Maiden Voyage of the Fiji Siren Liveaboard
Maiden Voyage of the Fiji Siren Liveaboard
The crew is awake early morning on the 26th of September making final preparations for the maiden voyage of the S/Y Fiji Siren. Everyone is excited, nervous, anxious, and pumped with adrenaline awaiting the arrival of our first guests. To help make sure everything runs as smoothly as possible, we’ve got Frank, Thomas, Iwan and Noi on board. The crew that spent some time in Komodo training are: Cruise Director – Jon, Captain – Julian, First Engineer – Clinton, and Second Engineer – Harry. Many of the other crew has worked on other Mega Yachts and Live-aboards which consist of: Chef – Laisa, Scuba Instructor – Ju, Divemaster / Guide – Matai, Host – Knox, Compressor / Deck / Dinghy Driver – Vincent, First Mate / Deck Hand – Dodo. Although the scheduled arrival time of the guests is 2pm, we had to make a small delay in embarkation due to last minute configuring of the taps for the Fiji Bitter Draght Beer system installed on the boat. As the guests arrive, they all agreed that the short delay was worth the wait. Getting the guests settled into their cabins, and after a short mid afternoon lunch, only 8 guests went out for a late afternoon check out dive, with Christian and Jenny doing a private dive with their rebreathers to ensure they were blowing no bubbles, and the systems would be ready for the next 9 days of diving. A wonderful evening dinner was had by all and the boat briefing was done by Thomas, followed by an emergency drill with life jackets and the muster prior to the guests retiring for the evening.
On the 27th of September, the second day of our trip, we pulled anchor and headed up to the Bligh Waters for the first dive with all guests. Although the skies were a bit overcast and there was some wind, everyone enjoyed the dive. Following the dive the S/Y Fiji Siren headed north towards Vanua Levu and Savusavu, unfortunately the wind picked up and swell were reaching 2m (7ft) in height. It turned into a day of the guests getting to know each other, reading, relaxing (even with the boat rocking) and for a few guests there were a few moments of feeling ‘green’ and queasy but all fared the passing well. We reached our anchoring point just after dark and settled in for the night with a relaxing dinner and more fun conversation. We lifted anchor at 5:30 on the morning of the 28th and headed to the Namena Marine Reserve. Although the wind was still providing a choppy crossing, by the time we reached the outer barrier reef at 7:45 the wind was dying down and the sun was shining for the first dive of the day. Everyone came back to the boat happy and hungry after seeing White Tip and Grey Reef Sharks as well as schooling Barracuda! The divers were amazed that they could see the sandy / coral bottom at 28m while they were still on the boat prior to dropping in for the dive. We stayed at anchor on the north reef of the reserve for breakfast and our second dive. During lunch we traveled to the south reef of the reserve to respect the Fijian currents and tide for our third dive of the day. 4 of the guests took advantage of a nice relaxing shore dive on the Namena Island House reef and a very interesting conversation ensued over dinner whether or not they saw a Spanish Dancer, it turned out to be a Pleuro Branch and everyone went to the Marine Life ID books for confirmation.
Day 4 we remained in the Namena Marine Reserve doing 4 more dives. The first dive of the day kicked it off in style with Lily – one of our guests from Argentina – coming back to the boat saying she almost cried just looking at the beauty and colors of the soft corals. After the 3rd dive she returned to the Fiji Siren saying she was speechless (a bit of a contradiction with her saying that!). She was so impressed, as well as the rest of the guests with the colorful soft corals, the schooling barracuda and the sharks that seem to be appearing on every dive. White Tip Reef, Grey Reef and Leopard Sharks. Frederick and Maria took the afternoon off and went kayaking along the beach and returned with stories of small Black tip Reef Sharks patrolling the shores looking for a little snack! After the second night dive was done the Fiji Siren lifted anchor and headed north to Savusavu Harbour to spend the night. It was a bumpy ride which luckily only lasted about 3 hours. A calm restful night was had by all after anchoring. The excitement of the guests was apparent at the early breakfast as I briefed the famous dive site – The Great White Wall. The wall is sheer and covered in Fiji Snow (the white soft coral), and drops from 24m (85ft) down to about 60m (190ft) before the sandy slope at the bottom continues down into the depths of the middle of the Strait. Visibility underwater was at least 40m (140ft) and allowed the perfect viewing opportunity for all the divers this day. We dived the wall near slack tide which is best and all the guests were amazed at the size and color, so much so, that we ended up doing our second dive of the day there as well seeing Octopus, Turtles, White Tip Reef Sharks and huge swathes of purple soft corals. After lunch we headed north in the Somosomo Strait (Somosomo meaning Calm Waters) for our third and afternoon dive we picked a ripping current site called Rainbow Passage. Although visibility wasn’t the best (about 12 to 15m), there was PLENTY to see. Maori Wrasse, Turtles, Huge Schools of Fussiliers, Banner Fish and Butterfly Fish. Some of the guests saw a NUCLEAR sized Grouper / Cod – they said at least 2.5m in length. It was a great day in the Strait and up on Rainbow Reef, but with forecasts of 20 to 25 knot winds for the next few days in the Koro Sea, we fired up the engines and headed South with Wakaya and Makongai Islands as our target. Winds kicked up early so we dropped into Savusavu Bay around 10:30pm for a calm nights rest. It was a great 7th day of the trip for all the divers onboard for sure!
Day 8 – 3 October – The anchor on the Fiji Siren was lifter early as we headed back to Namena Marine Reserve for a dive at Ned’s Nuts – our second dive at this site during the voyage. The colors did not disappoint with a few sightings of Reef Sharks during the dive. As the trip to Namena took a bit longer than expected with the wind and heavy seas, we immediately pulled anchor again to set off towards the small island of Makongai for our second dive of the day. The sea continued to be a bit angry fueled by the Southeast Trade Winds and the crossing took just about 4 hours. We finally made it into the water late in the afternoon splitting the group up for dives at different sites on the north side of this small Island. A quick turnaround after the dive and 4 of the divers again participated in a nice mellow shore night dive before dinner. At day 8 many of the guests retired early showing signs of weariness from the travel and diving.
On the 4th of October – Day 9 of the trip – we motored south towards Wakaya Island to dive their reefs with hopes of Manta sightings. 3 dives on the Wakaya reef system gave most of the guests (and guides) and opportunity to see Mantas during two of the dives, and sharks (white tip and grey reefies) on all three dives. The second dive was very kind to group one who got to see turtles, schooling Barracuda (Chevron, Yellow Tail, and a group of juveniles) all at the entrance to Wakaya Passage. Plans to stay anchored overnight changed as we lifted anchor again and headed to Naingani for dinner before the night dive, which once again had 4 divers dropping in on the dive site 7 Peaks. Pete, Deb, Paul and Ashley did most of the night diving on this trip. Many of the guests retired for the evening as the briefing for the next morning revealed they would have an early dive day as the crew focused on getting the divers back to the Vatu-I-Ra passage to dive the famous sites they missed on day two due to high winds and heavy seas……
The final dive day of the trip – October 5th, the guests were up and on the dive platform by 7:15am in the Bligh Waters ready to dive at E-6. We were able to giant stride into the site direct from the platform of the Fiji Siren as we moored up at the site. The second dive we were able to do the same thing at High 8. Some sharks, schools of pelagics and corals for viewing along with the swim throughs and tunnels – one called the cathedral provided an excellent location for the photographers (Aaron!). Frank came on board saying he saw two Tiger Sharks on the first dive, but luckily Maria was able to keep him honest and told us it was just a few White Tip Reef Sharks and some turtles! We managed a third dive on the way through the Bligh Waters Heading West back to Rakiraki and Volivoli Beach Resort to anchor for the final night Bar- B-Que. Lobster, Chicken and Steak were on the menu, and everyone had a great night together talking and sharing stories and recapping the travels of the maiden voyage of the Fiji Siren.
October 6th the guests were woken at 7am for a final big breakfast and to finish packing the clothing and dive gear. The sky in Fiji was a bit overcast with light sprinkling rain, but the crew and guests got together for a group photo before the guests departed the boat at 9am for their next destinations. E-mail addresses were exchanged; final goodbyes were said (Moce Mada and Sota Tale in Fijian). We would like to express a special thanks to all the guests who came along on the maiden voyage of the Fiji Siren, and hope to see everyone back again soon, cheers! Jon