It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Fiji 2019: Day 2 (Bligh Waters)

 Dive 1: Humann Nature

After quite a bit of waffling (and reconfiguring) Rob decided to shoot macro because while the top of the reef was supposed to be pretty, the critter life was also supposed to be excellent, and we were promised other even prettier sites later in the week. Our skiff had just the three of us plus Koroi on it. The site had really awesome life on top, which was apparent as soon as we dropped in (the top of the pinnacle is around 15’). Tons of anthias and fusiliers. Vanessa told us that some fish surveyor saw 140 species of fish in one dive. I totally believe it. There were lots of fish and so many different kinds of fish. Schools of all different kinds of fish kept appearing at the top of the reef (including a huge baitball and later a small school of jacks). Anyway, we zipped down to the bottom and spent most of the dive there (40-50’). Several (of two or three species) little aeolids, and a pipefish (whitish with some line design all over it) were the macro highlights for me. Also some cute little fish (blennies I think) sticking their heads out of holes, warbonnet style, and a couple of blue dragon nudibranchs in the rubble. For the last 20 minutes I hung out at the top and watched all of the fish going by. I kind of regretted not bringing my GoPro. Right at the very end (after the one hour mark, because Koroi had already gone to the surface) a little turtle swam by!

After that we had breakfast. I had a waffle with pineapple mint topping. Rob had something more boring like fried eggs, potatoes, and ham.

Dive 2: Cat’s Meow

There was supposed to be a Pygmy seahorse at this site, and the other skiff had gone there in the morning and Chad had found it. Chad was going back with us, so Rob and Clinton brought macro. This site is a pinnacle from around 20’ to 70’ with a big swim through at the bottom. The sides of the pinnacle have a bunch of big sea fans, and whip corals, and the swim through had a lot of soft corals. I only went through the swim through once, and went pretty quickly, because I had ditched Rob and Clinton without telling them. It was very nice and I should have spent more time there. There were a bunch of big sweetlips hanging out near or in the swimthrough. They seemed nit at all skittish. The highlight of the dive was the Pygmy seahorse, a different kind than I’ve seen before. I also found a big purple aeolid, some big flat yellow/black slugs (Phyllidia ocellata), and Chad found a different kind of pipefish (stubby nosed) in the sand. Rob almost ran out of gas. Well,that’s a small exaggeration. After he’d been shooting the Pygmy (forever), he asked how much gas I had. Which surprised me, because I’d just checked and I had 1200psi. So I told him that and he told me he had 500psi. ??? I guess shooting the Pygmy was a bit hooverful. I asked Clinton how much gas he had and he said 700 psi. So I deployed my long hose to Rob and we headed up to the top of the reef. I shot some video on top of the reef. Eventually Rob gave me my long hose back and we hung out on top for a few more minutes before calling it.

This was funny because before the trip, Rob had made some remark (which I relayed to Clinton when we were traveling) about what are the odds the three of us can make it through a trip without anyone deploying their long hose. I pointed out that there’s a difference between deploying it in anger and doing it to extend the dive a bit. So at least I didn’t have to deploy it in anger :P

Chicken curry for lunch. Rob had beef stir fry. After lunch, Clinton announced that his strobe had miraculously started working again. Okay I guess it wasn’t that miraculous — he’d left it in his air conditioned room to dry out.

Dive 3: UndeNAIAble pinnacle

This pinnacle came up to about 10 feet and I guess, according to the briefing, it goes down to like 70 feet and then it has fingers that extend in 4 directions to even deeper depths. But we spent most of the dive in the 40-50 ft range, where there was a plateau. Vanessa mentioned in the briefing that one section had “wheat fields” of some kind of sea fan. I wasn’t sure what she was talking about, until I saw it on the dive. This was down in the 60+’ range, and we just dipped down for a quick look... it was this tan sea fan kind of thing that was pretty bushy (Singularia). Once I saw it I remembered it from our last trip to Fiji (there was a night dive with a ton of it). The much nicer part of the dive was on one side of the pinnacle, there was a lot of soft coral, sea fans, etc. and the current was kind of kicking. There were sections where it was quite hard to kick, then there was a lull, right in the center of the really nice part of the wall, and then you were zipping around to the other side of the pinnacle. During the briefing, Vanessa described two swimthroughs one on top of the other. We found one swim through and I went through it several times (it was a great shortcut to bypass part of the section with a lot of current), including to pose for pictures for Rob and Clinton. I don’t know how I didn’t notice a slot cone swimthrough (since it was supposedly just below the other one). I found a nice little scorpionfish right next to the swimthrough, but alas, everyone was shooting wide angle :( The current on this dive was kind of annoying. I felt like I spent a lot of time just trying to find a spot where the reef jutted out and could block the current, and the zipping behind that. So there were a lot of ups and downs in order to find those spots. But it was overall a very scenic view. Near the end of the dive, we came around to the less pretty side (also the side protected from the current) and then came up that side of the pinnacle. I saw a nudibranch (pink lines and blue tips) on that side of the pinnacle. When we got to the top, Rob swam upcurrent across the top. But I couldn’t be bothered so I waited for him to come back and then we thumbed it.

We swam off of the pinnacle and surfaced (so the boat wouldn’t have to get too close to the shallow pinnacle to pick us up). When we surfaced, we saw one skiff (which I think was the other skiff, at the other site) in the distance and then it took off. It was quite choppy and while we could see the big boat in the distance, there was no skiff in sight. I put up a bag (which kept going a little flaccid and I’d hav to re-inflate it). Then Clinton put up a bag. Then two other divers surfaced and swam over to us. Then we finally saw a skiff heading our way. Ever got the full story on that. When we got back to the big boat, we looked at my bag more closely (in a rinse bin) and found the leak (on the fold not too far above the OPV). Rob says this is what I get for never shooting the bag at home.

Between dives they served a snack of chicken skewers (meat on a stick... one of the major food groups according to Rob) and veggies w dip.

Dive 4: UndeNAIAble Reef

For the fourth dive, we went to the reef very near the third site. Once again it was just the three of us (plus Chad) in our skiff. This reef was really cool. There was a pretty long wall from about 15’ to 40’ (the bottom eventually got deeper as we followed the wall, to maybe 60’). All along the reef, there were little channels running perpendicular to the wall. And the channels were covered in sea fans, soft corals, and the like. Some of the channels reminded me of the crack at K1 (but with soft corals instead of gorgonians!). The channels pretty much all had a fair amount of current, which was, somewhat annoyingly, sucking you into the channels and then you had to fight your way back out of the channel. But the channels were really cool and I posed for pictures in many of them. The life in the channels varied from one to another. For instance, one of them was totally covered in yellow soft corals (the shaggy ones that aren’t that pretty in isolation but when there’s tons of it they look really nice). Eventually I got a bit annoyed with my buddies disappearing into cracks and channels without telling me, so I followed Chad for a while. He found some cute little shrimp in an anemone. When we got to the end, the surface was really churning right above us, so we swam out a bit before surfacing. Rob and Clinton surfaced just after us.

We had some time before dinner so we headed up to the sun deck to chat and watch the sunset. Rob eventually disappeared into the wheelhouse to talk boaty things with the captain.

For dinner we had carrot and ginger soup (I hate ginger, it tastes like soap to me, but after a few bites I somehow acclimated and could only taste the carrot, and it was very tasty), grilled fish with a tropical salsa, and lemon cake with ice cream. Yum!

We skipped the night dive, because Clinton and I are lightweights.

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