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Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Fiji 2019: Day 4 (Wakaya)

We moved over to Wakaya overnight. Today we did three day dives and a dusk dive, so the schedule was a bit more relaxed (and we got to sleep in, since the first dive wasn’t until 7:30).  We motored from about 1am to 6am, when we heard the anchor drop (even though we were told we would be moored here). The boat was anchored just off of an island with some fancy pants resort on it, in a super calm bay. It was super calm last time we were here too.

There is a long wall that has three named dive sites on it, but really they are just different parts of the same site. The last time we dove here, we saw mantas (there was a cleaning station) and a school of hammerheads. But neither of these are typical so the crew recommended macro. I brought my GoPro just in case :)

Dive 1: Blue Ridge

This is the middle of the three sites and it is a pretty impressive wall, which goes from 40’ish to supposedly thousands of feet. It definitely went a long way, though there were occasionally little sections sloping more gently along the wall in some places. So I doubt if I dropped a boltsnap it would end up at 1000’ but there were definitely spots where I’m confident it would end up in well over 100’. The dive was not very productive from a macro subject point of view. I think the highlight was a shrimpgoby that Chad found for us up in the shallows at like 30’. We watched that for a while, waiting for the shrimp to poke his head out. He came out and scurried around a few times.

Overall I’d say this site has a really impressive wall, but unfortunately it’s not a very photogenic wall. So macro was the right call, it we didn’t see that much on that front either. And no mantas or hammerheads :(

We came back and had breakfast. I had papaya waffles and Rob had fried eggs, though the savory option was actually a breakfast burrito. There were chocolate croissants too which were soooo good though my breakfast was kind of dessert with dessert :). Vanessa gave a presentation on macro subjects and then since we had a slightly longer than usual break, I finally got a chance to lay on the sun deck.

Dive 2: Vatu Vai

The next dive was at another section of that wall. At one spot along the wall, there’s a pinnacle which comes up to about 15’. It’s a reasonably big pinnacle which is worth spending some time on. Overall this dive was a bit of a dud. I think I looked at a thousand hydroids and did not manage to find a single slug on one of them. I found a blue dragon nudibranch and several Chromodoris lochi. And that was pretty much it.

For lunch we had seafood chowder and garlic bread. The chowder seemed like the sort of thing I might not like but it was super tasty. After lunch there was more time to lay on the sun deck :)

Dive 3: Lion’s Den

This was the third piece of the wall, on one end. The way starts at about 50’ and there was a sandy plateau at about 100’, where we went at the start to look for two fish: the square spot anthia (which is purple, with a big blue square-shaped spot on its side) and some kind of dart fish. I had some trouble clearing my ears on the way down the wall. So I could see everyone below me looking at the anthias, and I was hoping they didn’t get scared away by the time I got down there. I finally made it down and saw that there were tons of anthias. And Rob had already managed to find a dartfish that he was taking pictures of. So that was success on two fronts.

The plan after that was basically to zig zag along the wall at various depths heading shallower and shallower. It was a nice wall, which seemed a bit more scenic than the other sections. There were several outcropping with fans, corals, and aggregations of fish. But the highlight of the dive were not one, but two leaf scorpionfish. So awesome. The first was was on a little sandy area on the wall at 60 to 70 feet. Omg those fish are so cool. Much later when we’d made it to the top of the wall, I found Rob peering into a little rock arch and I ask trying to figure out what he was looking at. After a bunch of annoyed gesticulations from Rob, I managed to see another leaf scorpionfish! Apparently Rob had kind of given up on it because it was tucked so far back, but once I started looking at it, it waddled forward a but, until it was in a much easier to see/photograph location.

We worked our way up from the edge of the wall, and there was a somewhat annoying current on top of the wall (which we had been warned about before the dive). We were faffing around up there when suddenly a pair of remoras swam by. It was like a (slightly larger) remora that had a (slightly smaller) remora on it. When I saw that, I was sure a manta was going to swim by, but alas there was none. Shortly after that, we headed up to do a safety stop. I noticed a neat little jellyfish with a purple tinge to its middle and showed it to Rob. He asked me to light it with my light while he took pictures (I guess to help with focus). But the jelly immediately scooted up and up and the next thing I knew, my gauge said 2.1 meters and I decided to break away and rejoin Clinton for a safety stop. Then Rob came back down and made some annoyed grunting noise at me. I guess my attempts to light the jelly were inadequate. I think the noise he was making loosely translates to “I would throw my wedding band over the side of the boat if I hadn’t already done that yesterday”.

After snacking on deviled eggs and brownies (yummmm on both counts) I had time for a micro-nap before the dusk dive.

Dive 4: Vatu vai (dusk dive)

We went back to Vatu Vai (the site with the pinnacle coming up to 15’) for the dusk dive. I like the concept of a dusk dive because it pretty much has all of the benefits of night dive, but you don’t have to convince yourself to go diving after dinner (and skip the wine with dinner :P). We dropped in the sand and headed over the wall. We didn’t go too far down the wall, I made it down to 60-70 feet. I found a bug blue dragon nudi and showed it to Rob. I was doodling around nearby and about 5 minutes later, Rob signaled me and made the nudibranch sign and circled the same slug. I was super confused. Rob has this very endearing habit of taking credit for things I’ve done, occasionally even when he’s talking to me, so I thought this was just the underwater equivalent of that. Then I thought maybe he thought I was showing him something else, so I tried to enquire about what else was there, which just confused him. When I asked him about that after the dive, he said that he thought Koroi had shown him that slug. Hehehe.

Not too much later, we headed up the wall and over the lip. Not too much later, I made my best find if the night, a really cool aeolid with bulbous cerata (which we had seen before). I showed it to Rob (with a flourish) and figured that was my one good find of the night :). Rob found a cute little flatworm a bit later, and then two big lion fish showed up. We thought they were doing something mating related, but then they broke off. Maybe because we spooked them with our lights :(

We headed up the pinnacle from there and I don’t think I saw anything much of interest there. After we surfaced and got back on the boat, we could see really cool bioluminescence in the boat’s wake. It wasn’t a huge amount, up it was super bright. Like fireflies flying up out of the water.

Chicken cordon bleu for dinner (Rob had the roast pork) and a super tasty apple cake w ice cream for dessert.

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