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UPCOMING TRIPS

A Lauan Adventure

Destination: Lau, Navatu Reef, Gau, Wakaya, Makogai & Bligh Water
Trip Date: Aug 12th - Aug 25th, 2023 - Comments
Author: Bel&Mike
Welcome Back: Mark and Meo
Congratulations: To Conservation International for their work in Fiji and worldwide, as well as the donors who make it all possible

Our latest trip brought us to some of the most remote and beautiful parts of Fiji, the Lau Group. We toured the area for 5 days before heading back to our regular spots in Lomaiviti. We snorkeled, cruised looking for whales, boobie cruised, tagged mantas, fished and enjoyed many beautiful sunsets. Our guests were one of Conservation International’s big donors, some of their close friends and a few special CI collaborators.

Our long journey started in Lautoka, where Meo joined our crew and cruised 38 hours towards Lakeba, where we met 8 more of our guests. Meo met them at the airport and led them to a seuvusevu ceremony with some of the chiefs from the Lau group. As Bel waited for them at the beach, she saw 2 whales cruising past, and took it as an omen of a fabulous trip to come. Our cruise to NAI’A was a little damp, but soon cocktail hour arrived and put everyone in a great mood.

Photo by Mark Erdmann: Lau from above

Photo by Mark Erdmann: Fiji's shallow reefs

Photo by Mark Erdmann: Underwater scene

We cruised to Yagasa and woke up to nice weather. After breakfast we went for a long cruise inside the lagoon searching for whales. As we didn’t find them, we settled to snorkel around the mangroves by sandy bottoms and a big bommie covered in healthy corals. After lunch some of the group went fishing and others went snorkeling and diving. A snorkeller found a nice octopus and Mark re-sighted his possibly-new-incredibly-small goby. At the end of the day, Mark introduced the group to boobie cruises.

After moving a few hours to Ogea, we spent the day snorkeling and diving a couple of different sites: Slumberland (the manta site) and Meo’s Garden (the coral site). Mark managed to tag one manta and we got another couple of identification photos. For sunset, some cruised Ogea Driki looking for mantas then joined the others at Bay of Plenty looking for birds and beautiful beaches. All fueled by sunset drinks, of course.

The next morning we entered Fulaga, our favorite island in Fiji. The early birds were up in time to see our carefully executed entrance through the narrow passage, always a highlight of southern Lau trips. Meo was joined by everyone (minus the twins and Mark) on a hike to Muana-i-cake for the sevusevu ceremony and to buy some of the incredible carvings produced by the village. Yes, they were back looking like wet dogs, but it was worth it. They played Bananarama to kill time and Mark did a presentation on Reef Fish for the area. Later, we dived/snorkelled at Fulaga passage, always mind-blowing with its abundant fish life and hard corals. The rainy weather encouraged coconut margaritas to finish the day.

The sun came out the following day as we moved out of Fulaga and into Ogea for another Slumberland dive, and Mark tagged another manta. Score for manta science and data for the Lau group, where so little is known about the mantas due to the remoteness of the area. Meo gave a presentation about the Lau Group and the conservation efforts by CI over the last years and plans for the future. As we headed back to Yagasa, we saw 2 humpback whales and pursued an encounter for a while. They did let us get rather close, but decided it wasn’t a day to play. So we headed once again to Yagasa, the boys did some more fishing and a couple of the girls snorkelled the outer reef.

Photo by Mark Erdmann: A possibly-new-incredibly-small goby

Photo by Mark Erdmann: Ogea from above

Photo by Mark Erdmann: Humpbacks finally show up

Our journey to Navatu reef was one of the roughest crossings we have ever done. The winds were blowing only mild 15 knots, but something caused huge swells that tossed us around all morning. Fortunately, Navatu reef provided us with plenty of shelter that allowed for two dives/snorkels where we saw giant clams, a few sharks, an enormous dogtooth tuna and a couple of humphead wrasses. As we had a little extra time to kill, Mark gave a presentation about mantas.

The passage to Gau was a lot smoother than the previous crossing and we had a day of absolutely gorgeous weather to welcome three more members of the family. We started the day with snorkelling and fishing, followed by a dive/snorkel with a sea krait and a possibly-new seahorse. Then we welcomed new arrivals on the sea plane and they joined us on a fun snorkel session that finished with a swim with long-jawed mackerels. The fishing party had a fish incident that landed 2 stitches on someone’s toe and the remaining guests watched a mom and calf humpbacks inside the lagoon as the sun went down. What a welcome to Lomaiviti!

Photo by Mark Erdmann: Purple queen anthias at Navatu

Photo by Mark Erdmann: Fusiliers and anemonefish

Photo by Mark Erdmann: Giant clam at Navatu reef

Photo by Mark Erdmann: Gau from above

Photo by Mike: Sea plane arrival

Photo by Mark Erdmann: Snorkel party

We cruised to Wakaya and got hyped for manta sightings when Mark flew the drone to find 9 of them somewhat close to the surface. The dive/snorkel parties went out, and the mantas vanished from the shallows. We did get to see Juanita, who Mark tagged a few days before the beginning of the trip, proudly wearing her fancy piece of technology. Then we spotted two more humpbacks and went out on the skiffs… they weren’t interested in playing, so we divided into diver and snorkelers. The dive resulted on 3 manta sightings, but no tagging. Mark seems to be growing a heart after all. The most incredible experience on the dive was hearing the whales singing loudly, non-stop, throughout the entire dive.

We cruised to Makogai during the day looking for more whales, but found none. The fishing party went out, and this time returned with no missing toes. Our Kava party on the decorated dive deck was fabulous. The guests danced, sang and made some funky animal sounds. From the 3-year-old to the 70-something-year-olds, everyone thoroughly enjoyed the evening.

The following day was a little windy but Makogai provided plenty of shelter for us. For the first water session, we went to Rick’s Rocks and could hear faint whale singing through the entire hour. The top of the bommies were booming with life, covered in anthias, fusiliers, blennies, wrasses, gobies, butterflyfish, chromis, damsels, fusiliers and trevallies, feeding on all of them. Later the divers went to Becky’s, where Mark found a special damselfish to be studied. The snorkelers went to Makodroga Bay, some guests paddleboarded to the island and explored the shore. Later we did our village visit, walked the old hospital grounds, visited the graveyard, observed the clam nursery and watched the kids performing the mekes as the adults sang their traditional songs.

Photo by Mark Erdmann: The dark tail makes this dude/dudette very interesting

Photo by Bel: Welcome to Makogai

Photo by Mike: Meke time!

We crossed to Vatu-i-ra Marine Reserve and had a windy day to deal with. The snorkelers went to the sheltered Howard’s Diner reef and loved the drifts along the top. Not only were they surrounded by diverse fish and healthy hard and soft corals, but they were joined by a curious boobie. The divers went to the bommies at Shebang where Mark found his goby again, but he got away. After Mark’s talk about ReShark, we went to Vatu-i-ra island to watch the birds. The sun was out, the breeze felt nice and the birds were everywhere. The dive in the afternoon resulted in a happy Mark with his goby and a private snorkel session with white tip sharks and enormous mackerels.

For the last day we dived and snorkelled the Sea Mounts, starting with mount Mutiny and moving to E6. The snorkellers declared a favorite, for sure. The health of these shallow reefs are paralleled by none in Fiji, and few in the world. The divers also enjoyed the overload of soft corals, big drop-offs and swim-throughs. After that, we headed back to Lautoka as the family celebrated being together for this incredible adventure. We wish them a safe trip home and many more adventures to come!

Photo by Bel: Vatu-i-ra island visit

Photo by Mark Erdmann: The best shallow reefs in Fiji

Photo by Mark Erdmann: The best shallow reefs in Fiji

Photo by Mark Erdmann: Rainbow Wall at Mount Mutiny

Photo by Mark Erdmann: The best shallow reefs in Fiji

Photo by Mark Erdmann: Cathedral at E6

Comments

“This trip was better than I expected. And I expected it to be pretty frickin’ great. Thanks to all the crew who made our first liveaboard so memorable.”

Craig

~ Craig