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Sunday, May 5, 2019

Fiji 2019: Day 9 (Vatu-I-Ra)

We had a slightly sporty ride back to the Bligh Waters overnight, but not nearly as bad as the ride to Namena. So I didn’t sleep super well but not super badly either. But there were several naps during the day.

Dive 1: Coral Corner

Clinton sat out the first dive so it was just Rob and me (and Koroi) on this dive. Conditions were supposed to be favorable (aka high current). We decided to not spend too much time in the early sections of the reef, but to concentrate on the little triangle of reef off of the wall (which Rob had completely missed on the previous dive here) and then the last section of wall (for however long we could manage to stay on it in the current). When we first dropped into the water it was cold! My gauge said 27C (when most of the week it has been 29C). Luckily it was just a cold patch off of the wall. We actually dropped a bit early and had to drift before seeing the site.

There was quite a bit of current, mostly pulling me toward the wall, in the early section. We spent a while on the triangle-shaped reef, which has a nice side benefit that it was super easy to find little holes to hide in to avoid current. So we’d be up off the reef getting whacked by the current for a while and then I’d drop into a little depressed area to catch my breath.

Eventually we made it to the final section of the reef, which looked awesome it was covered in yellow fuzzy soft corals with various shades of purple throughout. And man was the current ripping, this time moving us along the wall. By this point in the trip, I’d mastered the art of holding on to a piece of dead coral with one finger, and it really helped here. I’d drift along, find a spot to park on. Wait for Rob to catch up, pose for some pictures (without holding on of course :P) and then drift along to the next spot. At the very end I left go and zoomed to the end of the wall and as soon as we turned the corner, there was no current at all. We hung out on that (much less pretty) wall for a few minutes and then ascended. We met up with Koroi on top of the reef and ascended together. He was looking for Rob’s wedding band for part of the dive but didn’t find it :P

For breakfast we had scrambled eggs, bacon, and potatoes. And chocolate chip muffins (yes, the plural form).

Dive 2: Maytag

After a short nap, we headed back out to Maytag. I’m not sure why this site is named that. I assumed it would be a washing machine on top, but it wasn’t. I remember diving it on the last trip and thinking the same thing. So this site las a fairly tall skinny pinnacle and a ridge covered in hard corals on the bottom at one side. We didn’t spend much time on the ridge, though at some point we did swim over to take a look. The pinnacle had a lot of nice sea fans and gorgonians, and some but not a ton of soft corals. I’d say the highlight of the dive was the insane school of fusiliers sitting on top of the pinnacle. It was huge and not at all bothered by me swimming through the school. We also saw a few green morays (one on the side of the pinnacle with some cleaner shrimp, and another on top beating up on a smaller moray) and several lion fish. Rob and Clinton both became fairly obsessed with getting shots of the lion fish, who were of course experts and turning their backs to the camera.

Dives 3 and 4: Mellow Yellow

After a bit of discussion between Rob and Chad about our options fo the afternoon, we decided to dive Mellow Yellow twice. The idea was that we’d get the current going both ways (or at least one way) so the yellow soft corals would be open on both faces. It turned out that the first dive had no current at the start and a tiny bit by the end, so the corals were just starting to open. Earl in the dive, we saw a sea turtle on the little side pinnacle and followed it for a bit. It was into a little overhang area and was munching away at something on the wall. We waited for a while(like 15 minutes) for him to come out but he never did! Even though the yellow coral wasn’t too open, at the top of the reef there were huge schools of anthias and many of the purple soft corals were open. So it wasn’t a total bust even without the yellow corals being open.

One the next dive, the current was quite a bit stronger and the yellow soft corals were really open. What a difference a couple of hours makes! The wall was a furry yellow with purple soft corals here and there. And the top of the reef where we’d hung out on the previous dive was even more spectacular, with even more schooling fish (and some big tuna or mackerel showing those guys who was boss) and lots of open purple soft corals. We had such a great time that when it was time to ascend,I had to share gas with Rob. Well I didn’t exactly *have to* but we would have skipped the safety stop otherwise (though we’d been hangin at the top in 20’ to 25’ so that was definitely optional). But you know, it’s always good to practice a gas sharing ascent, and even better to have a story to make fun of Rob with!

For dinner I had sesame snapper with a crispy rice cake. Rob got the curried chicken with vegetables and he was totally jealous of my rice cake. For dessert we had chocolate silk pie, which was approximately a brownie pie with fudge sauce on top. A lot of fudge sauce.

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