Bula vinaka and welcome to another adventure with an amazing fusion of divers all drawn together in tropical Fiji with a common passion for diving. We couldn’t think of a better place to start with this amazing group than at Amazing Maze, a range of pinnacles, swim throughs and overhangs ranging from 3m (10’) to 25m (80’) and pleasingly conditions subsurface were wonderful with plenty of schooling fish. Our first ‘family dinner’ was Indonesian night and of course washed down with a few relaxing drinks including some well poured beers thanks to Owen and Simon’s complimentary beer pouring workshops at our onboard Fiji Bitter keg.
Early the next morning after a very calm night’s sleep captain Julian set off to Vatu I Ra and we started the day by splitting into two groups with half diving Black Magic Mountain where we saw a couple of different species of shark right down to gobies, blennies and shrimps and the other half diving Mellow Yellow, and as the name indicates it is covered with bright yellow soft coral hanging from fish infested pinnacles in arguably the world’s soft coral capital. Add all of this to 25m (80’) visibility and it makes for a great way to start our morning! After our second breakfast of the day the groups switched sites and later that afternoon jumped in at Instant Replay which starts off as a casual drift along a gradual sloping wall and eventually picks-up to a thrilling pace before looping around and doing it all again. For our opening night dive of the cruise we re-visited Mellow Yellow, just a 30-second tender ride from Fiji Siren, and once again it turned on its charm and was a fitting way for Rob to experience his first ever night dive. After a lovely French themed dinner and a celebratory nitrox cake for desert to honor Valerie’s new certification we set course for Gau, the most southern destination on our 10-night cruise.
As dawn broke on our approach conditions were looking good and whilst the crew were dropping anchor we had a short history and information session about Gau and it was then time to experience its underwater life as our intrepid divers enjoyed a pleasant morning drift dive along the outer barrier reef at Nigali Wall with countless fish and healthy hard coral. Time to focus on our next encounter with the sharks in Nigali Passage as our expert dive instructors/guides Ju and Matai closely watched the tides for just the right moment to ensure the optimum experience for our fearless guests as they got up very close and personal with these incredible creatures. Two tremendous dives in Nigali Passage with over 40 sharks, large grouper, Napoleon wrasse and enormous schools of barracuda and trevally/jacks as well as gigantic dog tooth tuna which are slowly becoming regulars. Next stop a short 45-minute cruise to Jim’s Alley for our night dive and back topside for Indian night followed by yummy birthday cake, congratulations to Tracy and thank you for coming all the way from LA to celebrate your birthday with us – hip hip hooray as the Fiji Siren house band broke out the tunes and entertained our weary friends as one by one they headed off for some well-earned sleep in readiness for another fun-filled day.
After a peaceful night in calm seas we set course for the exclusive private island called Wakaya, just in time to be greeted by a striking bright orange sunrise over the island on our arrival, and hung-out with the manta rays, hammerhead sharks, Napoleon wrasse, groupers, turtles and winged pipefish at Vatu Vai, Lion’s Den and Blue Ridge on Wakaya Wall. Later that evening as the sun was setting we popped back to Lion’s Den and had yet more fun before heading off to the neighboring Makogai Island, just 2-hours away, in readiness for tomorrows escapades.
Today’s dive calendar included dives at Dominoes for the pure white anemone with striking electric blue tips, Half Pipe for the brightly coloured soft coral with countless schooling anthias and Christine’s Place with the exquisite stealthy stalkers, the lion fish. Later that afternoon everyone was treated to what is always a guaranteed big hit, a land based tour of Makogai Island. Once onshore our guests were warmly welcomed with a traditional meke and sevusevu and learnt about the baby turtle, clam and oyster projects as well as took a step back in time and visited the ruins of the old cinema, prison, grave yard and leprosy hospital. As is typical everyone returned smiling from ear to ear after a remarkable tour and could not stop talking about how much fun they had. Our well rested guests arose at the area known as Rainbow Reef in the waters off Taveuni and today’s adventures were in glass flat waters at Fish Factory, Nuku’s Reef, Jerry’s Jelly, Blue Ribbon, Sam’s Point and Mini Cabbage Patch. What did our guests say about today’s diving? ‘beautiful, wonderful, so pretty, so much colour, I’ve never seen so many fish, just gorgeous, fantastic’ – so I think I can comfortably say that today’s diving gets everyone’s tick of approval! Tonight’s dinner theme was Fijian night which was another big hit.
Day two at Taveuni and there’s no a better way to celebrate Rudolf’s 1,000th dive than at the iconic Great White Wall with 40m (130’) visibility, so how was it Rudolf? ‘perfect, just perfect, it couldn’t have been better’. Later that morning we did an exciting drift-dive from Mini White Wall to Annie’s Bommies and after lunch some guests chose to do a land based trip into Taveuni and visit the Bouma waterfalls and the International Date Line. Our afternoon dives took us back to Jerry’s Jelly, Sam’s Point and Blue Ribbon with turtles, octopus, reef sharks, blue ribbon eels, flat worms, napoleon wrasse and anemone fish just to name a few. We finished off our Taveuni diving with a relaxing night dive at Red Rock Point before enjoying Thai night as our last Taveuni meal and of course Rudolf got his ‘Happy 1,000th Dive’ cake which we all enjoyed helping him eat.
Next stop was Namena Marine Reserve to dive at a couple of very popular and colourful sites teeming with marine life, Black Forest and Ned’s Nuts and for our night dive went to Namena Beach Pinnacle followed by seafood night for dinner and rounded off with pears poached in red wine and cinnamon for desert as we sheltered safe and calm behind Namena Island for the night. In the morning we chose a great site to start another day with a visit to Chimneys, one of the most colourful and lively group of pinnacles you could imagine before moving to Grand Central Station, The Arch and Kansas for a diverse variety of marine life from pygmy sea horses and golden mantis shrimps to sharks and large graceful schools of barracuda and trevally/jacks along with a myriad of hard and soft coral including a mass or leather coral in an area known as Wheat Fields. That evening we found time for one more night dive of the cruise, this time at Nole Reef just off Solevu Bay, Vanua Levu, some 2-hours north of Namena Island, which was followed by carvery night with succulent roast pork, lamb and chicken along with piles of roast and steamed vegetables.
Our final day of diving saw us head back to the rich Bligh Water at Vatu I Ra under bright blue skies to two truly remarkable sites, E6, where we were met with a large group of friendly dolphins, and then to Mount Mutiny, which both rise vertically from over 1,000m (3,000’) to just breaking the surface at low tide. These sites never fail to impress and were a fitting finale to what has been a great cruise with some exceptional people. After lunch we set course back to Volivoli Beach and during pre-dinner drinks had a photo screening from Gerald, Valeria and Bob’s efforts during the cruise which was worthy of a standing ovation. As always we finished the night off with our famous BBQ and final night party.
Like all things amazing unfortunately the adventure has to come to an end as the crew sang Isa lei to our departing friends…….vinaka vaka levu until next time.
Underwater photos courtesy of guest Valerie Duval