Downey Duck Fiji Aggressor

Fiji Aggressor - February, 2006

The Fiji Aggressor is 101 feet long with a crew of six, and since there were only six of us aboard, short of the normal 10 passengers, we felt very coddled. We arrived about noon at the Trade Winds Hotel near Suva on Viti Levu, after being transferred from Wananavu Resort in the North. Our taxi was met by the Aggressor crew and our luggage transferred to the boat while we hung around the hotel lobby waiting for our 1:00 boarding time. Shortly after boarding, we began the 7.5 hour trek, which wasn't too rough, to the first dive site.

The boat didn't feel cramped with six guests. There are five cabins, all with private bath and individual air conditioners, four below decks with double beds and upper bunks and one on the main deck, with a larger bathroom and one large bed. The large dining table accommodates all guests; there is a cozy lounge area with comfortable couches and chairs perfect for napping or watching a movie or the day's video on the television. The top deck consisted of the Captain's quarters, the bridge, and the docking area for the skiff. Finding a place for sun-bathing was tough-there was a cushioned bench on the back, and the bow was available, but that area was splashed when moving and wasn't very comfortable..

Tanks and gear are kept down on the back dive platform for the week, along with fins, mask, etc., and tanks are filled there. Wet suits are hung up on the main deck. After donning our wet suits we climbed down the steps, geared up and did a giant stride into the water. This was extremely convenient; the only drawback is that the gear was constantly in the sun and in salt water. Nitrox was available at $100 for the week. There was a small camera area on the back deck, which would be crowded if everyone had a camera, and a charging area just inside the dining area. We also commandeered the top of a low storage cabinet.

Five dives were offered most days. The schedule for this was pre-breakfast at 6:30am, consisting of cereal, yogurt, and toast, dive at 7:30am, hot or cold breakfast at 9:00am, dive at 10:30am, a hot lunch at noon, dive at 1:30pm, snack, dive at 4:30pm, dinner at 6:00pm, and night dive at 7:30pm. One day we tried four dives, ending with a dusk dive before dinner, but there wasn't much action so we switched back to the five dive a day routine with night diving. There wasn't a choice of food for dinner, but they did easily accommodate our non-meat eater with plenty of fish.

A few dives were made from the zodiac, but most were conveniently made off the main boat. Since it was summer in Fiji, visibility was 50-100 feet, but a wonderfully warm 84 degrees. We did some wall dives, where we saw some sharks, manta rays, devil rays, and schooling jacks and barracuda, but mostly pinnacle diving. Some pinnacles seemed to have more critters than others, such as nudibranchs, crabs, ghost pipe fish, soft coral, shrimp, and a great variety of fish. Night diving was good with tiny soft coral crabs and shrimp, and many sponge and decorator crab

Depth was restricted by the 30% Nitrox mix. There were usually two guides in the water; we could follow them as they looked for critters around the pinnacles, or go off on our own. They didn't baby-sit us or wait for slow photographers, but would help if signaled. A closer watch was kept during wall dives so we knew when to turn away from the wall and head for the boat. The zodiac was in the water in case someone was swept too far from the boat by the current, which could start up suddenly. Sometimes we had to hide on one side of a pinnacle because of current.

Toward the end of the week we went to an isolated village with our dinner, where the villagers welcomed us and put the food in their lovo (charcoal fire with the food covered by banana leaves) to cook while we took part in a kava ceremony and meke of dancing and singing by the village adults and children in native dress; then we all danced together. Native dance and song is a required part of the Fijian school system, and performing for tourists gives the children a chance to shine. This village had no television, radio, or indoor plumbing and they used some of their precious diesel fuel to keep the lights on for us-they usually go to bed when the sun sets. Eventually we went back to the boat with our dinner fresh from the lovo, leaving some of it behind for the villagers. Don't miss this genuine experience.

The advantages of the smaller Fiji Aggressor were fewer divers and very little skiff diving. The disadvantage was no sun deck. We had a great time even though the cyclone that was several hundred miles away kept us from getting to some of the dive sites. The food was excellent, the crew competent, and the diving mostly easy.