Mark goes to Fiji…
Mark goes to Fiji…
Bula vinaka and welcome aboard SY Fiji Siren! Once our eager guests which included Siren Fleet co-owner Mark Shandur, his wife Hanako and daughter Akira, were comfortably settled in it was time to officially fire-up the diving part of this escapade with a relaxing shake-down dive in our 29°C (84°F) water at Amazing Maze. After checking out the Fiji marine life and playing with some ‘magic coral’ our watery adventurers made their way back to Fiji Siren with a stunning red sunset off the stern officially bringing the day to an end. Once back onboard we all settled in for a few pre-dinner drinks, including a fun ‘beer pouring workshop’ at our keg, with lots of laughing prior to our Indonesian themed dinner which was finished up with fresh-made brownies and ice-cream. After dinner the drinks continued to flow as we sat around the dining area chatting and getting to know new friends.
Day 2 we were delighted to showcase some sensational and magnificently colourful dives in our very own back yard, the history and marine rich Bligh Water, with Mellow Yellow, Black Magic Mountain, Instant Replay and then over to Alcricity Wall for our first night dive of the cruise. A great day had by all with grey, black tip and white tip reef sharks, moray eels, barracuda, Spanish mackerel, groupers, swimming flat worms, mantis shrimp, anemone fish, bearded scorpion fish, lizard fish………..just another day in the life of Fiji Siren and her guests. If you’ve been reading our blogs you will already know that we like to party when we get the chance so we once again broke-out the house band and helped Susana celebrate her birthday with a few glasses of top-shelf Veuve Clicquot, some live Fijian entertainment and finished off with Remy Martin Fine Cognac and of course a freshly baked birthday cake with ice cream………….happy birthday Susana and thanks for spending it with us! After dinner we headed south overnight to the island of Gau, our breakfast meeting with the sharks keenly on everyone’s mind.
Day 3 and in typical fashion our intrepid travellers jumped right into Nigali Passage for the ‘main-event’ of the day, the exhilarating and breathtaking shark dive with well over 30 sharks, marble rays, dog tooth tuna, grouper, blue ribbon eel, moray eel, Spanish mackerel and massive schools of barracuda and trevally. During a quick surface interval and full cooked breakfast our hard working and dedicated crew refilled everyone’s cylinders and back we went for ‘round 2’ which was just as good. After lunch and many a story about the sharks and plenty of pictures shared around it was time to drop in for our third dive of the day on the Nigali Outside Wall. As day was gradually turning into night we raised the anchor and moved a short way to Jim’s Alley, which was our site for tonight’s dive where we saw white leaf fish, scorpion fish, lionfish, soft and hard coral, moray eels and banded sea snakes. Returning onboard to hostess Star’s ever smiling face and mugs of fresh hot chocolate was just the thing to round-off a truly remarkable day of diving. Indian cuisine was our themed dinner this evening which was concluded with some fun Bollywood music and dancing, Fiji Siren style.
Day 4 and as our guests slept soundly in their luxury cabins we set off early from Gau on our way to our next destination, Wakaya Island, arriving like clockwork as the morning sun made its first appearance to start what was to be another near perfect Fiji day. During the morning dives we saw a manta ray, hammerhead shark, grey reef shark, turtles and the cool winged pipe fish and leaf fish at Vatu Vai (Manta Rock), Lion’s Den and Blue Ridge, between dives some guests made use of the onboard kayaks and had a leisurely paddle under the blue sky whilst others swam in the warm calm bay. After the final dive of the morning we raised the sails and sailed proudly in full splendor to Makogai Island where we had an interesting educational land-based tour of the baby clam, oyster and turtle farm which was followed by a thoroughly entertaining meke and sevusevu. Our duly elected Ratu (Chief) Vijay, who could well be history’s first ever Maltese Italian Fijian Ratu, represented us proudly and thanked the local village for coming out to welcome and entertain us with their singing and dancing as well as sharing a shell (or several) of kava. On return to Fiji Siren it was straight up onto the ‘moon-deck’ for pre-dinner cocktails, more dancing, singing, laughing and kava at our Full Moon Party before heading below for a mouthwatering seafood dinner prepared by chefs Aman and Lepani. Big congratulations to Gavin and Eva who are now officially nitrox divers after successfully completing their specialty course onboard. As we all enjoyed their celebratory nitrox cake for desert Captains Richie and Semesa safely guided us towards Namena Island in some bumpy rocking and rolling sea conditions in readiness for the next 2-full days of diving.
Day 5 and as a new day begun we were unfortunately greeted with grey cloudy skies, wind and rain however not to be put-off our adventure continued in this amazing part of Fiji called Namena Marine Reserve, which holds within it some of the most amazing diving that Fiji has to offer. Before long the sun managed to fight its way through and to everyone’s delight conditions improved drastically. Over the day our guests were shown the beauty beneath by instructors Ju and Owen who have the eyes to catch the amazing, from the diminutive pygmy seahorses, strikingly coloured blue ribbon eels with their funky yellow ‘mohawks’, incredibly camouflaged scorpion leaf fish and octopus right up to the big guys – pelagics, sharks, rays and Napoleon wrasse at Ned’s Nuts, Black Forest, Fantasy, Grand Central Station, The Arch, Kansas and for our night dive at Namena Beach Wreck a very big moray eel came out to play, as did the always popular cleaner shrimp along with some of the ‘aces of camouflage’, the cuttlefish and sole. With Fiji Siren snuggly nestled back at Namena Island, a prominent nesting sanctuary for the red footed booby bird, our guests enjoyed a stunning 3-course dinner of traditional Fijian food including rourou soup, kokoda, ika vakalolo and vakasoso rounded off with some fun songs by the Fiji Siren house band before our happy and content guests slowly turned in for a blissful night’s sleep to re-charge their bodies in preparation for another big day of diving tomorrow.
Day 6 and our adventure at Namena Marine Reserve continued just where we left off yesterday with another three great dives during the day in this incredibly marine rich environment as well as a night dive at Namena Point. We wrapped up the day with another excellent themed dinner, the always popular roast night, pork and crackling with apple sauce, lamb with mint sauce, chicken and gravy and heaps of steaming hot roasted vegetables.
Day 7 and for our final diving day we made our way back to Vatu I Ra and two genuine world-class sites, E6 and its unique cathedral with shards of sunlight glimmering in from above and as a special treat we had not 1, not 2, not 3 but FOURTEEN HAMMERHEAD SHARKS this morning. Next stop Mount Mutiny which boasts some of the most amazing and colourful soft coral you could ever imagine. These two sites are virtually in the middle of nowhere in the Bligh Water and rise up with almost vertical walls from over 1,000m (3,000’) to just break the surface at low tide, and nothing but water for many miles in every direction.
For the final dinner our guests were treated to the famous Fiji Siren BBQ night followed by a photo show from some of the best pictures taken on the cruise via one of our massive flat screen TV’s and some of the contributions were truly worthy of a standing ovation, special thanks to Jon, Charlie, Eva, Ramon and Mauro. The Fiji Siren house band played late into the night and with such a great mix of people our crew are sad that this is our last night with them, for a while at least, and hope each and every one comes back to visit us in the not too distant future. And as if we needed another reason to celebrate even more it was happy birthday to Renee for tomorrow.
Day 8 and like all things amazing unfortunately the adventure has to come to an end as the crew sang Isa lei to our departing friends, thanks for being such a great fun group and vinaka vaka levu until next time.
Photos Courtesy of Ramon Gonzalez Real