Grey reef sharks gracefully negotiating their way amongst what must have literally been a smorgasbord for them
The Fiji Siren crew was very happy to welcome back ‘photo pro’ Mr Douglas Hoffman who was on-board conducting another underwater photography workshop throughout the cruise as well as a bunch of repeat guests! To start our subsurface proceedings it was a quick hop over to our neighboring island, Nananu-I-Ra, where we got straight into the swing of things with a nice easy shake-down dive at Amazing Maze among myriads of swim-through adorned with beautiful gorgonian sea fans and of course no dive in Fiji would ever be complete without thousands upon thousands of colourful anthias.
Today our guests awoke for their first morning on-board Fiji Siren in the ‘Soft Coral Capital Of The World’, Vatu-I-Ra, and couldn’t have asked for a more perfect site than Mellow Yellow, beautifully decorated in prolific walls of healthy soft yellow coral as far as the eye could see. After our second breakfast of the day another lovely coral-head/pinnacle, Black Magic Mountain, treated us to more amazing coral with an abundance of fish-life from the little guys like nudibranch, leaf fish and anthias right up to sharks and dog tooth tuna calling this place home in the 40m/130’ visibility. After lunch, we dropped in again and spent time with octopus, Napoleon wrasse, grey reef sharks, schooling barracuda and moray eels at Coral Corner before heading off overnight to Gau Island some 9-hours away.
Anchored right at Jim’s Alley for our first dive of the day with some stunning tomato anemone then up anchor and off a further 50-minutes through the glass flat waters inside the fringing barrier reef to Nigali Passage for two exciting close-up and personal shark dives. This evening’s night dive was at Main Street for some fun with pleurobranch, nudibranchs, flat worms, hungry lionfish and scorpion fish. During dinner our guests were entertained by our very own Fiji Siren Rubber Band before Douglas held another of his interesting photo workshops.
This morning started a little different to normal with an exploratory dive near Batiki Island where we checked-out a cool new wall with some Napoleon wrasse, turtles and barracuda. From here, it was a gentle 2-hour cruise up to Wakaya Island for afternoon dives at Wakaya Wall and Lion’s Den with the smallest of all pigmy seahorses (hippocampus severnsi) and scorpion leaf fish to manta rays, before our night dive at Vatu Vai.
Waking to idyllic surface conditions and yet another beautiful sunrise to start our adventure in Fiji’s largest Marine Reserve and it wasn’t long until we hit School House where we spent time with many big pelagic fish such as wahoo, dog tooth tuna, Spanish mackerel and barracuda as well as a few grey reef sharks and our two resident schools of photogenic banner fish. From here it was over to South Save-A-Tack and Ned’s Nuts as well as Chimneys where it was complaint after complaint as memory cards got full and camera and strobe batteries went flat with so many photo opportunities. Since conditions were so good we stayed at Chimneys for this evenings night dive and once again everyone came up smiling from ear to ear.
For our second day at Namena Marine Reserve we were once again back in the north to explore Grand Central Station, Arch, Yellow Brick Road, Oz and Kansas where we dived in ‘fish soup’ amongst thousands upon thousands of schooling jacks, big eye trevally, barracuda and surgeonfish with hammerhead and grey reef sharks gracefully negotiating their way amongst what must have literally been a smorgasbord for them. Later that afternoon our guests enjoyed more fabulous colorful soft coral and massive gorgonian sea fans as well as our resident blue ribbon eels at Black Forest before we set course and headed off overnight on our 9-hour journey to Taveuni.
To kick things off in the Somosomo Strait first-up was Rainbow followed by Fish Factory and then Jerry’s Jelly where our guests got to enjoy glass flat water with 30m/100’ visibility before a night dive at Mini Cabbage Patch with plenty of active crustaceans. Tonight’s dinner was hosted on the ‘moon deck’ complete with the Fiji Siren Rubber Band, lots of singing, a little dancing and of course some traditional kava.
For our second day here, we started at the very famous Great White Wall which was followed by Nuku’s Reef and then a nice land-based excursion to the International Date Line and a dive at The Ledge before heading off overnight to the Namena Marine Reserve one last time.
Our return to Namena Marine Reserve coincided with Fiji Day, the celebration of independence from the UK, and no better way to celebrate that than diving Fiji Gold and NSAT Wall with massive schools of big eye trevally, jacks and barracuda several thousand thick. From here we moved back 40-minutes to the south for the changing of the tides and by unanimous decision visited the incredible colors of Chimneys once again. Our final night dive for the cruise was at Uaru Point with some cool little critters, decorator crabs, shrimps, crayfish and octopus. As a special treat this evening our chefs prepared a traditional Fijian lovo for dinner to mark such an important day and no such event would be complete without the Fiji Siren Rubber Band and the customary drink of kava.
For our very last day of this remarkable cruise we ventured back to the Bligh Water and Vatu-I-Ra to dive arguably Fiji’s most famous site, E6, in almost perfect conditions with 30m/100’ + visibility and even a friendly humpback whale came along to say bula! After lunch it was a gentle cruise, under clear blue skies, back to Volivoli Beach for our last night BBQ and goodbye party night.
As our final morning came around it was moca mada (farewell) to our new friends as the crew sung the beautiful isa lei (until next time) which as normal got a few tears and lots of hugs from our departing friends.