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Friday, May 3, 2019

Fiji 2019: Day 7 (Namena!)

The crossing to Namena was pretty rough. I don’t think anyone slept too well. Luckily I fell asleep around 9 so I got a couple hours of sleep before it got rough. We woke up at Namena (on the south side) and it was very windy. Big steep whitecaps windy. Getting on the skiffs and into gear on the skiffs was a bit of an ordeal.

Dive 1: Tetons 2

There were only eight divers doing the first dive, so we took one skiff. This site has a fairly squat pinnacle going from like 15’ to 60’, and on one side there is a ridge that kind of wraps around the bottom. The top of the pinnacle had tons of anthias on it. There were a few spots along the side with nice patches of soft coral and sea fans. There was some current so it was kind of a chore getting around the pinnacle to just the spot you wanted. Eventually I figured out it was easier to go the top and swim across the top to where you wanted to go. But it was a total washing machine up there :P. But that was where most of the good stuff was, so I just hung out up there, getting swooshed around in the surge. My average depth for the dive was 6.5 meters (I have a metric gauge... long story).

There was also a Napoleon wrasse swimming around the whole dive.

Dive 2: Two Thumbs Up

This is my favorite site in Fiji. It consists of two tall skinny pinnacles (from 15’ to 70’) as well as some lower lying ridges. I think the nicest parts are from about 30’ and up on the two pinnacles. The pinnacles remind me of Compost, though they are much skinnier. We started on the “outer” pinnacle (whatever that means) and the other skiff started on the inner pinnacle. There were still only 8 of us between the two skiffs, so there was plenty of room on the site.

Before we left the big boat, Vanessa mentioned that there should be current but things might be running late based on the state of the first site. When we got to the pinnacle there was very little current and most of the soft corals were closed. Some patches were open, but overall it was pretty disappointing. Of course there were still zillions or anthias on top of the pinnacle and lots of nice looking sea fans and hard corals on the side.

We swam over to the other pinnacle after about 20 minutes and spent some time there. There was a Napoleon wrasse with a remora, which I tried to get some video of. After swimming around that pinnacle a couple times, we headed back to the first one. The current had picked up and when we got back, a lot more of the soft corals were open. Woot! So we hung out on that for a long time. Clinton and Rob were taking pictures from all different angles, and I was mostly just bobbing around on the top with the anthias :)

On our first day briefing, we were told that there is no time limit on dives and we definitely tested that on this dive :). When we surfaced, the skiff was waiting just off the pinnacle for us. Everyone else was back on the big boat.

For lunch I had a roasted veggie panini. It was super tasty.

Dive 3: Kansas

We motored to the north side of Namena for the afternoon. There was some concern that it would be too rough and we’d have to retreat to the south side, but it ended up being a bit flatter on the north side. Getting geared up in the skiff was a bit less frightening. This site has the wheat-looking Sinularia soft coral flapping in the breeze, hence the name of the site. We dove this site as a night dive on our last trip. Maybe we dove it during the day too, but I only remember the night dive.

This site is pretty boring, at least as a wide angle site. The Sinularia is neat to look at for a bit, but it’s not really photogenic and it’s not entertaining to look at for more than a few minutes. There is one pretty photogenic spot on this site, which is like a rectangular frame with soft corals growing inside and outside it, and a diver can swim through the inside. Other than that, there are garden eels in the sand. Eventually I got bored, so I started looking for macro critters. I found a ton of blennies, a pipefish (burgundy and white striped, I’d seen two of these during the previous div and Rob found one more later on during this dive), and a purple Flabellina on a hydroid (finally!). When it got to the point where we were all pointing our macro critters to each other, I figure everyone was bored and I called the dive.

Dive 4: Grand Central Station

This was a super fun dive. We’ve done it on our previous two trips but I don’t think we really did it right.

When I rolled into off of the skiff, I managed to do a complete somersault under water before popping back to the surface. I think that’s literally the first time that’s ever happened to me on a back roll entry. When I popped to the surface, the boat was drifting out of Rob’s reach to get his camera. I was just within reach so I grabbed it and handed it to Rob. Super nerve wracking, especially over a very deep wall :). There’s a wall that tops out at 80’ to 100’. At the top of the wall is a big sandy flat area. The idea is that lots of big stuff (sharks, barracudas, schools of snapper, jacks, big tuna, rays, turtles) come up from the deep. In the past we hung out on the sandy area and watched stuff come by. Today we drifted along the wall instead, which was a lot more fun. Shortly after we got to the bottom, Rob took a big helicopter kick right next to me and kicked my reg out of my mouth. Not like a little bobble where I had to grab it with my teeth, but one moment it was there and the next I could hear it free-flowing and couldn’t find it. I had to switch to my necklace and find it :P

Anyhoo, we were kind of deep, so it wasn’t a super long dive, but it was neat looking down (down down) the wall and out into the abyss. We saw lots of barracudas of different kinds and a few sharks. Plus schools of snapper. And tons of these turquoise trigger fish (or as I prefer to call them, those fish with the floppy fins). Eventually we came up off of the wall and drifted with the current until we hit a reef called Purple Hill (which I didn’t know it was called that at the time). The current was really blowing so the soft corals were all open. But because it was really blowing it made it pretty tough to pose for and take pictures. But it was super fun drifting by and looking at all of the purple soft corals.

When we were finished we did a drifting ascent. We hung out for a few minutes since it had been a deep dive, and we drifted by Kansas and saw the other skiff’s divers on the top.

For dinner we had kokoda and steak and for dessert we had chocolate mousse.

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