Best Diving to Date in Fiji

We motor further up the Rainbow Reef today to do three dives and have lunch on the boat. We finally find diving that compares to our expectations for Fiji.

 

Paradise, Taveuni

The fish are more than abundant. A gazillion, at least. We see species we have not seen yet. A Blue Spotted Sting Ray, Ribbon Eel, Red-breasted Wrasse and Titan Trigger fish.

Paradise, Taveuni

Ribbon Eel

The corals here are also varied, both in colour and type. It is spectacular looking at the colours as we drift by.

The dives today are all drift dives. We get dropped off in one spot, drift along and get picked up down the reef. We cross over the reef at one point  absolutely flying with the current. It is quite the adrenaline rush zooming over the coral, trying not to bump into everyone else. Once over the top we duck behind an outcropping and are immediately out of the current, where we can go at a leisurely pace.

Paradise, Taveuni

Pennant Bannerfish

The water temperature is surprisingly cold. Again, expectations were a temperature above 80 C, maybe up to 82 C. Today, parts of the dive are a chilly 78 C, and because we are not exerting much energy, we both get cold. I am now seriously contemplating wearing my electric shirt under my wetsuits tomorrow to help keep me warm.

Today we experience Fiji diving reaching towards its best. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

Posted in Fiji | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Fijian Wildlife

As we motor out to our first dive spot today, we spot a pygmy whale. I catch sight of its back as it comes up for air. We see a fin further away as he waves goodbye. A great start to the day!

At a dive site near the Volivoli, the dive boat cruises around with a pod of spinner dolphins while we oohed and aahed at their antics. It was a large pod with numerous babies. So graceful and sleek.

Paradise Taveuni

Black-saddle Toby

Our first night at the Paradise, as we were walking across the grass after supper (in the dark) to our room, my flashlight beam catches a frog sitting in our path. Not sure why, but I jumped as if the poor little frog was going to eat me. The frogs come out after dark and are spread out all over the yard. Kinda creepy but I am not jumping at them any more.

Paradise Taveuni

Juvenile Blue Stripe Eel

The are 3, or maybe 4, resident dogs on the resort. Very well behaved and friendly and not scary. They are Rhodesian Ridgebacks, originally from South Africa.

And of course the underwater wildlife is unique and wonderful. Pipefish, nudibranchs, anemone fish, class and starfish. The soft corals   are different than what we see in the Caribbean, more colourful (purple, pink, orange, yellow) and unique shapes.

Paradise Taveuni

The birds here twitter and squawk and provide us with amusement watching their flitting in and out of the dining room, hoping for a morsel of food.

Paradise Taveuni

Posted in Fiji | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Paradise Taveuni Resort

I think the resort is aptly named. It is an hour’s drive from the airport, half on paved road and half on very bumpy gravel road.

Our welcome sign outside our bure (room). We also had welcome foot rubs, as is the custom in Fiji. I applaud Murray for going along with it. I have super soft feet now!

Paradise Taveuni

 

The resort sits above the water where the breeze blows constantly. It is very different from the Volivoli architecturally and design wise. It is very open here, it feels like the guests are one big family, even though we each stay in our own bures. The dining area is open and small, but cozy and inviting.

Paradise Taveuni

The staff here is super friendly and everyone wants to learn our names. The view is incredible. So far, the food delicious. I think we will get used to being here very quickly.

Paradise Taveuni

Posted in Fiji | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Moving Day

Today is moving day, from the Volivoli on Viti Levu Island to the Paradise Taveuni on Taveuni Island. We have some time before checking out so we sit on the lounge chairs on our deck and watch the ocean and the birds. There is a small group of black and white birds flitting about catching breakfast, preening whilst sitting on a high tree branch and making passes at the other sex. 

A resort like the Volivoli provides isolation from the rest of the island. We are in Fiji, but we are not really seeing any of Fiji. It is very easy to chill out here and not worry about the outside world.

Our ride to the airport arrives promptly at 10:00 and we are off on our 2 1/2 hour drive. When we drove this road the last time, there was water everywhere. The creeks were overflowing, there was water in the fields and flooding people’s houses. Today it is a much different view. A week has dried the ground, and the waters have subsided. Road crews are out repairing damaged pavement. A backhoe is working beside one of the bridges to restore its bank. 

I notice the real Fiji. The woman washing clothes in the stream, bedding being aired out on bushes, fish being sold on the side of the road, houses that are weathering too fast to keep up with. Garbage in the ditches is not frequent until we get to the larger centres. 

There are 3 or 4 big billboards along our way that have the saying “Condemn Racism & Religious Intolerance”. The sign does not indicate who is sponsoring them. Bravo for Fiji.

Our driver is extremely cautious and courteous. He puts on his hazard flashers when pulling up behind a very slow truck or a pedestrian crossing the road. He chatters away, supplying us with miscellaneous and random facts. There is a gold mine in Lautoka that employs about 800 people. He pointed out the headstone for the grave of the last cannibal, who died in the early 1900’s. This fellow apparently killed and ate about 90 people and lived to a ripe old age. (May have to fact check this tidbit.)

We arrive at the airport, do the airport and flying thing and now are mostly settled in at the Paradise. Tomorrow we start our dive routine all over again.

Posted in Fiji | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

In Search of Nudibranchs

When diving, we love to search for the small stuff, mainly nudibranchs. They are really only slugs, but they are oh so pretty slugs.  They are hard to find as they are not numerous. Once you see one of a certain shape and colour, then it is easier to spot others of the same ilk.

Volivoli

Our first few days of diving we were not seeing many, hardly any at all really. On today’s dive, we spotted several different ones. Our eyes are getting used to what to look for or maybe they are coming out of hiding after the storm that turned the ocean into a washing machine.

Volivoli

The cool thing is 5 of the six different kinds we have never seen before. These new guys are all extremely colourful and quite flambouyant with the movement of the water swaying their spiny protrusions to and fro. (there is a name for those spiny protrusions but we do not have a fish book handy and damned if I can remember).

Volivoli

It has been quite hard to get our searching chops back as with the turbulent water we have to keep and eye on the group or we get left behind. The group moves at a reasonable pace but with only 40 ft. max visibility one has to be alert or get left behind.

Volivoli

Anyway, after today, I think we are getting our nudibranchs finding skills back again.

Posted in Fiji | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Diving near the Volivoli Beach Resort

The one thing noticeable during a dive here near the Volivoli Beach Resort is the corals. There is an abundance of soft corals and many hard corals. There is one of the coral that is a deep reddish colour and when the dive master stroked the coral once or twice with his carabiner, the coral turned a whitish colour. There are pink and yellow and beige and bright orange corals. The fan corals are huge and intricate.

Volivoli

The hard corals look like elkhorn coral, only smaller in scale and multicoloured. Most of these have a plethora of tiny fish darting in and out of them. Fish nursery school.

Unfortunately, due to the cyclone stirring up the ocean bottom and the river sediment washed into the ocean from the rain runoff, the visibility is poor. On today’s dives, we cannot see more than about 20 feet, so we have to keep close track of the dive master and our dive buddy. We see schools of fish but they look ghostlike. Fiji is known for its amazing visibility and blue water and I could only imagine what the dive sites would be like with the sun swing down through clear blue water.

Volivoli

We are diving with a group of folks on a dive tour. They are mostly from Eastern Canada and are all experienced divers. Although all 11 of us dive as one group, everyone endeavours to give everyone else space to move and take pictures. I don’t remember diving with a group of divers of any size that dive as well as these folks.

We have not had to deal with much current on our trips for a very long time. Maybe the last time we  dealt with any current at all was the Galapagos, in 2014. Here it is odd, one dive the current is steady but just strong enough to be a bit annoying. The next dive there is absolutely no current and then the following dive the current is totally variable, so strong at some points you can barely hold your place, then nothing and it is super easy to make progress.

Although we are finding small stuff that we love, it is not as abundant as we had hoped. Maybe the sediment and poor visibility are causing some of that. We have found some nudibranchs that we haven’t seen before and some of our favourite fish.

Volivoli

During our second dive, we have a small remora and a large remora following us. As we are ascending to the line at the end of the dive, I had two larger remora trying to attach themselves to my stomach, which they do with a Velcro type texture on the top of their head. C, one of the other divers keeps shooing them away by swinging her camera at them. I though they just like my grey fins, but C said they were going for my belly.

Another good day under the water. Looking forward to more tomorrow.

Posted in Fiji | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Gods of Fiji Speak AGAIN

Travel is sometimes, not always, a test of one’s moxie. On Tuesday, we sat the day out in a resort watching Cyclone Keni pound the hell out of Fiji. We were a 100 km north of the storms center but it was still an experience to live through. The Fijian gods, for some reason, don’t seem to want us here.

Last November or so we were all set to board a live a board and ply the waters of the Bligh Strait and dive our hearts out. We had paid for the entire trip and our friends D and C were booking a room to join us. One evening I get an email from D asking me to have a look at the dive boat website as there seems to be something wrong. As soon as I see the email I go to the Fiji Siren website and damned if the boat had not sunk. Damn, we were looking forward to that. The boat was beautiful and it would have been a good way to see the underwater world of Fiji.  Our flights are booked and at this point in time we have 6 months to reroute ourselves and find a land based dive outfit to do our diving from. A bit of a fluster but quite doable and we landed at the Volivoli.

Today we arrive back to the resort after diving to an email telling us Cyclone Keni has blown the resort we were headed to next week to bits. Literally. The island, Kadavu, in question was in the path of the center of the storm and all but three of the bures (villas for lack of a better word) were blown from their foundation and are not part of the surrounding landscape. Not only that, we found out later the flight we had booked to go there had been cancelled.

Matana Beach Resort

Matana Beach Resort

This time we have exactly 3 days to find somewhere we can go that has room and has a way of getting there. We know the path the storm took, so we have a quick look at the islands that may not have had too much destruction. Places like Vanuatu or New Caledonia, both different countries but what the hell, we have to think a bit out of the box, and Fijian islands north of us, Vanua Levu and Taveuni, which should have escaped relatively unscathed so they are options as well.

volivoli

Debbie goes off to see the manager, Simon, of the Volivoli for recommendations as to where he thinks are possible venues. One place sort of stands out and our cursory look at the flight schedule says we can get there. It’s the Paradise Resort on Taveuni Island. Should work. So the kind manager makes a lead call to his counter part at the Paradise, hands us the phone and the deal is done. With the caveat that we can change our flights. Things look good on our first try.

One more phone call to Fiji Airways to see if we can change the flights. Debbie passes on the Reference Number of our reservation and the first thing the lady says, oh your flight has been cancelled. Not that we have gotten an email or anything but I guess we were not going to our original destination anyway. They help us chose a flight to the new island and we seem to be set.

volivoli

All in all it has gone too smooth to this point but if it works we will be happy. Hopefully the Fijian deities will not interfere and the next week and a half will proceed without incident.

Posted in Fiji | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Fancy Digs at the Volivoli

As resorts go the Volivoli Beach Resort is pretty posh. Each cabin is separate, with a view to the water. Nothing obstructs our view, not a tree, not a building, not even a beach. We are elevated so the floor of our deck is at tree top level. The sunset is directly off our deck. There are plenty of screened windows at the front and rear of the villa allowing the air to blow through and keeping the temp at quite a livable level.

Everything here seems in good repair. Unusual for a resort close to the ocean in a hot climate where most things are put off until tomorrow. The salt air has way of corroding absolutely everything and any place we have been, expensive or not, has hinges that don’t work properly, taps that leak or light switches that don’t really turn anything off or on. Here it seems if it is in need of repair it gets fixed.

Volivoli

The staff are to person polite and friendly. They asked our name once when we walked in the first time and each time after we have been greeted by name. There are constantly people coming and going and they manage to remember everybody. Impressive.

Every dive operation is different. They each have their own pet ways of going about things. Something that is very important on one boat is hardly mentioned on another. Ra Divers is no exception. This boat is quite crowded. At least today. I think there are 12 divers, 3 dive masters and the capitan. The briefing is brief but after the dive I figure that it is all that is really needed. I know where we are at all points in the dive and really that is all that is necessary. The boat is easy to get on and off but there is no real protocol as to the who gets off when or when to descend or wait for you buddy or, or, or. So, hang loose, we have done this enough that we make our own plan and make it fit.

Ra divers

Under water we go as one group. Debbie and I are generally slow and end up at the back. One dive master leads and Debbie and I never see him, there is one dive master tail gunning and he has to wait for us and the third guy is out in the blue a bit making sure there are no renegades chasing sharks or the like. All the divers are good so the 3 dive master thing is a bit of overkill in my opinion. Then when we get back on the boat the capitan wants to know our max depth and length of dive. Not sure why, first time I have ever been asked that but like I said every boat is different. I don’t feel the dive op is run at the same exclusive standard as the resort. It is much the same as any dive company and maybe could be a bit more ‘exclusive’.

Volivoli

Overall the first two days at a fancy resort have been very enjoyable. It is chilled, comfortable and quiet even with a raging storm all day yesterday. We are mostly to ourselves which is good and bad. We are starting to meet people but the problem is most of the guests are in one group and it is kind of difficult to break into the tight circle. The boat is an enclosed space so it makes it easier to chat but ½ the conversation is in French and at that point I am lost. I think the diving is going to be good so all the rest is superfluous.

Posted in Fiji | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Cyclone Keni

During the night, I wake up and hear the rain pelting down on our roof. I hear the wind in the palm trees. When we arise, the storm is ferocious.

Volivoli Resort

The storm is building

Volivoli Resort

Our guess as to whether we dive this morning is confirmed when Simon, the manager, stops by our breakfast table to tell us we are not diving. There has been a marine warning issued and no boats are allowed out, the airport is closed and Cyclone Keni has been ungraded to a category 3. THREE! Simon shows us the cyclone’s projected path and the resort is right on the edge. Nadi and the west side of the island are going to get hit hard.

The storm seems to pulsate. The wind blows continuously but the rain comes down in truck loads and then abates and then comes down again. We end up getting water coming in under our front door that has to be stopped up with beach towels. A lake forms in the entrance to the dining room and bar due to a plugged drain. Six or eight people, guests and staff work, to clear the water and dry the dark wood floor.

Volivoli Resort

View of the storm through our screen door. I was too afraid to open the door!

The resort is well built. There are extra reinforced beams holding the roof up and down on the dining room building. Before the storm reaches its peak, shutters are installed on the louvred windows. Our little bungalow will withstand nature’s forces this time. Apparently, two years ago Cyclone Winston, a category 5, tore the roofs off all the bungalows.

We read, do crossword puzzles, watch the caps on the waves, perhaps 10 feet high, get bigger, watch the trees bend almost to breaking in the wind and try to convince ourselves to go for a swim in the pool to get some exercise (didn’t happen). 

Murray opens the door of the bungalow and the wind is so strong that he cannot keep the door from flying open with Murray holding on and sliding across the soaked tile veranda. Before he can react he slips, falls on his back and slides down into the greenery beside the veranda. All I can see is a leg sticking up in the air. He’s okay and after figuring out how to extract himself he crawls up out of the hole and across the deck. After more sliding and pushing, he manages to get the door closed. Won’t try that again! We inspect him for damage – a bruised elbow, sore hip and a bump on the head. He’ll live.

We now can say we survived a category 3 cyclone. Keni, you beast.

By 7:00 pm the storm has blown and rained itself out. There is hope for scuba diving tomorrow.

Posted in Fiji | Tagged , | Leave a comment

I Jinxed It

Voli Voli resort

Today, smooth sailing went out the window. In prep for the next leg of the journey from Honolulu to Fiji, we snooze for a couple of hours at 3 in the afternoon. The alarm rings at 5, we dress and head out for dinner. On our walk earlier in the day we sussed out a restaurant close to the hotel and head straight there. It opens at 5.30. We walk through the door at 5.28 and immediately get schussed back out because we are 2 minutes early. The young waitress even points out the fact by noting the time on the computer cash register. When we return 4 minutes later we are not even the first to be seated. I don’t know how the other two folks timed their entrance so precisely. We are seated and an ‘older’ lady waits on us apologising for being rebuffed a few minutes earlier. I think this time one of the owners was dealing with us. The sushi is why we are there and it is of very high quality. The place is very Japanese, our waiter was struggling with her English and the two sushi chefs were older fellows most definitely of Japanese heritage.

We return to the hotel room and try to stay awake until our departure for the airport at 11.30pm to catch a 3am flight. Who the hell schedules these things? We get to the ticket counter a ½ hour before it even opens and sit with a small crowd that has gathered to wait for the attendants to arrive. There are stirrings behind the counter and we are encouraged to enter the shuttle and proceed to the counter to get processed. When we arrive at the counter we are informed the plane is 3 hours late and we will not be boarding until post 5am. Damn we could have slept in a bed for 5 hours and still arrive in time for the flight, instead we look forward to sitting in an airport lounge for a very long time, waiting.

As we walk down the long hall to the gate we note a few benches without the annoying anti sleep arm rests. The ones we walk by are all occupied by travellers stretched out sleeping. Continuing on past our gate we find a couple of those prized benches without inhabitants. They are molded fibreglass and although smooth might as well be rock, but they are long enough to stretch out on and we need sleep. We intended to do that on the plane but we are not going to make it to 5 o’clock so these benches are a welcome sight. It takes quite a while to find a method to match body curves to bench curves but with a bit of scrunching up and down and rolling this way and that to find padded body parts we both get a little shut eye. The body cools down when sleeping and though we just left -10C at home even Hawaii can get cold.

Debbie and I both awake at about the same time and have to get up and move. It could be the first time I have had to wear a jacket in a hot climate. Starbucks is the only place open. We don’t know if we will get any kind of food on the airplane so we think we should find something to tide us over and maybe some tea and hot chocolate to warm us up. We still have 2 hours till we are to load and we manage to milk our drinks so we can sit at the Starbuck’s seating.

The plane finally arrives, the gate opens and we are on board ready to fly. Missed the take off time by a few minutes but we are 3+ hours late anyway so a couple of minutes will make little difference. As long as our ride is there when we arrive I don’t care too much. Dammed if we don’t get breakfast on the plane and it looks like we get to Nadi in a much better frame of mind than if we had had to survive on a croissant and a hot chocolate. The plane is sparsely populated and we both find rows of unoccupied seat to stretch out on and continue to bag a few more precious minutes of sleep. I don’t know how this will affect our sleeping pattern when we arrive in Fiji but we are diving after the next sleep come hell or high water. We can chill a bit today and will for sure only do 2 dives tomorrow so we can lounge in the afternoon. By then our bodies should be in sync.

Arrival in Nadi is a little quicker than the 6.5 hours we were told it was going to take so somehow the pilot made back a few minutes on the flight. Upon landing we realize there is a rainstorm raging. The rain is coming down hard, the runway is shiny.

Fiji welcome present

Welcome present

At the exit gate there is a fellow with the dive resorts name on a sign. An affirmation he is our guy and we are in Land Cruiser, snorkel and all, and down the road. It rains hard and harder as we make our way towards the Volivoli. Last week when Cyclone Jodie passed by, the low-lying areas of Viti Levu were flooded. It made world news. We read about it in Edmonton. The rain storm we are driving through has just been classified Cyclone Keni. Now we have been in two official cyclones. Once a few years back in Myanmar and now in Fiji.

As we drive from the Nadi airport towards the Voli Voli Resort, our driver shows us where the flooding occurred with the last cyclone. Low areas of the road we travel were a metre under water. He shows us where even he, with his snorkled Land Cruiser, got turned around. The good thing, he says, was that by the next morning, the road was driveable again. He says it is not the rain that is the worse part of a cyclone but the wind. The rain water will run off to the ocean, but the wind will destroy houses and buildings.

It is raining hard in some areas as we circumnavigate the island and the wind blows hard. I look down roads that lead inland and they are fully immersed in muddy water. The small creeks running under bridges that we cross are running very high and swift, some nearing the bottom edge of the bridges. There are men standing on the bridges watching for dangerous tree branches so they can move them before a log jam occurs. 

We make the 100 km journey in under 3 hours, the traffic being high due to everyone heading home in preparation of this next storm. We are welcomed by the (slightly relieved, I think) manager of the resort. He warns us the storm is picking up strength and that we will have to make a call tomorrow morning as to whether we go diving.

Voli Voli resort

Our home for the next week

Stepping out of the car at the Volivoli it is again coming down in buckets. We step inside the lobby and are supplied with an umbrella so we can stay dry while getting to the dining room. In the short time it takes to eat lunch the rain has subsided and the wind is calm. I spoke of how smooth travel had gone up to today and today a lug nut fell off one of the wheels. We still progress towards our goal but we need to stop at a service station so the wheel does not leave us completely. Debbie calculated we have 13 flying legs this trip and if this is the worst glitch we encounter it should be an outstanding trip.

Voli Voli resort

View from our veranda

We unpack, organize our very nice ocean view bungalow, enjoy a tasty supper while watching the alternating rain and wind gusts, and then struggle to keep our eyes open. We crash at 8:30. Lights out.

Posted in Fiji, Hawaiian Islands | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment