Stan Waterman Hosts Dive Trip on NAI'A
With Fiji's spectacular coral reefs to entertain us by day and one of scuba diving's early pioneers, Stan Waterman, on board to regale us with his memories and stories of what has truly been a charmed life, the tone was set for a great week. Stan is an inspiration to us all and, after meeting him, a couple of others and myself have a new hero. To still be packing up his video and dive gear for more adventures around the world at 86 is remarkable. It seems his enthusiasm for diving and his natural charm holds no bounds. Stan took things easy, making a couple of dives a day, but was always on hand, eager to hear about what had been seen and shot throughout the day. Charm personified, Stan is a gentleman and great company. Enjoying the camaraderie of this weeks' dive group he appeared to be in his element during this trip.
Friendly dive pirates found in Fijian village...
Bruce T. captures the hairy ghost pipe fish found at Unde-Nai'a-ble
Sarah F. captures the magic moment a manta frolics behind Rob whilst he diligently studies the reef for critters!
Turtle and Cheryl R. both pose for Sarah to snap them at Mount Mutiny.
Lycianda's spacious upper deck.
Sarah F. showing the village kids their digital photos
Close encounter with a friendly turtle.
Robert & Sarah C. buddy up and blow bubbles!
Stan entertaining the ladies after a days diving. At 86 and going strong, a true hero!
Bruce T. showing the great macro capabilities of his G11 by shooting this small Popcorn shrimp in an adhesive anemone.
Dan shoots the Randal Goby posing with his fin ready!
Well camouflaged scorpion fish by Robert C.
Anemone by Dan S.
Another character and great dinner time story teller, Rob Barrel, Nai'a owner, had come over to dive with Stan and other friends who were onboard to meet the legend in person. Sarah Fisk, a friend of Rob's from university, took the greatest photo of the trip. It may not have been the best photo technically or a competition winner, but it did allow us to make fun of the boss - the shot of Rob diligently searching the reef for cool critters while a large manta cruised behind him. Luckily for Rob we had several great manta encounters during the trip and he got some good close encounters too. During an afternoon dive on Two Thumbs Up in the Namena Marine Reserve two manta's were feeding. With their cephalic pods unfurled they cruised effortlessly around and around for over thirty minutes, feeding on a large patch of plankton rich water. Jeff V. has been traveling the Pacific diving and sightseeing for the last six months. During the manta encounter he had a front row seat and was practically chest to chest with the large rays as they danced whilst feeding. This made his trip and he was stoked at such an interaction.
The unfortunate event that had befallen Nai'a during her dry dock was a shock and it was quite incredible to see just how much effort the Nai'a team as a whole put in to get this trip started. Nai'a reputation has been built up over the last 16 years and during this time has been refined to offer a five star service. How we would cope without her would be a daunting prospect to most. But on our return from holiday we found that Alexx & Todd Edwards (Rob's sister & brother in law), who now run the boat from Fiji, had a cunning plan. Not only had they managed to secure a boat worthy of the high Nai'a standards, but also to have kitted it out as a dive vessel with all that was on Nai'a. This never-say-die attitude saved the day. Not wanting to disappoint guests who had their whole itinerary booked and were ready to travel, they were determined the trip would go ahead. The MV Lycianda was available ready for a change in her usual life as a cruise boat here in Fiji. There was a huge effort and much hard work put in by the shore crew to get this boat ship shape and ready for a dive group. Rob, Gitte and myself can't take any of this credit as we all flew back into Fiji on the day of the trip to find out that Lycianda was ready!!! With the Nai'a crew on-board, Fiji's wonderful soft coral laden reefs, a lot of hard work - and, as it turns out - a great group of passengers, the trip was a great success!.
"I'm incredibly saddened by the tragedy to the good ship Nai'a, but this was a Nai'a Cruise and a great one. The ship is my second home, but the crew and reefs are the heart of Nai'a. I couldn't be happier to be here with my Fijian family and international friends this week!."
"Diving was fabulous and the crew were exceptional."
Ian & Lesta N.
Stan Waterman's Comments
The disastrous explosion that occurred when NAI’A was in drydock could have grounded a less enterprising company for many months. To the surprise - and relief - of all of us who were signed up for the February 6-13 tour, the NAI’A spirit was alive and well, just contained in another vessel.
The 130-foot tourist cruise ship, Lycianda, did the job. In one week of Herculean effort the NAI’A crew tidied up the luxury vessel and added the requisite amenities needed for a boat dedicated to divers. Those of us who were veterans of NAI’A cruises were welcomed aboard by familiar faces. We were back with the family, received with the warmth that has always marked the relationship of guests to crew on NAI’A. Only the Captain and Chief Engineer from the Lycianda supplemented the original NAI’A crew. The cabins were roomy and comfortable. The air conditioning worked like a champ. For this old camper the instant hot water and good shower were a joy.
Our first dinner confirmed my hope that the Lucullian repasts, provided by Peni and Josh, NAI’A’s amazing gourmet chefs, would delight us through the whole week. Sere and Sulianna dispensed the excellent wines as long as the glasses were offered. When I am home I often dream of the dinners on NAI’A and wake up sobbing.
The hospitality was still 100% intact. When the crew was introduced to their guests that first evening, they arrived with their guitars to regale us with their wonderful strong Fijian voices and songs.
The weather favored the first dive that afternoon to prep us for the smooth process of safe diving, assignment to the two familiar skiffs, stowage of our gear, dip tanks, etc. All went off without a hitch. Nothing was missing from the careful, diver-friendly routine that has served NAI’A all these years.
Our diving itinerary followed the familiar locations. The magnificent colors of the soft coral and profusion of reef life for which Fiji is famous astounded the divers new to Fiji diving and gratified us familiar with it. The requisite visit to one of the small island villages and the warmth with which we were received renewed my respect for those generous, hospitable people. The kava flowed, dancing commenced and the entire village - men, elders, women and children erupted with laughter and pleasure when one of our lady guests drew out the oldest man in the village for a dance. The octogenarian met the challenge with a nimble foot. It was wonderful. The visit was all heart on both sides.
You will know from the above that the NAI’A family knocked themselves out to meet the emergency with an interim service that would uphold NAI’A’s reputation in every way. I will return again next year - as I have every year - to host a tour on the beautiful old lady. Long before that she will have healed her wounds, slid down the ways newly minted, and taken up her regular schedules. Meanwhile, the Lycianda will pitch hit and serve very well. Our bunch were happy campers and had a wonderful time. Scurvy failed to show up and rack of lamb graced the menu, as it always will.
“Joann & I had a remarkable experience here in Tonga! Our diving trips mostly entail liveaboard boats and this one was the best yet – great crew & great food! You are fortunate to have the ownership in place to allow you to do it right! We won’t easily forget our “Whale Week” on NAI’A – it’s a once-in-a-lifetime gig!!”
~ Terry & Joann