Onboard the Nai'a
After spending our first week in Fiji at Waidroka Bay Resort, we headed back to Nadi for a surprisingly tasty lunch at the Tanoa International Hotel, then were transported by a large, comfortable bus to the Nai’a dockage. After boarding the boat, we were immediately assigned cabins and proceeded to set up our dive gear.
The Nai’a has eight roomy cabins below the main deck with a queen bed, two single beds, or bunk beds where the lower berth sleeper can actually sit up without bumping his head. Our room also had a cupboard, half with hangars and half with two shelves. There was storage in the bottom of both halves for smaller items like backpacks. Some rooms could handle large suitcase storage under the beds—our suitcases went up to the camera room. A sink with ample counter space and drawers below was in the main part of the cabin; the bathroom had a nice sized shower and separate flush toilet. There was plenty of hot water. Sheets were changed every three days unless you said to forget it, and towels, changed often, were dried each day.
Once we did the initial gear set up at our tank stations near the bow, the tanks were moved by the crew to the back dive deck, where they spent the week, leaving us with plenty of room for gearing up. Wetsuits were hung out of the way and the rest of our gear went under our seats. There were two fresh water rinse tanks for cameras only. Assigned deck towels were thrown in the dryer between every dive. Wetsuits were sanitized once during the week in the camera rinse tanks when that water was changed, and at the end of the trip. You could also rinse gear under the two deck showers. The camera room was closest to the bow and could handle several large camera rigs and had more 110 and 220 outlets than anyone could need.
Every dive was done from one of two skiffs with rigid bottoms and inflatable upper halves. We either kicked and pulled ourselves up and over, after handing up BCs and weights, or used the ladder. By the end of the week, most of us were pretty proficient at getting into the skiff without help from the capable crew. Our first dive at Samu Reef was the check-out dive, to let everyone figure out how much weight they needed. They don’t consider it to be a great dive, but the octopus made it for me. Then we motored all night, with the 6:00am dropping of the anchor being our wake-up call. We motored most nights, and if the boat arrived early, the captain would considerately circle or drift so the anchor wasn’t dropped before 6:00am.
Also on the main level were the dining room and galley. The 6:00am pre-breakfast was toast, cereal, coffee, and juice. After the 8:30 dive a full breakfast could be ordered. Lunch followed the 10:30 dive with a choice of meat, fish, or vegetarian entrees. A snack followed the 2:30 dive, and the 7:00pm dinner, after the fourth dive at 5:30pm, consisted of salad or soup, a choice of entrée, and dessert. Beer and wine were available at dinner at no extra charge. Lunch and dinner choices were picked at breakfast, purchased cookies, cocoa, coffee, tea, and fruit were always available, although bananas ran out after the first few days. We were offered three or four night dives at 8:30pm; they were OK—mostly small crabs and shrimp, with an occasional eel and once a sleeping turtle.
In general, the soft coral was beautiful and the hard coral healthy-looking. I saw groupers, schooling jacks, barracuda, thousands of anthias, and lots of other fish. We also ran into quite a few sharks. One of my favorite dives was Nigali Passage—we floated with the current where the grey reef and white-tip sharks commune. A huge great hammerhead got close and personal, coming around a second time looking agitated, thrashing back and forth. Everyone drifted to the “balcony”, a protected out-cropping, where we watched the parade of sharks circle by, enjoying the current. Right behind us a four foot grouper hung out. Once the bottom time for my Nitrox fill ran out, my buddy and I left the balcony and drifted past the giant cabbage coral patch and over a sandy patch loaded with dozens of titan trigger fish; when they’re nesting it’s like going through a mine field.
Another favorite site was MoGo, consisting of two big bommies, strong current, sharks, and gorgeous soft corals. While doing my safety stop, I tried to kick across the top of a bommie, but eventually just could not kick hard enough and whooshed back, enjoying the ride.
Although there was always at least one guide in the water from each boat, we were not required to follow them, but we were required to have a safety sausage. Nitrox was extra. Dive limits were 70 minutes during the day and 60 minutes on a night dive. The skiff crew was quick to find divers as we surfaced.