Home Sweet Home!
by Chris Borowski
by James Houghton
by Chris Borowski
by James Houghton
After a fabulous season in Tonga, we are delighted to be back home in our beloved Fiji: those humpback whales sure are tough to leave behind but we were getting progressively more and more excited to return to our colorful fish and corals! And now, we have just got back from a great first charter with plenty of action: schooling hammerheads, multiple mantas, blooming soft corals macro-life-a-plenty and even a mystery shark… Who could ask for a warmer welcome home?
We were joined by a truly lovely group of guests. A mix of solo travelers, couples and family members; some of whom had been on NAI’A in the past (on her maiden voyage no less!) and some who were new to the whole experience of live-aboard diving... Welcome to the good life! We even had the ‘big bosses’ onboard (Parri and Malia, that is!). The group soon bonded and the trip was filled with laughter and story-telling: we love to see everyone connect over a shared love of the ocean and of adventure.
Photo credits (Left, Top RIght, Bottom RIght): Chim, Chim, James
After collecting our guests in Lautoka and going out on a quick check-out dive, we journeyed around the north coast of Viti Levu to spend our first full day of diving in the area known as Nananu I Ra. The weather was not particularly on our side, throwing strong wind and big waves our way but it wasn’t enough to stop this hardy lot and we squeezed in four spectacular dives! Everyone enjoyed the unique topography of this area – lots of cuts and crevices and fun swim throughs – as well as the healthy hard coral gardens. It seemed to be ‘frisky octopus day’: we saw two different pairs going for it, flashing wild colors and chasing each other around the reef!
Photo credits (Left, top right, bottom right): Chim, James, James
We set off straight after dinner that night to make the long passage south to the island of Gau. Our good intentions for a 7am dive went out the window at 5.30am and realized we were still many hours away! The wind was so strong it had slowed us down to a measly 6 knots. Nonetheless, we made it! And, more importantly, we made it in time for Nigali Passage, a dive site that is totally current dependent and was due to kick off that afternoon. Before then, we managed to fit in a little warm up dive at Jim’s Alley and Anthias Avenue. Conditions were gorgeous down below, with next to no current, which more than made up for the horrid surface conditions! After a lunch break, we enjoyed two incredible dives at Nigali. It’s a dive site that never fails to impress: who doesn’t enjoy schooling barracuda and circling sharks everywhere you look?! All our divers came back grinning and fueled with adrenalin. We’d do that dive every day of our lives if we could!
Photo credits (All photos): James
From Gau, we headed north to the island of Wakaya. We enjoyed three day dives here (though only the brave few actually made it out of bed for the first one, the others enjoyed a well-earned rest!). What a treat to have manta rays cruising by on not one but two of the dives! At Lion’s Den, we went on a major macro hunt and had a fabulous time spotting all sorts of cool critters: decorated dartfish, multiple leaf scorpions and even a couple of juvenile rock mover wrasse. After the third dive, we motored to the island of Makogai where we headed in to land for a couple of hours to enjoy our weekly village visit. We so love spending time with these islanders: they sure know how to have fun and gave us a great show of traditional singing and dancing! After dinner that night, a couple of the group went out for a night dive while the rest decided to enjoy a little time with the crew around the kava bowl.
Photo credits (Clockwise from upper left): James, James, James, Chris
The next morning we arrived at one of our favorite locations: the Namena Marine Reserve, where we would spend the following two days (allowing for at least one peaceful sleep at anchor after a few rocky and rolly nights!). The first day, the skies were heavy and grey with rain showers on and off. However, we had some phenomenal dives… Apparently, the fish aren’t as fussy about the weather as we are! We started in the south of the reserve, with dives at two of our Tetons. Our divers were mesmerized by the soft corals and sheer abundance of reef fish, some even calling it the best dive yet (better than Nigali?? Ooooh, that’s a tough call!). We then shifted to the north and tackled Schoolhouse and Grand Central Station. WOW! Allllll the big stuff came out to play on these dives: endless schooling barracuda, tuna bigger than a grown man, masses of jacks… And 30 schooling hammerheads no less! That afternoon, we enjoyed some less adrenalin-pumping, more calm-and-pretty dives at Kansas, The Arch and Tetons 2. The light was pretty low at this stage so we really focused on the macro life which is plentiful on all our sites here. That evening, we celebrated a successful day of diving with a trivia night and a kava party! The trivia was an absolute blast – so fun to do something a bit different and we learnt some weird ‘n’ wonderful facts – and we must thank Nat for taking the time to organize it… Much appreciated!
Photo credits (Clockwise from upper left): Chim, Chris, Chim, Chris
After a restful sleep, we were ready to go again bright and early the next day. We couldn’t believe our good fortune when we woke up to calm seas and glorious blue skies: finally! We started on our pinnacles in the south again and, with great viz and bright light, they were just perfect. Some of our divers were treated to another manta ray passing on by. Even more exciting was a mystery shark we have yet to ID! Very cool to see something totally new and we can hopefully figure out what it was with a bit more research. We then got back to our walls in the north and they were once again astounding: divers were witness to a grey reef shark feeding frenzy and even saw a sail fish which are SUPER rare around here. We finished up the day with a night dive after dinner (well, 2 people did anyway, the rest of us relaxed!).
Photo credits (Top, bottom left, bottom right): Chris, Chim, Chim
For our final day of diving, we headed west to the beautiful Vatu I Ra region. This area has some of Fiji’s best diving and was a real treat at the end of the trip! Go Mo was a definite crowd pleaser, with one diver even being brought to tears by its beauty – it is such a healthy reef, so full of color - and Mellow Yellow was looking so fabulous in the shallows we couldn’t get divers up for a good 80-90 minutes… Who can blame them? We ended a great day with one final dive at Coral Corner with the spectacular wall of golden soft coral in full bloom.
It’s been a wonderful week and we are so happy to be back in Fiji! Thank you to all who joined us on this aquatic adventure… Hope to see you again one day.
Here are a few more photos of the week for you to enjoy!
“Fiji is a hot spot of biodiversity. We’re here for the rich colorful soft coral reefs as well as the unusual stuff - the strange little creatures and endemic fishes.”
~ Dr. Tim Laman, biologist and National Geographic Photojournalist