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Me diving

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Fiji 2016: Nai'a Day 1: Leaving Lautoka Wharf

View from the boat
Before you know it, it was time to go wait for the Nai'a bus to pick us up (the pickup was at 1pm+epsilon, depending on the order of pickups).  We basically waited around until we saw that the other people in the lobby with dive-themed baggage all started to head outside and we followed and asked if this was the shuttle for nai'a. It was. We got on and headed to the airport next, then back to raffles (to pickup a passenger that missed the unannounced shuttle pickup earlier) then onto a couple more resorts and on to Lautoka Wharf. All in all the journey was about an hour. We boarded the boat forthwith, while the crew unloaded our big bags to the dive deck. We setup dive gear, the crew took the rest of our bags down to our rooms, and then we all gathered in the salon for a briefing. We were in cabin 1, which has one big bed. Impressively big. Rob and I both thought it was pretty swanky.  I had to pee so I inspected the head to determine how it worked. I couldn't find a button or a pedal or any  such. There was one feature on the side which I inspected and decided was not a button. So I asked Rob to figure it out. He looked and immediately pointed to the button on the side. So that was a button!  I don't know why I decided it wasn't.

Our cabin
The briefing was long and detailed. Too long in Rob's opinion. I thought it was fine, plus snacks were served.  I was glad to learn that toilet paper was allowed in the head.  Rob gave me a look when they explained how to,flush :P. After the thorough briefing (which did not include the safety briefing... that was promised for later), we were told to meet on the dive deck for our first I've briefing in 20 minutes.  I had already changed into my swimsuit between gear setup and the intro briefing (because I have the gift of foresight) so I was twiddling my thumbs for most of the 20 minutes. I got into my wetsuit and found that my new (identical to my old) wetsuit booties were a bit big. Not really too big but just big enough to be annoying. 
The dive deck

After the dive site briefing (small reef with scattered bommies in the sand, in 20 to 30' of water), we headed to the rear deck and boarded our skiff. It was a bit windy so boarding th skiff was a little squirrely. We motored for what seemed like 100 feet and then stopped and started to get into our gear. We all rolled in on the count of 3 (which miraculously actually worked with 7 people) and after Rob retrieved his camera, we descended to the sand, in about 30 feet.  The viz was a bit milky/hazy plus it was almost 5, so with the low light, you just couldn't see that far. We started poking around among the rubble on the bottom, and I immediately found a tiny filefish. We headed to the nearest bommie, and Rob pretty quickly found a white and purple Dorid (there were actually two, though he only showed me the one). At this point we'd already lost the rest of he group. Oh well. We meandered from bommie to bommie. The bommie weren't very beautiful by Fiji standards, but there were some pretty decent hard coral formations. We saw a bunch more of those blue and white nudis, plus Rob found a cool little whip coral shrimp (like we saw in the philippines). I kept looking at it, trying to convinc myself that it was actually there, and not part of the coral.  

We eventually caught up with the other skiff's dive team (with Amanda as dive guide) and we benefited from her good eye.  She found a cool slug (not a nudi I think) and then a dragonet and later an even cooler Aeolid. We found another dragonet, and showed that to her. She asked if there were two, because apparently near sunset, they do a little mating dance. But we did not get to see that. We finished up the dive on top of a bommie, finally surfacing a few minutes after Amanda. We got back on the boat (I even managed to pull myself back in unaided) and had a one minute ride back to the boat. Something smelled great as I walked from the aft deck to the dive deck (passing by the galley on the way). 

View from our cabin
After getting out of our suits and changing, we hung out in the salon until the dinner bell was rung.  Dinner started with a salad of arugula, pears, walnuts, feta and balsamic vinegar (my kind of salad as Rob pointed out). Then we had salmon with some kind of caper topping, with couscous. The salmon was fantastic. For desser we had key lime pie, which was a bit different than the usual key lime pie, but it was very good. All in all a great meal!  After dinner we got an intro to the crew (aside from the dive staff, who we'd already met) and a safety briefing, but first several of he crew (including the captain) treated us to some music, singing along with 2 guitars and a ukulele. I think the crew of the escapade should learn from this!

After that, Rob and I headed to the sun deck.  We'd returned to shore to pickup a delayed passenger, and it was super smokey on shore... Something about burning sugar cane?  So after about 15 minutes, I started to have a sneezing fit and my eyes were burning, so we retreated to the salon. But the sun deck has a lot of potential for evening stargazing. 

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