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Me diving

Friday, June 3, 2016

Fiji 2016: Nai'a Day 7: Vatu-I-Ra

For our last day of diving, we were near an island not too far from where we did our first (full) day of diving. Today was a 3 dive day, and then we'd tear down our gear to dry it off a bit before packing. There were three dive sites that we were visiting, the order of which would be current dependent. Joshua told Rob that two of the three sites had pretty awesome walls of yellow soft coral, so they would be good dives for wide angle. The first site was called Coral Corner, and it was one of the sites with walls of yellow.

The site starts out with a sand slope with scattered bommies and a shallow wall at the top of the slope. Well, it was advertised as a wall with periodic deep crevices, but it seemed more like a discontinuous wall... Though I guess I made not attempt to explore the crevices. Eventually the reef juts out, which is supposed to be he nicest part, plus there is a wall of yellow soft coral right around there, before the reef takes a 90 degree turn. So that was what the site was supposed to be.  But from my perspective it went more like this... A somewhat boring sand slope (with a few sharks to liven things up) then about 25 minutes in, a series of amazing walls of yellow soft coral and green cup corals, then the reef turns and at the corner there were tons of fish on top of the reef. The walls of yellow were really really cool, I just think we should have dropped in at that part :). There was practically no current, so only about a third of the yellow corals were open, and I kept thinking that I'd love to see this site when the current is pumping (with a scooter or course!). But it was pretty cool as it was. 

For breakfast, we had scrambled eggs with cream cheese (which I love, though I've never met anyone but my Dad, who introduced me to the concept, that eats the two together) and some kind of smoked fish, which was insanely tasty. After breakfast, we had the environmental presentation, which was about symbiotic relationships. It was one of the more interesting of the presentations, and all of the cool macro critters in the video inspired me to do some macro peeping. So I suggested to Rob that for the dive that wasn't more walls of yellow, we should do that. He was a bit resistant to the idea, since it turned out that would be the next dive, meaning he'd have to switch lenses twice. But I talked him into it. I think it was a good decision. 

The site (Maytag) actually had quite cool topography, with a pretty skinny/tall round pinnacle, separated by a very narrow sand channel from a sloping ridge (sloping from around 70' to 90'+).  We started on the ridge, worked our way deeper, then headed back shallower to the pinnacle. It was a quite productive macro dive. We saw one nudibranch we hadn't seen before, and several that we'd only seen rarely on this trip. There were also moray eels, leaf scorpionfish, and some regular scorpionfish. And other lesser macro critters ;). Rob and I were on top of the pinnacle (which comes up to about 20') on our "safety stop" when Joshua signaled us from about 40'.  Rob scooted back down and started lining up to photograph another of the Tambja that we hadn't seen before. I heard Joshua laughing as I approached. While I was looking, I noticed him checking my gas (a move I am familiar with, from Rob's classes). Apparently Rob's gas was quite low, and he wanted to make sure I had enough gas to get Rob to the surface :P. But Rob was speedy with the photo shoot, and no gas sharing was necessary. This time :)

For lunch I opted for the veggie option (after coveting the veggie skewers at lunch yesterday), which was a roasted veggie ciabatta. It was quite tasty, though a bit structurally unsound.

For our last and final dive :(, we went to Mellow Yellow, which was a fairly fat round pinnacle with a small sand channel and another little ridge shaped pinnaclet. One side was supposed to have gazillions of yellow soft corals. This site was awesome. There was a decent current, so the yellow corals were all open. They were covering about half to one third of the pinnacle. On one side of the pinnacle, there were all of these overhangs and cuts into the reef, and the yellow coral was hanging from all of those surfaces, hanging down from the overhangs. A bit shallower, there were some purple and white soft corals mixed in. The other cool thing about this site was the amazing numepber of fish just off of the pinnacle. There was an enormous school of at least three different kinds of fusiliers, plus some bigger fish like trevally and Spanish mackerel roaming around to keep them in line. This was in additional to the swarms of anthias that were actually on the reef. We swam around the pinnacle counterclockwise, ending in the channel with the smaller pinnacle. I swam over to it (which was a bit deeper) and found One end of it was completely covered in yellow, purple, and white soft corals and green cup corals (and swarms of anthias). I signalled to Rob so that he would join me. It was a really cool spot. When it was time to go, we went up to the top of the main pinnacle and watched a few anemone fish cuddling with their anemone. 

When we got back to the boat (which was like 100 feet from the dive site but we still took the skiff) there were rinse stations setup around the dive deck for our various bits of gear. It was a pretty efficient setup, though the soapy tub of water for the wetsuits made it insanely slippery. We hung a bunch of our gear out to dry on the sun deck, which did a very good job of drying stuff (there was also an option to hang your wetsuit in the engine room overnight).

Rob's death-defying stunt
Once we finished with that, I finally made us cocktails (after all week telling Rob that one of these nights I would) and we went up to the sun deck for sunset. Rob mumbled something about climbing the mast and scurried off to the bridge. He'd been talking about that all week. I was he'd be told no, but unfortunately that was not the case. He climbed up to the crow's nest and looked quite pleased with himself.  Soon after that, Bailey, a 13 year old girl on board also climbed up there. So the two of them sat up there for a while. It got pretty windy but they managed to make it down okay. Phew. 

Farewell feast
For dinner, we had the one and only meal that was served buffet style. It was the "chef's farewell dinner" and there were all kinds of tasty dishes (and lots of wine!), including a platter of roasted veggies, au gratin potatoes and these insanely good fish skewers (which Rob was still raving about a day later). There were lots of other dishes, but those were my favorites. After dinner, Joshua gave a presentation of photos from the week (everyone was asked to submit up to 20 of their best pics). Unfortunately only 3 people contributed but there was some good stuff.   After that, we hung around in the salon for a while, and Rob found a few more people to watch our Cordell Bank project video (he's much bette at that self promotion thing than I am) and then we went to bed fairly early sine we had to get up early to pack, since our gear was still drying. 

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