It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Monday, May 30, 2016

Fiji 2016: Nai'a Day 3: Somosomo Strait

We made to crossing to Somosomo Strait overnight, which was a 10-11 hour trip, so it really took all night.  Since the currents are very finicky, or rather the dives are very current-dependent, we were told to be ready to get ready to dive starting at 7, but we could end up diving as late as 8:30. So we had to get up a half hour early, which I was a bit cranky about. But it turned out that we did dive at 7, so at least we got up early for good reason. The first dive was at White Wall, which we did last time we were in Fiji, though I was pretty convinced that the way we did it wasn't the right way.  We had a very thorough briefing about the path we would take, how the current would flow, and what was worth looking at after we came up the wall.

We got in without incident (no slipping tanks today) and immediately as we started to descend I saw a little reef shark below us. We got down to the first structure (across the sand channel from the main wall) and found some very nice (non-white) soft corals. We decided to hang there for a minute while the rest of the group got moving. So the plan in the briefing was to take a vertical chute swim through to get down to the wall, but I didn't see the group go through a swim through and I didn't see one. So we just swam around to the wall. We were swimming into a bit of current and the group was ahead of us. We got to the really cool part of the wall, which was covered in ice blue soft corals, and we dropped down to about 100'. Rob was taking pictures, lagging behind, and the group disappeared around a corner. I swam to the corner to keep an eye on the group and whoosh, I got sucked around the corner.  So this was *that* corner, where the current splits. So I had to swimuocurrent to get to Rob, doh!  I posed for a bunch of pictures, swimming into the current, while Rob back kicked into the current, which makes me tired just thinking about it!  Eventually (well actually pretty quickly) we had drifted to the point where the thick cover of soft corals ended, and we started working our way up the wall. We found the swim through that we were supposed to use to get off the wall, and went through it. It was pretty nice in there, except that Rob kept bumping my fins; guess he wasn't interested in checking out the scenery!

We popped out of the swim through and just in front of us was a bit mushroom-shaped bommie with all kinds of soft corals of all different colors covering it. I was completely expecting to find the dive group I this area, but there was no sign of them or their bubbles. We stayed there for a bit, then went to the nearby reef and looked around.  But we ended up back at the mushroom because it was so nice. We decided to go back around the wall but then I called it off after I realized what an up current battle it would be to get there, which didn't seem worth it given how much gas we had at that point.  So we spent most of the rest of the dive on the mushroom (it really reminded me of Super Mario Brothers) then went to some of the shallower adjacent reef right near the end, just to look around.  Very near the end of the dive, a bunch of divers popped out of the swim through, which was the other skiff-load of people (we staggered entry so it would not be crowded). When we started to surface, I realized that there was yet a third boat on the site, which was moored to the site.

We came back and had breakfast, followed by a presentation on Cnidaria. After a short break, we headed out to Freeway. This was a sort of rubble reef slope, with come scattered bommie a along the bottom.  There were all kinds of fish there. It wasn't insanely fishy, but there were a lot, and a very large number of different kinds of fish.  About 35 minutes into the dive, Amanda called us over to a fairly far off and deep bommie (from about 60' to 100'). It was awesome.  Super covered in healthy coral and lots of concentrated balls of colorful fish, with some soft coral.  This area made the dive -- we wished we'd started the dive here -- so we finished the dive here and pretty much sucked down every last drop of gas until we absolutely had to go, and did a blue water ascent from there.

After lunch, we headed out for our third and last dive of the day, at Jack's Place.  There was a detailed briefing about the shape of the reef, where we would drop, and the expected direction of the current.  When we got to the site, Koroi jumped in and I guess he found the current not quite as expected. He and the skiff driver had a fairly long conversation in Fijian, and then he said the we planned to swim with the reef on our right, but might go with the reef on our left, depending on the current.  When we got to the bottom, the current didn't seem that significant to me, but he signaled to go with the reef on our left.  We hung back and let the group get going, and then we headed in that direction too. The dive did not in anyway resemble the briefing, but basically it was a sloping reef, at some points pretty dramatically sloped, and at the bottom there was sand and scattered bommies.  There was a ton of soft coral, which at first seemed to be mostly in shades of purple, but as we went further along, we found patches of all different colors.  The one problem with this site was that since it was reef that went on and on, there weren't any areas with really concentrated fish (like you'd want for photos or video). There were tons of fish, but they were everywhere rather than in tight fish balls. But it was a very nice site, and at the end, when we followed the slope up to 20' we didn't find some bigger concentrations of anthia.

The reason that we only did three dives was because around 5, we headed to a nearby village to visit and see a singing and dancing performance.  We went to keoa, which is a Polynesian village (which is quite rare in Fiji). They told us a bit about their history and we watched a performance of singing and dancing.  Then we wandered around a bit, took some pictures, etc.  the villagers were playing volleyball right next to the community center where the performance was, and after watching for a while, Rob and two of the crew joined the game. They managed to not embarrass us and got a few good shots in. After that, we headed back to the mother ship.

After dinner (filet mignon!), there was a kava party. The crew played guitar and sang (they were quite good!) while periodically force feeding us kava.  Okay, not exactly. I tried it and other than making my tongue tingle, I'm not sure what effect it had. But that could have been because of the wine with dinner.  In any case, the musical presentation by the crew was quite enjoyable. 

No comments: