Monday, January 21, 2013

Diving in Namena Marine Reserve

Read about the Namena Marine Reserve.

On our way in to Namena, we checked out the area around the North Save-a-Tack Passage, and found a good spot to anchor Soggy Paws, so we could take our dinghy out for the dive. But Tobi recommended that we dive the areas on the south side of the thumb-shaped reef, and save North Save-a-Tack for the next day, when high tide would be later. The North Save-a-Tack dive is a drift dive, best done on a good incoming tide (for clearest water).

A Giant Sea Fan on the Side of the Bommie

So we headed for the anchoring spot that Tobi recommended, near the 2 dive sites we wanted to see first, Chimneys and the Tetons. The conditions were perfect for diving--about 5 knots of wind and flat seas. Sure enough, Tobi's anchor spot was a winner--a small patch of sand next to a big bommie (Western Pacific lingo for 'coral head'). We carefully placed our anchor and backed down slowly, making sure we didn't get into any coral. It was about 50' deep, but the water was clear enough to see sand vs coral on the bottom. 17-06.74S / 179-03.83E

Clams This Size are Rarely Found Outside a Preserve

Then we loaded our dive gear in the dinghy and dinghied a short distance over to the "Chimneys" (aka 2 Thumbs) dive spot. 17-06.79S / 179-03.82E. We hand-placed our dinghy anchor on the top of the pinnacle, and snorkeled a little bit to get the lay of the dive site. Here, there are 2 pinnacles coming up from about 80 feet to the surface, ringed with all kinds of fish, invertebrates, and hard and soft corals. He did our typical half-a-tank dive. Because Dave and I are easy breathers, we can get a pretty good 35 minute dive on half a tank. That's normally enough to see what there is to see. When we got down to a third of our to go, we headed to the second pinnacle and circled around it a couple of times, before heading back to a safety stop near the dinghy. At 15-20 feet (the safety stop depth), there is a huge amount of sea life, so the 3 minute stop passed quickly. This was truly gorgeous diving.

Beautiful Soft Red Coral

We went back to the boat and had a nice lunch, and then dinghied over to the dive spot known as The Tetons for a second dive. Again, very nice coral diving.

The next day, we got going reasonably early, and headed for North Save-a-Tack. We anchored Soggy Paws in about 35' nice sand, behind the reef near the drop-off (17-04.38S / 179-06.51E), and proceeded in the dinghy to the Grand Central drift dive start location (around 17-04.26S / 179-06.59E). This is right off the end of the shelf, on the south side of the pass--where the depth goes from about 50 feet to 100 feet in a sheer drop.

We put on our gear, repositioned the dinghy to the correct spot, and hopped in and descended quickly, with the dinghy in tow on a long line. We were being swept in with the current (not bad in deep water, but runs pretty swiftly on the tops of the shallow bommies). We picked a spot right on the drop-off and placed the dinghy anchor in a rock cleft, and spent about 10 minutes swimming around on the edge of the drop off. As promised, we saw lots of big fish and a few sharks. The conditions were good and the water was clear. But we couldn't stay down long at that depth, so we eventually picked up the anchor and drifted in with the current. (Other divers have gone NNW along the face of the drop-off). There are a couple of big canyons where the bottom goes from 50' to 20' rapidly. One such dive spot is called Kansas (17-04.32S / 179-06.42E). But we thought the best part of the dive was along the drop-off.

Just as we got out of the water, the Cousteau dive boat pulled up with a load of divers. Those suckers were paying $150 USD each for that dive!

After lunch, we went back to the west side of the Namena reef and dove the Mushroom dive site--another big bommie rising up out of the 100-foot depths. (17-06.35S / 179-03.59E). We picked out a nice sand spot near the bommie to anchor Soggy Paws (17-06.35S / 177-03.63E).

Another Great Sunset

The weather was great and diving conditions were perfect. We would love to have stayed a lot longer and done some more diving, but we got a call from our agent in Suva--our shipment had already arrived!!! (it was not due for another week). Since they were going to charge us storage fees if we left it unclaimed for longer than 3 days, we needed to hustle on down to Suva to take care of business.

We have barely scratched the surface of the diving at Namena. It is close to Savusavu and we hope to get back and do some more diving before we leave Fiji.

Lots More Diving in Namena

(Now I'm only a month behind in my blog!!)

No comments:

Post a Comment