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Me diving

Monday, January 3, 2022

Taveuni, Fiji: Day 7

We were supposed to do a 3 tank trip to Rainbow Reef on the small boat (there were just four of us), but for some reason the plan was changed to instead do two dives in the morning at Rainbow Reef and do a separate third dive in the afternoon. We were leaving at 7, so we had to get up a bit early, though in reality I've been waking up at like 5am all week anyway, so it just meant I had to actually get out of bed and leave the room earlier than usual. I had French toast for breakfast, which was predictably a mistake, because I was hungry while we were diving, due to the all-carb breakfast. On the plus side, there was mango AND coconut on the fruit plate this morning.

So we headed out to Rainbow Reef, and the water was dead flat, so we went very fast and made the best time we've made all week. It took like 20 or so minutes to get out there, and it was a very comfortable ride. As I mentioned, there were only 4 divers (Rob and me, plus two guys named Dave and Rick who we'd been on the boat with all week), and we posited that the fast ride was a combination of the flat seas, lighter load, and we had a different captain (Kim) who seemed more willing to use the full range of throttle positions :P Once we got out there, we discussed where to dive, and Dave (I think) mentioned Fish Factory, which was a site that had been discussed earlier in the week, which he'd dived on previous trips and really liked. Given the name, it seemed like a promising site.

We were diving with Christine as our guide today. She gave very clear, thorough briefin. Basically there was an area with a pinnacle from about 60 to 100+ feet with a lot of fish on it. She mentioned anthias of many colors, and anemonefish. And a combination of hard and soft corals. The site did have a ton of fish, but the coral was in pretty bad condition. I guess it was damaged in the last cyclone, as Dave said it used to be a completely different site. So while we did see huge schools of anthias, the backdrop was not that photogenic, so overall I thought it was kind of a dud of a dive.

After that dive, since it was our last day of diving and we really wanted to see more soft corals, we basically got to pick where to go. There were a couple of possibilities given the current state of the tide, and we decided to go back to Jerry's Jelly, since we really liked it last time. (Dave and Rick had both been on the previous dive there too, and did not have a great time due to the current, but they were kind enough to let us go there anyway. Christine again gave a very clear and thorough briefing and I think they both had a great time this time around, since there was more of a plan related to dealing with the current). One thing that Christine mentioned in the briefing was the possibility of down currents when we left the reef for our safety stop. She said if we saw our bubbles going down, not up, to swim away from the reef to get out of the down current. Cue foreboding music now.

The plan was to spend 15 minutes or so around the "jellyfish" bommie, then cross over to the other side of the reef and drift back along there, possibly ending up at Rainbow's End (I think we did in fact end up there, but I can't distinguish the various sites well enough to say... but it definitely had a similar look). I thought that the current at the bommies at the beginning of the dive was not as bad as it was on the previous dive, but Rob thought it was worse, and said there were spots he could photograph last time that he couldn't today. So who knows. But I spent more time on the main jellyfish bommie and less time on the other ones near it, because the other ones seemed to not have quite as much stuff going on (open soft corals, anthias). After maybe 20 minutes hanging out there, we headed to the crossover point.

This time around, I knew what was coming, so I got my camera out and just started videoing as we went flying across the reef. There was so much current that my light arm got pushed into a different position by the current, hehehe. Near the beginning of the crossover, we zoomed past a rock with some really nice, really open soft corals, which I managed to at least point my camera at, and which I knew Rob would not be able to resist trying to photograph. But there was no way I was going to hold station in that current, so I had to leave him behind :). The fish in that crossover section were hilarious, there was tons and tons of them streaming across the reef in a line and above the line of fish, there'd be a cloud of fish that got knocked back by the current. It was quite strange to watch. Eventually we made it to the other side of the reef and the ride settled down. Just on the other side of the reef, we saw a turtle. Yay! Last time, we saw a white tip shark there, so I guess it's a good spot to look for big stuff.

We then drifted back in the direction we'd come from, on the other side of the reef. I don't know if this section of reef is technically Rainbow's End, but it looks a lot like it, though we were going in reverse. There are scattered coral heads with tons of soft coral on them, and zillions and zillions of little fish all along the reef. It was a fun ride. At some point Rob hung back and was taking pictures, so I turned around and faced into the current and finned to stay where I was, while I waited, and waited, and waited. I finally (after 5+ minutes) signaled to Rob and told him we were moving. I wanted to enjoy the ride in the current, and Rob was annoying me. So I was hanging with Christine, with the others just a little bit in front of us, and once again, Rob fell behind (plus he was down at the bottom of the slope for some reason), and I had to swim into the current to find him. Eye roll.

It was past time to start our ascent, so Christine signaled to head to our safety stop and we swam off of the reef and headed up. Sort of. I wouldn't say that there was a dramatic downcurrent or anything, but I was definitely having trouble getting from 30 feet to 20 feet and when I looked Dave and Rick, their bubbles weren't going down, but they weren't going up either. They were sort of spiraling around in the 5 feet above and below them. It was intriguing. Just as I noticed that, I also noticed that I was no longer at 20 feet, hehe. It was nothing that a little air in the wing and attention to our depth couldn't solve. As we were ascending back up to 20 from our downward bobble, Rob swam over to me and gave me this "come here" hand signal and swam right up to me and was reaching out toward me. I thought he was trying to fix something on my gear, which annoyed me, because while trying to swim out of a downcurrent really did not seem to be the time for Rob to doink with my gear. So I kind of pushed his hand away, and after a brief exchange I realized he wanted my long hose. Ahhhh. Way to give an unambiguous sign that he needed to share gas! Okay so I deployed my long hose and we headed up from our 20 foot stop to 10 feet. As soon as I whipped out my long hose, Rick was practically on top of Rob to make sure everything was okay, which was very nice. Everything went fine, and when we finished our 10 foot stop and I signaled to ascend, Rob insisted on switching back onto his gas. This annoyed me, as it seemed to just make things more complicated for no reason. Of course right after he switched off of my long hose, he dropped to 15 feet, and I was like -- great, do I need to go down there and donate gas again (giant eye roll). We headed up to the surface, and Rob got an earful about both his ambiguous signal for my long hose and going off of it before we got to the surface. I think he needs a fundies refresher.

That all probably sounded pretty dramatic, but it was like 90 seconds of an hour long dive, and 60 seconds of it was us hanging out at 10 feet sharing gas.

After lunch, we headed back out to Vuna Reef, and got our pick of what site to go to.  Since we really liked the mini white wall at The Stairs, we asked to go back there.  I was kind of expecting this to be a disappointment of a dive after the awesome dive this morning, but it turned out to be a great dive!  First, the mini white wall did not disappoint.  We had fun hanging around in and under the ledge again.  But more importantly, Christine made some very good macro finds.  We saw both of the purple aeolids that I love, which was a nice way to wrap up the dive.  But the find of the dive was... drum roll... a pygmy seahorse!  She got my attention and I swam over and she was pointing to a little white coil on some hydroids.  At first I thought it was nudibranch eggs, and was expecting there to be a nudibranch there.  But it was actually the tail of the seahorse -- a tiny white pygmy seahorse.  He flapped a bit in the moving water and unveiled himself.  Then he took off swimming!  By the time that Rob appeared, he had landed on some little green algae leaves, which I think are what the seahorses on the house reef supposedly lived on.  Now I could see how one of those seahorses could hide in that algae.  Considering that Rob had been looking for a pygmy seahorse the entire trip, it seemed like a good last dive of the trip.

After the dive, Rob said that the seahorse didn't look anything like what he was looking for.  I told him that I knew that the pygmy seahorses in Fiji looked different than the ones in the Philippines and lived on different things, and since I couldn't remember what they looked like, I figured I had no hope of finding one, so wasn't even looking.  Apparently he did not remember that they looked different.  Doh.  I think this one is Pontoh's pygmy seahorse (Hippocampus pontohi).  There are some nice pictures of the various species here.  I think the ones in the Philippines are cuter (is that mean?).

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