Hammerheads, mantas and enough corals to blow you away!
Hammerheads, mantas and enough corals to blow you away!
I met the guests at Volivoli Beach resort and escorted them to the Fiji Siren ready for its second voyage. Welcome onboard, boat briefings, overall dive briefings, cabin check-ins and dive gear was set up on the dive deck by 4pm. We did a late afternoon check out dive for 12 of the 14 guests onboard to get the buoyancy and weights sorted. Two guests from the U.S. were very tired after not much sleep and chasing down their luggage (one missing piece) so they choose to take a quick cat nap while the others were out diving. The guests returned from the dive just as the sun was setting and everyone rinsed off and cleaned themselves up for dinner. Not forgetting the Emergency Life Jacket Drill all the guests participated in this very successfully about 20 minutes prior to dinner time. Although a serious drill, many jokes and laughs were exchanged during the exercise. Everyone retired early – prior to 10pm – resting up for the anticipated diving in the Bligh Water area of the Fiji Islands that was scheduled for the following day.
The captain and crew lifted anchor at 5:15am and headed the Siren East / Northeast out of the bay, the guests were treated to a bit of a ‘sleep in’ with wake up calls not happening until 7:30am while we sailed towards the dive sites. Seas in the Bligh Water were much calmer this trip with plenty of sunshine too. Even though we got a late start for the first dive, we were in the water at 9am for dive #1, and just before 12 noon for dive #2. Anchoring in the Bligh Water’s today allows us to dive 3 sites near to each other without moving. The third dive of the day in the same area left the guests coming back in from the diving with the same comments: Amazing! The soft corals and abundant aquatic reef life in Fiji never seem to let anyone down. 4 of the guests on board went out for a night dive at one of the same sites we were diving at during the day – Mellow Yellow – as it seemed to be a favorite. Talk of the small anthias and other reef fishes spawning and mating – and perhaps the spawning soft corals were a draw for the guests, as Julius our dive instructor happily took them out to see the reef at night. Dinner, followed by a birthday cake for Gernot was a nice way to end the evening with Vincent our third engineer / compressor engineer / deck hand strumming the guitar and singing for the guests as they were relaxing after dinner.
The next morning we dived Mount Mutiny and E-6 which are not only great dives, but with the moorings provided at each reef, the Fiji Siren can tie off and divers can jump in right from the dive platform to dive. During our first dives of the day, Jason started working on his Poseidon MKVI Rebreather Courses with Thomas and I – so the group got to check out the 3 rebreather kits up close and personal during the dives. The weather was remaining fine with just a light chop on the seas, and partly cloudy skies. After our 3rd dive of the day we untied from the mooring and headed south to Wakaya Island arriving about 8pm just as the guests were finishing dinner and celebrating Vincent’s Birthday with cake smothered in whipped cream; the cake not Vincent! It was a great day and most of the guests settled into their cabins early anticipating the following day’s dives – hoping to see the manta’s that were around for our maiden voyage last week.
The 10th of October we woke the guests up at 6am. The sun was shining with just a light breeze on the water. Diving at Wakaya was a great choice for today as the first, second and third dives treated our divers to manta rays! AND, the best part of the day for the first group on the first dive of the day was sighting 2 Hammerhead sharks. Everyone on the boat was excited, even for those that didn’t get to see them. After lunch a tropical squall blew in and delayed the afternoon dive as we waited for the wind to die down a bit. We found our weather window just a few minutes after we delayed the dive, and many of the divers came back to the Fiji Siren saying it was the best part of the day. Que, who wasn’t diving yesterday, told everyone that is was because of her that we all got to see the ‘big’ stuff today. She makes everyone laugh and smile. Even with the continued wind, light rain showers, and cooler weather, we had 5 guests participate in the sunset / night dive at a site called ‘Turtle Sanctuary’ just off the beach at Wakaya. Jason continued his Poseidon Rebreather training with Thomas today doing two dives, and I was on hand to assist with the course. An early dinner was scheduled as we prepared to lift anchor at 3am to head south to Gau Island in search of more sharks.
The morning of Friday the 11th our departure from Wakaya was delayed as the wind was still strong at 20 -25 knots, so skipper Julian opted to wait for a bit of daylight to negotiate the passage out of Wakaya. We arrived at the Northern Barrier Reef of Gau at about 10am and entered the calm waters on the north end of the Island. Chief Engineer Clinton went to shore with the skipper to offer a Sevusevu and arrange for our guests to do a village visit at Sawaieke. The guests went ashore and enjoyed a nice time viewing the village, talking with the elders and the children, and experiencing true old style Fijian Culture in the remote Village. After returning to the boat, we headed south to Nigali Passage for our afternoon dives. Our guest guide Sam did an extensive briefing on this shark encounter dive and the divers geared up the quickest I’ve seen them the entire trip!!! Needless to say, the unpredictable currents and tides, delayed our entry into Nigali Passage for the dive, and after 45 minutes of waiting for the tide to change, we had burgers and chips while waiting. We finally entered the water and were treated to an uncountable number of grey reef sharks. At one point I counted a school of 35 plus. With mating season in March, we were lucky to get to see many baby grey reefies swimming around with the adults. Going through the passage we also saw dog tooth tuna that were bigger than some of the sharks, as well as large Walu / Spanish mackerel. It was late in the afternoon when we finished this first dive of the day (about 4pm) but some of the guests wanted to go back in for a second dive so we dropped in at 5pm to go face to face with the sharks again. An early dinner was enjoyed by all as we prepared the boat and the finishings on board for the 10 to 12 hour ride over to Taveuni during the night time; with everyone eagerly anticipating Rainbow Reef as they retired for the evening.
The sun was rising on October 12th over Taveuni and the Fiji Siren was sailing on glassy calm waters. It was a telltale sign of a good day ahead. All the guests went diving on the first and second dives in the morning, and really enjoyed themselves. The soft corals were blooming and the fish life was abundant. During our briefing for the third dive of the day a large pod of spinner dolphins appeared of the stern of the boat, so we had to delay the briefing a bit while the dolphins jumped and played for the guests. It was fun to watch them put on the show. In the afternoon – Gernot, Gerd and Takako decided to hop a ride over to Taveuni for a shore excursion to Bouma Falls National Park on the Eastern Side of Taveuni. The three of them came back with stories of how beautiful Fiji’s 3rd largest Island is – which is also known as the ‘Garden Island’. With the rainfall ever present on the Eastern side of the island, fruits grow wild, and none of the residents ever have to pay for Pineapple, Bananas, Passion Fruit, Palmello, Papaya and a number of other local fruits and vegetables. The rest of the evening was relaxing as we celebrated Brad’s Birthday (Brad and Kim Bishop from the U.S. just joined us on the trip as we picked them up on their private beach in Waitatavi Bay on the Island of Vanua Levu..
October 13th once again welcomed us with glassy calm seas and a beautiful sunrise. We were up early as the timing for the first dive at The Great White Wall on Rainbow Reef has to be fairly precise to see the soft white corals on this steep wall. We hit it just right, with a light current, turtles, white tip reef sharks, and abundant marine life. The swim throughs were illuminated by the indirect rays from the early morning sun, and as we dropped down the first one, a free swimming moray eel stayed with us for about 3 minutes. Very cool for the divers! Our second dive was astonishing with some fair current, and Rainbow Reef astounded with it’s blood red, and purple soft corals as we finished the dive at Annie’s Bommies. The third dive at the Mini-Cabbage Patch turned in to a very fun dive. With a shallow area at 12m of pure white sand with scattered bommies around, it turned into an area to ‘play’ a bit. Remo took his fins off and was blowing air rings, and also playing air guitar with his fins while he sang. Others were taking photos of him. Sam and I were able to take the opportunity for a spot of rebreather skills practice (hovering, clearing the loop, and mask flooding and removal / replacement). Dinner was had, and we celebrated yet another birthday on board for Dickie and then the guests, as well as the crew retired early to be ready for the next day.
October 14th – our 8th day of the trip we awoke to 25 knot winds and a decision by the skipper Julian to pull anchor and head directly for Name to shelter for diving and an overnight in the Namena Marine reserve. The crew hurriedly prepared the boat for a rough crossing, thankfully no one got sick on the 3 hour ride across despite the rocking. We made it to Namena Marine Reserve and even though it was blowing a hooley on the sea, we made it in for two day dives and a night dive. The first dive of the day absolutely astounded the guests. At North Save a Tack we saw Grey Reef Sharks, White Tip Reef sharks, and large schools of Barracuda, Trevally, Jacks, Unicorn Fish and Red Tooth Trigger Fish. Also Scorpion Leaf Fish were found as we shallowed up. The second and night dive’s were mellow but good dives. It was a bit of a rushed day with the late dive schedule but enjoyed by all, and a good night’s rest was had by everyone.
The 9th day of the trip – 15th of October I had the guests awake at 6am as the wind ad settled, and we were able to move the Fiji Siren out to South Save a Tack Reef to anchor for our two morning dive; astonishing aquatic life from Reef Sharks, to Soft Corals, to small fish and Ribbon Eels. After lunch we headed back up to North Save a Tack to re-do Grand Central and get another glimpse of the Fiji Sharks, and of course to dive the correct tides and currents. More schooling Trevally, Jacks and Barracuda were on hand also. Jon used his underwater skills to call in a school of Jacks for and up close photo of the school for the photographers. We pulled anchor after dinner and headed back to the Vatu-I-Ra area for the final day of diving tomorrow.
Day 10 – we are up at 7 to dive Mellow Yellow and Coral Corner again. Great ending dives for the guests. Gear was rinsed and dried in the Fiji wind and sun, as we slowly sailed back to Rakiraki and the Volivoli Beach Resort Anchorage. The final night Bar-B-Que was excellent. Lots of fun, singing and guitar playing by the crew and Kava shared with the guests. Once again it was difficult to say goodbye as we anticipated the final breakfast in the morning, group photos and final farewells! Cheers to all of our guests, and we hope to see you again soon! Moce mada……..