meow, especially those who hadn’t got a winning shot of the little pygmy seahorse the first time around. We were happy to see we had great conditions for Coral Corner this time, having missed out on it the first time due to extreme, kick-ass currents! We also took the chance to check out a dive site we hadn’t been to in a few years – The Whole Shebang – and, given the glowing reports upon the divers’ return – we reckon it might become a staple of our itinerary again!
For our final day of diving, we explored the Nananu I Ra region. We were faced with pretty dismal weather but had a couple of glorious dives nonetheless. On Labyrinth, we were lucky enough to see an active octopus, an eagle ray and ten squid hanging out close to the surface: not bad at all! After a full-on ten days of diving, everyone was ready for a lazy afternoon, sorting through photos and reminiscing about their favorite dives. That evening we enjoyed a fabulous slideshow of everyone's best work: some truly beautiful images, thank you all for sharing! It was a real pleasure having you onboard and sharing our favorite dive sites with you: we can't wait to see you all again soon.
"Another fantastic trip!" Phil
"What a wonderful trip! The magic & beauty of the reefs was only exceeded by the warmth & hospitality of the crew." Barbara
"To the wonderful crew at NAI'A, a heartfelt thanks and appreciation for making our trip to Fiji a magical one" Greg & Tammy
“Any country with coral reef like this has a national treasure that should be protected. Fiji is one of the few lucky countries.”
~ Roger Steene, photographer, author, naturalist