First timers get top ten…
First timers get top ten…
With our seven guests from Germany, Netherlands, France and Réunion ‘loaded’ on board and clearance given by the Maritime Safety Administration for Fiji Siren to departed, we head south with the Island of Gau programmed into our GPS/autopilot system.
Our guests were all first time visitors, with the exception of Ruud – our special guest – who is from our home office of Worldwide Dive and Sail in Thailand. Boat, safety and dive briefings completed, we had dinner on calm seas as we cruised down the eastern coast of Viti Levu, which had the guests taking in the wonderful views of the rugged, green mountain sides. The overnight voyage was very serene, and everyone awoke to glassy calm seas and a beautiful sunrise. We completed our gear setup, then into the water for our check out dive in the Northern Passage of the Gau barrier reef.
Everyone was anticipating Nigali Passage later in the day, and a face-to-face encounter with the grey reef sharks. The two days of diving provided the guests with manta rays, grey reef sharks, pelagic schooling fish and all the usual small critters Fiji has to offer. The soft corals were the talk of many, and I loved this as I knew the truly spectacular displays of soft corals were still yet to come. Unfortunately, our second day at Gau a stronger wind reared its ugly head, with weather reports of an approaching northerly wind Julian, our always safety conscious skipper, called the diving for the day and we moved toward the garden island of Fiji, Taveuni, and the world famous Rainbow Reef dive site. All of the guests were looking forward to it.
WOW! As we woke to a beautiful sunrise over Taveuni reflecting on the glassy calm seas, the divers were very excited, even before entering the tender to go to the dive site. The strait between Taveuni and Vanua Levu is called the Somosomo, which translated from Fijian means ’Calm Water’, lived up to its name. For next three days we experienced flat calm seas and azure skies, dotted with floating white clouds. The currents in the strait were manageable with the group diving The Great White Wall twice. Bernd from Germany kept surfacing after each dive (of the 10 we did while in Taveuni) saying, “This site is in my top 10 dive sites of all time!!!” He was certainly fun to have on board.
Our final day in Taveuni everyone opted to go to the Bouma National Heritage Park to visit the falls, swim in the cooling fresh water beneath, and to visit the ‘International Date Line’, with a little shopping on the side to top off the tour. In the rainforest, where the falls are, on the eastern side of the island, the rain fell heavily at times, but the guests really enjoyed the trip nonetheless. Our last meal in Taveuni, floating on the calm water with a warm, warm evening was liked immensely, before we weighed anchor at 2am to steam towards our eagerly anticipated meeting with the hammerhead sharks at Dreamhouse, near Savusavu.
The encounter, albeit too brief, allowed half of the group to see a small school of hammerheads, though numerous grey reef sharks and yellowtail barracuda were in attendance. With our relief Instructor / guide Owen Whippy on board, we got to try out a new dive site called the Purple Garden. The four pinnacles were covered with pristine hard corals, dotted also with small purple soft corals. Owen, Bernd and Dietrich and I took a quick side trip into the shore reef and check a couple of swim-throughs and during got to see a large colony of painted spiny lobster, hiding in the shadows. We finished the day in Savusavu Bay at Alice in Wonderland, as everyone turned down the night dive in favor of some cold beers and relaxation. It was a really great group we had on board! An overcast night sky, though still warm, made for cooler temperatures, which gave extra comfort for dinner too!
The next morning we moved to the Namena Marine Reserve for a couple of days of excellent diving. At Namena we continued to hear from Bernd Kuhn: “Top 10 dive site ever!”
Déjà vu! Several other guests commented after Black Forest, Ned’s Nuts, and Kansas: “Best dive of the trip so far!” It is clear that Namena is also becoming a favorite dive area with our guests, and why we are starting to spend at least two full days of diving there.
After our seafood dinner, complete with lobster mornay, we heaved the anchor for the last time for our overnight journey back to Bligh Water/Vatu-I-Ra area for one of our last two dives at the famous dive site E-6. After I briefed about the encounter last week with no less than five scalloped hammerhead sharks, the guests kept their fingers crossed! We plunged in at High-8 for our second dive, also a popular dive site, named by Jacques Cousteau. Both dives were amazing, even with an overcast sky. The divers were very satisfied and extremely happy with their great 10 days of diving on the Fiji Siren. As we headed west during lunch, the crew did their exceptional job of cleaning the equipment, dive deck and hoisting the sails for a photo opportunity.
All ship shape, the guests relaxed on the journey back to Volivoli Beach Resort and chatted with the crew along the way. Stories from Germany were traded with stories from Fiji, and the bonds of friendship formed over the past 10 days grew even stronger. The final night’s BBQ was a festival of music, with Chief Mate Richie playing guitar and singing, with the crew adding backing vocals! Doubtful a ‘top 10 hit’ is likely in the near future – stick to the diving!
The final morning started quietly, as it usually does! No one was looking forward to disembarking, however the crew and guests met on the sun deck for one more photo op with a few more jokes shared, and then farewells were said.
The guests departed for the beach at 10am, and even though the crew and I were sad about the goodbyes, we were ready to welcome aboard our next group, for more diving adventures aboard the Fiji Siren.