The Cathedral at E6
During daylight we saw schools of
barracuda, jacks, big tuna, mackerel, and the occasional small shark out in
the blue near the 1,000 foot wall at “E6”.
However, at night it was just pitch black! I tried not to think about what might be out there and shone
my torch on the beautiful coral wall on my left.
We followed Tim our young Fijian guide along the wall to the
rear entrance of our night dive objective, “The Cathedral”.
Neil Harris entered this triangular shaped grotto and switched on his
battery pack. The twin lights
turned night into day as he filmed the large gorgonians on the walls of this
unique dive site. All I had to do
was keep out of the way, look for other interesting subjects, and enjoy the
At the beginning of the night dive we
found two adult Common Lionfish in the coral garden.
Neil videoed one while I kept an eye on the other with my torch.
Tim nudged me on the arm to warn me.
A third Lionfish had snuck up beside me!
I eased away from those long, nasty spines and directed my torch onto
the new arrival. The final piece of excitement was getting into the skiff, a
5.8 metre NAIAD RIB, out in the deep dark water.
As the last person in, I handed over my torch, vaulted over the side,
and rolled on the floor amongst the gear, much to everyone else’s amusement!
Our Fijian Christmas adventure began
when Selwyn Douglas, the owner of the luxury liveaboard M.V. Princess
picked us up at the Nadi airport at 1.30 am a week before Christmas, and took
us to the marina at Denarau Island. The
Princess has six air-conditioned staterooms accommodating twelve guests.
Sel showed my wife and I to Cabin No. 1 which is down the passageway
from the big lounge. We left the gear bags in the lounge, had a long hot shower in
our bathroom, and went straight to bed. Together
with Neil and Jenny Harris of Absolute Scuba, we were to spend nine days on
the Princess, a week at the Naigani Island Resort, and three days at the
Outrigger Reef Fiji Resort.
Next morning, we met the Fijian crew
of the Princess. Pete (pronounced
“Petay”) is the skipper, his wife Kelera is the superb chef. Tui, Tim (“Radar”), Siga, Ema and Sarah made up the rest
of the crew. We headed north into
Bligh Water and had our first taste of diving, Fijian style: the spectacular
wall dive called “Hi 8”. These
wall dives were to become my favourite type of dive and we did quite a few of
them including “Pacific Garden”, “Magic Mountain” and “E6”.
The Princess is equipped to handle
twelve divers with a big dive deck and back-to-back wooden seats, tank holders
and storage space underneath. There
are two whips and a big compressor which quickly fills the 80 cu ft tanks in
place. The dive guide gives a
briefing in front of the whiteboard while Pete is positioning the ship for the
dive. We moved down to the dive
platform, put on our fins, and jumped in right on top of the entry point.
Sel certainly runs a tight ship!
With visibility of at least twenty
metres at “Hi 8”, we were able to dive together as a group of four with
Radar as guide. We adopted a
profile which we were to follow on all of these wall dives.
We descended slowly to about 25 metres, drifting along the wall with
minimal effort, slowly ascending for a bottom time of 50 minutes to an hour.
We wore polypropylene suits, as the water was a constant 27 degrees
Celsius. You feel like you are
floating in space as you drift along looking at the various soft corals, with
reef fish near the coral and pelagics out in the blue.
When we finally surfaced, Princess II was right there waiting for us.
Pete swung her around in her own length and we climbed aboard.
As we stripped off our gear and had a shower, we were under way to the
next dive site.
On pinnacle dives such as “Window of
Dreams”, “The Chimneys”, “See & Sea”, we circled each coral sea
mount, slowly ascending from base to summit, examining the caves, overhangs,
soft coral, and prolific fish life. The
coral garden on the top of the pinnacle was usually at about three to five
metres where we enjoyed long safety stops.
Since we were doing three or four dives per day, these profiles were a
very safe way to dive.
The daily routine started around 6.30 am
with a light breakfast and placing of orders for a hot breakfast after the early
morning dive. We learnt a little
Fijian: “Bula (hello). Two
poached eggs please! Vinaka
(thankyou)!” We usually had a
dive before lunch at a different site. Meals
were announced by beating the small lali (drum, or dinner donger) in the lounge.
Dives were called by ringing the ships bell.
We had one or two dives in the afternoon (or a sleep!) and a night dive
if the location was suitable. In
the evening we watched the day’s video footage on the TV in the lounge.
For a change of pace, Siga took us
ashore on Vatu-i-ra where we explored this little island and took photographs of
the thousands of nesting, feeding, wheeling seabirds. On another day we were fortunate enough to encounter a school
of pilot whales. We set off quietly
in the skiff and managed to snorkel fairly close to them. It is an incredible feeling to be echo-located by their
One night we had a barbeque dinner on
the sundeck to celebrate the departure of our first group of divers the
following morning. Kelera
supervised the cooking of delicious New Zealand beef and lamb, vegetables au
gratin, garlic bread and baked potatoes. We
washed it all down with a few bottles of good Aussie Chardonnay.
We picked up Jenny Harris and the second
group at Ellington Wharf on Christmas Eve.
They arrived by car from Nadi at 2.15 am and Neil went ashore to collect
them. I did not stir from our comfortable cabin. We departed at first light for our last three dives on
Princess II this trip.
Baptism of Fire
Our first dive that day was “See &
Sea” which Neil and I had dived two days before and knew what to expect.
Mike joined us for his first dive this trip and it really was a baptism
of fire! There was a strong current
in our faces as we crawled over the lower pinnacle down to thirty metres.
There were more white tipped reef sharks than last time! Mike and I hung on while Neil attempted to get close enough
to film them. You can swim quite
fast in those bio-fins, but not as fast as a shark!
We then made our ascent in the lee of the big pinnacle, out of the
Christmas dinner was a big party in the
lounge with much duty free wine and spirits.
Kelera prepared a huge meal of turkey, ham and baked vegetables, followed
by Christmas pudding with coconut custard, then Christmas cake. Whew!
Boxing Day, Sel dropped us off at Naigani Island Resort where we were to spend a
week enjoying a different style of diving.
But that is another story.
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