The Final Countdown
In this, our final countdown trip before Tonga 2019, we were delighted to spend some quality time with our favorite creatures in Fiji: hammerhead sharks, huge schools of anthias and fusiliers and more barracuda than we could even begin to count!
We were joined for this fabulous week-long charter by an interesting mix of divers – mostly from the US but with a couple of Swiss to mix it up a little – who quickly became dive buddies, enjoying life at sea together. We were happy to welcome back Bill and Janelle who first dived with us back in 2016.
Photo credits (clockwise from top left): John, John, Barbara, Roland
We began our week at sea with a full day in Vatu-i-ra. The dives were gorgeous and our Caribbean divers, especially, were just blown away by the color of Fiji! The Whole Shebang was on fire, with its bright, contrasting pops of yellow and purple soft coral. And Mellow Yellow was fishy as fishy can be with some of the bigger predators – Spanish mackerel, jacks and barracuda – hanging round the reef crest, biding their time. We returned to Mellow Yellow for a dusk dive at the end of the day, where our night-time hunting skills were rewarded with multiple basket stars, a couple of scorpion fish and multiple huge marbled shrimp.
Photo credits (Left, top right, bottom right): Bill, Tim, Janelle
We moved east overnight, to the Namena marine reserve for the next two days. Our pinnacles – though a little challenging with the current – were looking absolutely stunning: huge, puffed up soft corals and a ton of cool macro life, including pygmy seahorses and orangutan crabs. However, it was our deep walls that really excited these divers! Schoolhouse had a nice, mild current and we could easily swim back and forth, enjoying the concentration of fish life and corals on all the reef crests. And Grand Central Station was beyond compare, easily winning ‘dive of the trip’: so much so, we did it twice! All the usual suspects were there in incredible concentrations: grey reef sharks, barracuda, tuna and scad. However, we were also treated to some exciting bonus creatures: two separate sightings of hammerhead sharks, a pair of mating octopi and the weirdest looking creature going by the name of a Helmut’s Gurnard (first we’ve seen here in Fiji!). Taking advantage of a peaceful night at anchor, sheltered in the bay at Namenalala, we enjoyed a fun kava party with our crew out on the dive deck.
Photo credits (Left, top right, bottom right): Janelle, Janelle, Tim
From Namena, we moved to our most southerly point; the island of Gau. We enjoyed two awesome dives in Nigali Passage: one straight down the passage enjoying all the barracuda and sharks, and another cruising down the purple soft-coral covered wall and over the impressive ‘cabbage patch’. After lunch, we opted for a nice and easy, lazy dive along the outside slope at Nigali. The viz was amazing, there was no current and we came back feeling perfectly relaxed after the exhilarating dives of the morning. To end the day, we ventured into the village of Somosomo, not letting a ‘little’ (!!) rain stop us. We hid out in the village hall and had a wonderful time singing, dancing, drinking kava and chatting to the villagers.
Photo credits (clockwise from top left): Bill, Tim, Roland, Barbara
That evening, a big storm we’d been monitoring for days began getting closer; something very unusual for this time of year. So, we decided to remain in the lee of Gau that evening and see what the morning brought. We awoke to clearer skies and less rain, and decided to make the short move up to Wakaya straight after breakfast. It was at this point, however, that our plans went awry! One of our guests fell and badly injured his shoulder so we had to make a huge detour to get him to hospital pronto. It ended up not being the day that any of us had hoped for and we very much thank our guests for their patience and understanding: we would have done the same for any of you!
Photo credits (left, top right, bottom right): Bill, Bill, Janelle
For our final day, we awoke to a GLORIOUS, sunshiny day (THAT’S Fiji!!) and we managed to squeeze in four fab dives at Nananu-i-ra. The golden soft corals are just incredible in this region and all of our divers – especially the wide-angle photographers! – were in awe. It’s just mesmerizing to hang there and watch all the tiny fish schooling so intensely around the enormous bushes of soft coral, pulsing in and out with the current. After washing up our gear and drying off, we were treated to THE most spectacular sunset over the ocean as we began the journey home. Thank you, Fiji, for a beautiful goodbye. Tonga, here we come…!
"This was our first live a board and we met some amazing people. Loved the crew, they made the trip 100 times better!" Chris & Camie
“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