15 long months of planning, booking, advertising, and preparing later…our dive trip to Fiji for Ocean Sports is done and dusted. Boy, was this one ever a long time coming! You can read all about the lead up prep and trip specifics in this post, and also this one.
On February 28th 24 of us met up at the departure gate in Los Angeles International Airport. We made the few last introductions and all waited for our flight. You know what isn’t especially fun? An 11 hour red eye. In economy class. But you know what is super fun? Traveling with a big group of excited people just starting to become friends, and all anxious to get the party started! After landing in Nadi we had to split into 2 groups – half accompanied Warren straight over to Taveuni on a small island hopper plane, and the other half accompanied me over to a nearby hotel where we’d reserved a day room to kill time until the next flight. Our group was so big we filled 2 planes! Luckily the day hotel had a nice pool and the weather was fantastic! Several of us had our first Fijian sunburns well before lunch time. Ouch. Lessons were learned about the strength of the sun when you are practically on the equator.
Once reunited at the Garden Island Resort on Taveuni, our home away from home for 10 days, we were greeted island style with a beautiful song by the staff. Who, by the way, are some of the friendliest, happiest, and most modest people I’ve ever encountered. Everyone waves and says hello, everywhere you go. Everyone. Everywhere. For real.
Another totally awesome thing about Garden Island Resort? The food was incredible! Gourmet even. We absolutely feasted on everything from fresh tuna sandwiches to West Indian chicken curry with homemade roti. A new flavor of soup and fresh baked rolls with every dinner. Desert, twice a day. More ice cream than I care to recall. They even baked us a chocolate cake to celebrate our 3 birthdays within the group (Andrea, Warren & Ruth). Yuuuum! And those ladies sure make a mean sangria too. Possibly the best I’ve ever had.
But what about the diving you might ask? Well, Rainbow Reef didn’t disappoint either. Our boat rides across the Somosomo Strait were relatively short, and we had 17 wonderful dives on such sites as Fish Factory, Cabbage Patch, The Ledge, Barracuda Hole, The Zoo, Purple Finger Wall, Annie’s Bommies, and of course, the most famous of them all…The Great White Wall. There were whitetip and blacktip reef shark sightings every day, and a few lucky people even saw 4 oceanic blacktips. There was one lone manta ray spotted…only Dana saw it but he did manage to get my attention in time for me to catch enough of a glimpse to be able to verify its existence! The diving was all tide dependent and often involved some tricky currents, but everyone did a great job managing and we certainly saw some new drift diving skills develop.
My boat of divers was lucky enough to cruise alongside a pod of wild spinner dolphins during a surface interval. AH-MA-ZING! I’ve been hoping for that experience since the day I started diving. It didn’t disappoint! There were dozens of them, maybe more, and they did some awesome flips and tricks for us. It was one of my very favorite experiences of the trip, probably because it was so long awaited.
Another of my favorites was our trip to the “natural water-slides”. The van dropped us off at the start of the trail and then after a light hike up into the rain forest we came to a beautiful waterfall with sections so worn smooth you can use it as a water-slide. Bill was the bravest among us, he climbed right up to the top of it and slid his way down a nearly sheer drop. Not gonna lie, I’d have thought he was seriously injured if it wasn’t for the big grin on his face afterwards! We all had a total blast, and the water was such a fresh and refreshing break from the constant heat and humidity. We certainly left with a few more bumps and bruises than we’d arrived with, but all agreed it was totally worth it!
Other activities included a traditional Lovo Feast with a song and dance performance by the people of a nearby settlement, a visit to the historic catholic mission at Wairiki (which overlooks the site of an ancient battle where the Fijian warriors first beat the ruling Tongans, and then ate them to celebrate their victory), pictures standing on the International Date Line, and visits into the town of Somosomo.
We also celebrate a few achievements along the way. Andrea completed her 100th dive – whoohoo! Bill completed his Deep Diver Specialty course, Crystal rocked her Advanced Open Water course, and Chris honed her camera skills with Warren’s Digital Underwater Photography Workshop. Way to go guys! Several of our other divers saw great improvement in their skills and confidence level throughout the week. We are happy to have shared in their growth as divers.
We did experience some excitement towards the end of the trip with the development of Tropical Cyclone Pam to the north west of Fiji, which gradually intensified to a Category 5 system bringing it with it strong winds, heavy rain and rough seas but we were very lucky to catch all our flights. Everyone is either safely home now, or continuing their adventures in New Zealand. Warren and I are currently stranded in Nadi waiting for transfers to the Yasawa Islands group to resume once the storm passes. Hence my fastest post-trip blog post ever!
Warren’s underwater pictures are NatGeo quality these days (in his humble wife’s opinion) and he’ll be posting them on his photo blog, which you can check out here.
The trip was awesome, new friendships were formed, and we hope to dive with many of them again in the future!
Rumors are already swirling about our next trip, so stay tuned!