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Fiji Trip Report, May 2015

Fiji Trip Report, May 2015
In late May 2015 we travelled to Fiji for our group trip on SY Fiji Siren Liveaboard. Joining us on this trip were guests from the UK, Ireland, US and Hong Kong, and as Fiji lies in the middle of the Pacific Ocean our guests used various routes to reach Fiji. Some went via Hong Kong, some via Los Angeles, and others via Australia or New Zealand. So by the time our guests reached Fiji there were already lots of tales to tell! Fiji Siren trips start and finish at Volivoli Resort which lies on the doorstep of the excellent dives sites of Bligh Water and some guests took the opportunity to arrive early and spend a few nights at the resort. Volivoli Resort also offers a spectacular location to board the Fiji Siren and taking the short ride from the resort’s beach to the Fiji Siren you quickly realise you’re in paradise! Once onboard the Siren we completed an afternoon check dive and then after a great dinner it was time to go to bed ready for the next days diving!

For our first full day of diving we headed out to Bligh Water and the Vatu-I-Ra Channel. Here the highlight dive sites were Coral Corner and Black Magic Mountain where we found ourselves in fish soup surrounded by spectacular soft corals with plenty of big fish dropping by as the currents picked up, including Spanish Mackerel, Barracuda and Grey Reef Sharks. For our second day of diving we headed to the island of Makogai, here we were treated to some very easy current-free diving with dives sites such as Dominos, Pinball and Halfpipe swathed in baitfish constantly been hunted by the resident Barcheek Trevally, Bluefin Trevally, Spanish Mackerel and Unicorn Fish. At these sites we also encountered Whitetip Reef Sharks and Leaf Scorpionfish, a beautiful critter that we would find on many Fiji dives over the coming days.

Following our dives we headed to Makogai Village, previously one of the South Pacific’s largest leper colonies, the island now supports clam nurseries and a turtle project. At the village we were treated to a village tour and a traditional Sevusevu ceremony where we enjoyed drinking Kava and traditional dancing with our welcoming hosts.

Makogai Village (Bonnie Jackson)

The next day we moved to Wakaya Island where the highlight dive site was Lion’s Den and it was here we were treated to an encounter with a large all-black Darth Vader Manta! Next we moved on to the revered dive sites of Namena Marine Reserve. Our first dive was in the area of South Save a Tack on a dive site called Chimneys where vertical columns extend up from the seabed covered in soft corrals and pulsing with small fish and their predators – Barcheek Trevally, Bluefin Trevally and Batfish. It was fascinating to see how the Trevally use the streams of diver’s bubbles to help them hunt the small fish. Next we moved to North Save a Tack to the dives sites of Arches and Grand Central where we found lots of Grey Reef Sharks, some seriously huge Tunas, Spanish Mackerel, Barracuda, schooling Bigeye Trevally, swarming Fusiliers, large Napoleon Wrasse, Pufferfish, and at the base of the beautiful Arch a Golden Mantis Shrimp!

For our second days diving at Namena we headed back to South Save a Tack this time to dive Ned’s Nuts and Black Forest where we found plenty of hunting Trevally, attacking the small fish pulsing in and out of the beautiful soft corals, a Blue Ribbon Eel and a beautiful Banded Sea Snake. For our third dive we headed out to School House where we encountered lots of Grey Reef Sharks, Whitetip Reef Sharks, huge schools of Blackfin Barracuda and Bigeye Trevally, Pickhandle Barracuda, Tunas, Spanish Mackerel, Napoleon Wrasse, and the icing on the cake – a huge Great Hammerhead!

After our exciting dives at Namena we set sail for the distant shores of Tavenui, nicknamed the Garden Island, Tavenui is home to the Rainbow Reef and the Somosomo Strait. We would have two days to dive Tavenui’s sites, famed for giving Fiji its reputation as the ‘Soft Coral Capital of the World’! At Tavenui highlight dives were the Great White Wall, Purple Wall and Barracuda Point. At the Great White Wall the wall is endowed with spectacular white soft corals as far as the eye can see making it a truly unique dive site. The wall also has some spectacular swim throughs that are covered in soft corals in a multitude of colours. At the Great White Wall we encountered a variety of sea life, from large Turtles, Whitetip Reef Sharks and Moray Eels to small Nudibranchs and juvenile Rockmover Wrasse. The Purple Wall is covered from head to foot in beautiful purple sea fans making it another truly unique dive, whilst Barracuda point was truly fish soup and was home to some of the largest Whitetip Reef Sharks we’ve ever seem!

Tavenui Island landscape (Ben Jackson)

With our diving in Tavenui completed we headed on to Tavenui Island to see the marker for the International Date Line inconspicuously located at the side of a rugby pitch and offering spectacular views of the sunset over the Somosomo Strait! With our photos taken with one foot in today and the other in yesterday we headed back to the Siren to begin our journey to Gau Island. The weather however had other plans for us and some unseasonal winds damaged the boom of the Fiji Siren meaning we had to divert back to the safety of the Namena Marine Reserve. Whist this appeared a little unlucky for us it turned out to be a blessing in disguise with Namena producing a truly unforgettable dive! For this special dive we headed to School House with the current running and we were treated to an utterly spectacular show of Grey Reef Sharks schooling in huge numbers as we clung to the edge of a deep drop off – a dive that brought back memories of the dives at Wolf Island in Galapagos! The dive also gave us huge schools of Barracuda and Trevally, Tunas and once again a huge Great Hammerhead Shark! That evening plenty of Fiji Gold disappeared from the fridge!

For our final day of diving we headed to Bligh Water and the Vatu-I-Ra Channel to dive two of Fiji’s most famous pinnacle dive sites E-6 and Mount Mutiny. At E-6 we explored the beautiful Cathedral Cave where shards of light lit up spectacular soft corals and the floor was crawling the Blue Dragon Nudibranchs. Around the pinnacles we were treated to huge schools of Blackfin Barracuda and Yellowtail Barracuda, Tunas, Spanish Mackerel, and large photogenic Jellyfish! That evening as we had dinner the chefs had a surprise up their sleeve, with a special cake made to celebrate the diving milestones of Angela who had completed her 2,000th dive and Jeff who had made is his 1,000th dive!

The next day we rose early ready to make our way to either Volivoli Resort for more days relaxing or diving, or back to Nadi for our flights home. Before we left though there was time for a group photo and for the crew to sing us a farewell song! We would like to thank all the crew of the Fiji Siren for making our journey to this far away land so special, we are already looking forward to our next trip to Fiji – Bula!!