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Me diving

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Taveuni, Fiji: Day 6

It was really windy in the morning, and there was talk of it being too rough to go out in the afternoon/evening, but it ended up being crazy flat on the water for all three dives. After breakfast, we headed over to Rainbow Reef on the big boat. I think we made the best time yet getting over there, because it was so flat. It was really cloudy over Taveuni, but over the reef and Vanua Levu, it was sunny. For our first dive, we went to Purple Wall. We dove in two teams, and Rob and I were diving alone with a guide (Dee). We'd been there before, but not when the current was running, so we saw the purple fans and gorgonians on the wall, but not a lot of the soft corals were open. Today, the current was running, so we should see the soft corals too. It was an awesome dive! I told Rob afterward that I thought it might have been the best dive yet of the trip (he begged to differ -- I think he liked yesterday's dive at Jerry's Jelly better).

The current was quite strong and on the purple section of wall, near the top, there were tons of soft corals that were open. They were mostly purple with some white and the occasional pink. Some of the spots with soft coral had small reef fish darting around, but there weren't *that* many anthias and such (which is why Rob didn't think it was as good as Jerry's Jelly). We stayed on that section of the wall for almost 30 minutes, drifting down current, then swimming back to the beginning to get more photos and video. The current was strong, but there were little outcroppings that you could hide/rest behind when you needed to. Eventually I suggested to Rob that we go down the wall a little and drift past it one final time, and then we continued on from there. The reef kind of petered out and then we crossed over a finger sticking out in the deep (as discussed in our briefing). At this point, Dee thumbed the dive, earlier than expected. I didn't know if it was because she wanted us to ascend there or what. But once we got to our safety stop, we drifted over the rest of the group, who were still on the reef. Apparently there was another really cool section with some white and purple soft corals that we missed, grumble.

As I mentioned, I thought that was a super awesome dive. However, most of the other people on the boat were not as happy to dive in high current as we were, so we didn't get to do another awesome soft coral dive for the second dive (grumble). We went to a site which I think was called Nuku Reef, though I may have gotten the name wrong. This was described as having a combination of hard and soft corals. We'd go to the end and then circle back up the reef for our safety stop, before drifting off into the deep for the pickup. The reef here was really not that great, as Rainbow Reef dives go, though there were a lot of fish. The hard coral was in really bad shape in sections, and while there was the occasional soft coral, there weren't really any spots with tons of soft corals. There was also a decent amount of current, so I'm not sure why we couldn't have gone to a better site if we were going to dive in current anyway :). The fish life was impressive, tons of anthias, some barracudas off of the reef, but it was not my favorite dive.

After lunch (we both had kokoda, yum!) and a micro-nap, we headed back out to a site just north of the resort, whose name I didn't catch. Rob was shooting macro, so we were looking for critters. The site was described as three rock fingers pointing out into the deep, and the current was running south, so we'd just work our way over/around the fingers. It was a bit of a fail as far as macro dives go, but it was fun to look for stuff. We got separated from the group pretty quickly, and I found a whopping one nudibranch the whole dive (a bumpy dorid, and a boring one at that). Before we managed to get separated, one of the other divers, Rick, pointed out a green moray eel sticking out of a hole, and that may have been the highlight of the dive :P. Rob found a pretty big octopus in a hole, but it was really in a hole, so not photo or video worthy. When it was time to ascend, I shot a bag since we'd gotten separated and were drifting in current. It was my hot pink bag, which Kevin gave to me a while ago, but I have never actually shot before! It performed admirably.

We managed to find a guide to go night diving tonight, Oscar, so we headed out a little before sundown. We headed down the slope and of course Rob spent half of the dive looking for a Pygmy seahorse (more on that later). Well he didn't say that's what he was looking for, but I know that's what he was doing. We made some good finds on the dive. I made one *really* good find, which was a super exotic looking frog fish of some kind. He was scurrying across the reef and there is absolutely no way I would have been able to pick him out on the reef if he weren't moving. It was red and orange and really warty/frilly looking, and I wasn't even sure it was a frog fish until I saw it reach its spindly little frog leg out to step across the reef. But it was so cool!  I looked at an ID book and my best guess is a freckled frogfish (Antennarius coccineus).

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Before I made the find of the day (maybe the trip), we did see some other nice critters. First, we saw a few of these weird lionfish variants that have these long nostril poker thingies sticking out in from of them. I think it is a twinspot lionfish (Dendrochirus biocellatus). We saw one on our other night dive (but it was in a hole, so I didn't get an unobstructed view) and I could tell it was super awesome but didn't know what it was. Rob said he thought it was some kind of lionfish (or maybe a baby lionfish, I can't remember). On this dive, we saw at least three and at least two of them were out in full view; one was the first thing that Oscar found after we descended. I asked Oscar after the dive what they were and he said some kind of lion fish, maybe people call them "butterfly lionfish" but googling didn't really turn anything up by that name.  But perusing an ID book, it looks very much like, and only like, the twinspot lionfish.

Other than that, I made one other nice find, which was an itty bitty slug. It was so small that while I was pretty sure it was a slug, I wasn't sure if it was a nudibranch or not, I could basically just discern what I thought were black rhinophores on a mostly white body. Rob got a picture of it and thinks it is some kind of sap sucking slug. So probably a non-nudibranch slug. It looks a bit disheveled in the picture, possibly due to my double-ender inspection to determine if it was really a slug. Whoops. Aside from that, we saw one of the blue ribbon eels, a couple of nudis of varying coolness, and lots of shrimps.

After the dive we headed to dinner. It was "roast night" which entailed a plate of various meats (pork, beef, chicken), a baked potato and a big pile of veggies. Yum. I was least excited about the chicken but I think it was actually the tastiest of the meats. But they were all tasty. For dessert, we had chocolate mousse, which was more like a dense chocolate pudding than a mousse, but in any case it was delicious!

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