Adventures in Wonderland

Trip Start Sep 23, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Fiji  ,
Tuesday, October 3, 2006

When we awoke for our final morning at Seaspray, we found that the beach had been transformed overnight by volcanic rock which had washed up all over it. The locals were already out in force raking it up. Queen contributed by mooning the neighbours. She gave us frangipani to wear in our hair, and waved goodbye with the terrible toddler when the dive boat came to collect us and our packs.

We headed off to the Zoo, a wall dive known for its pelagics. A reef shark cruised amongst the shoals of fish at the top of the wall, and a school of silver barracuda poured over the reef wall. Blue and yellow fuseliers circled in tight formation as protection from this multitude of predators. We descended through schools of striped sailfin tangs and unicornfish. Gobies poked their heads out of holes in the coral and pink skunk clownfish watched us swim by.

Returning to dry land, we were transferred to Oarsman's Bay, on the nearby island of Nacula. The resort is situated on a glorious sweep of golden sand, with turquoise and azure waters. We had splashed out here and were staying in a luxury bure with all mod cons- running water, ensuite hot showers, a flushing toilet and electric lights. I even had a double bed with a comfy mattress- and of course thre resident geckos to keep the mozzies away!

We had lunch and then went snorkelling. The snorkelling here was not as great as at other sites, but we still saw green wrasse with hooked green 'Gonzo noses', and filefish with a blue and orange checked pattern. Moorish idols with their long elegant dorsal fins drifted past, and we swam through a large shoal of silvery fish with leopard spots, their mouths open wide as they fed on plankton. We had to swim quite a long way out before the snorkelling got interesting, and we felt like we had almost reached the next island! We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing on the beach and enjoying the hot showers.

The next day the weather was gloomy and the wind had a chill to it, so we decided that the best place to be was under the water. We headed out on two dives. In the morning, our divemaster Manni took us to Wonderland. It soon became clear how it got its name, and I was left wondering if someone had been slipping illicit substances into my breakfast. It was an absolutely stunning dive. The big feature was a group of hard coral formations which were shaped like giant ochre mushrooms- very 'Alice in Wonderland.' Clustered under the overhangs were fluorescent yellow sea squirts and bright purple soft corals. Blue, white and yellow Christmas tree worms peeked out of their tiny holes, vanishing so fast when our shadows touched them that it was as if a light had been turned out. Pastel coloured soft corals mixed with bright green and red brain corals. We saw two white tipped reef sharks, one cruising around, the other sitting on the bottom basking. Squirrelfish and peered out from crevices with wide eyes and pufferfish scowled. A turtle cruised in front of us and flapped off into the sea. Manni picked up a sea cucumber and passed it to us, it was pink and spiky, and felt soft, squishy and slightly sticky underneath. Purple firefish darted by, tomato clowns and skunk anemonefish chased each other through their anemones, a male chocolate boxfish, in rich purple, brown and gold, glided past and bannerfish swam by with their long dorsal fins trailing behind. It was an absolutely amazing dive, like entering a different world.

After lunch we went out for our second dive. This time we visited a dive site called the Pinnacle. It was very different to the morning's dive. We descended down the pinnacle, a finger of black rock. As we went deeper, the rock became covered with yellow soft coral, which gently swayed in the light current. There were large overhangs near the base of the rock, almost like caves. We ducked under and found ourselves surrounded by coral, with wide eyed red squirrelfish peering mournfully at us. Leaving the pinnacle, we swam to a series of bommies; rounded islands of coral on the sandy sea bed. The soft corals were great- white coral tipped with fluffy purple pom poms, pale bubble coral and pale yellow and orange soft corals. Moses, our divemaster, spotted a tiny nudibranch; about 1 cm long and white with purple gills on its back. Then I saw two more nearby, they were beautiful, like little jewels. Nudibranch are invertebrates, they are also called sea slugs but are far lovelier than this name suggests. Working our way back to the pinnacle, we came across a school of large silver trevally. The biggest was visiting a cleaning station. We hovered and watched as two black and blue striped cleaner wrasse gave it a tidy up. A big spotty brown grouper sat on the bottom, and a shoal of bright blue and yellow fusiliers came cascading over the pinnacle. We ascended to the top of the pinnacle for our safety stop. It was like a glorious garden, full of multicoloured tangs and wrasses, purple anthias, regal angels, and clownfish squabbling over who owns which anemone. Another beautiful dive!
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