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Me diving

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Fiji Day 3: Namena Marine Reserve

Today we went to Namena Marive Reserve to dive.  I had never heard of Namena, so really had no preconceptions about what the diving would be like.  All I knew was that it was not "local".  Somehow Rob and I both were under the impression that it was a 45 minute boat ride, but it was actually closer to 90 minutes (on the Namale Pearl... it took longer for the other boat).  We got going late because we were waiting for the boat ladder, which was having 2 extra rungs welded on (and was en route back from whoever in town does welding).  This was good news in my book, since my previous experience getting huge bruises while being thrashed around on the ladder was a direct result of the ladder not having enough rungs.  One more was really necessary, and two was quite luxurious :)

The first dive site was Chimneys (aka Thumbs Up).  The site briefing described two pinnacles starting in 15 feet, which, when viz is good (which it was) you can see from one to the next.  It turns out that there were a few smaller, deeper, flatter coral heads too.  The site name is an excellent name, since the two main pinnacles are very tall and skinny.  Improbably so, in fact.  They look like they should fall over.  This site was amazing; it was, hands down, my favorite dive of the trip.  It was like what they show in the Fiji brochures!  There were all different colored soft corals (not all open though), some really nice sea fans, lots of different-colored crinoids (oooh) and zillions of very colorful little fish, plus some cool bigger fish.  There were a bunch of unicornfish, which I have never seen (or heard of) before, but I thought were super cool looking.  The top of one of the pinnacles had a ton of anemones with clownfish.  The fish life in general was just insane.

There was a decent amount of current on the site, so I imagine that if you want to see the site with all of the soft corals open, there were be a ton of current.  But even without all of the soft corals open, the reef was very colorful.  After the dive, I told Rob that I thought it was the only dive I've done where the amount of color on the reef compares to Carmel.  A bunch of people on the trip looked at me very quizzically when I said this, but really, of all of the Caribbean diving I've done, the reef is just never as colorful as, for instance, Big Sur Banks, Outer Pinnacles, Mt. Chamberlain, etc.  We spent most of the time near the top of the pinnacles, where the huge schools of anthias were (which Rob complained kept getting in the way of his shots :P).  We did take a quick foray down to one of the wider, flatter coral heads on the bottom, which had a very entertaining trumpet fish cruising around.  There were also some garden eels on the bottom, which I guess were apparently pretty cooperative for at least some of the people taking pictures/video.  However, we didn't bother to go down to look at them.

At the end of the dive, I found the new addition to the ladder to be very convenient.  We went to a spot off of a deserted island (which you aren't allowed to land on, I think) for lunch, and did a little swimming and snorkeling.

After a surface interval, we headed to the second site, Grand Central Station.  The site is so named because apparently lots of pelagics are always coming and going past this big sandy spot, right next to a dropoff to deep water.  At the start of the dive, we were on a wall from about 20' to infinity.  It was SO vertical, it was really quite cool.  But the fun part of the dive was still to come.  We got to a sandy area, which is where you are supposed to see all the pelagics.  We saw reef sharks, schools of jacks and barracudas, and one turtle.  Every time we came upon a school of fish, I kept swimming along with the school while videoing them, giving myself a raging CO2 headache each time (but continuing to do it, because it was fun :P).  This dive was not a terribly photogenic experience, but I thought it was really fun.  Eventually we left the big sandy area for some bommies, where we finished up.  We saw two reasonably big eels there, some nudibranchs, and I found a crown of thorns.  I know that these critters are evil, and bad for the reef, but I had never seen one before and thought it was quite interesting to look at.  Overall it was a really fun dive, though apparently if the dive had been timed "better" with the tides, we would have seen even more pelagics come in over the sand.

In the afternoon we relaxed in the pool, which was strangely deserted.

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