Custom Itinerary - October 1 to 14, 2016

Hallo und willkommen! Hello and welcome to our newest guests from Germany, Switzerland and Austria! With great weather forecasts – and an awesome trip itinerary planned – lets get diving!

After a quiet night's steam over the Iron Bottom Sound, Taka arrived at the Russell Islands.  At White Beach, our first dive of the trip, divers were met with a bit of WW2 history. Wreckage of jeeps, tractors, trucks carrying ammunition and some bigger unexploded ordinance littered the coral walls, slowly blending into the background. Dive 2 was Ta Point and Roger jumped in with a Yee-Ha! Some interesting currents had our group exploring up and down the face of the point with lots of tiny anthias and damsels. The Yee-Ha was soon said again on Dive 3 at Funnel.  This time underwater, as three eagle rays gently cruised past the group, closely followed by 2 devil rays, not to mention the crocodilefish, porcelain crabs and blue anemones. Dive 4 was at the lovely Kau Kau, where Ursula enjoyed a cruise along in the current looking at the pristine coral, and Eva modeled for Stefan in some half and half shots with the excellent staghorn in the shallows. Stefan was the only diver still swimming for the dusk dive at White Beach with guide James. The two managed to find some great little critters….such as blue ringed octopus, pipefish and red banded shrimp.

Our next day started off with one of our favourites - Rainbow Reef. Gudrun and Peter particularly enjoyed exploring the large bommie and watching the huge school of big eye barracuda. Second dive of the day was at Karamulon Point where divers were lucky enough to see another pair of devil rays and a grey whaler. Next up was another cracking site: Karamulon Reef. Gudrun and Peter were pleased to see some black tips and a hawksbill turtle and Roger and Ursula even spotted an eagle ray. Stefan and Eva went for a lovely snorkel and commented that this was the finest coral they had seen anywhere in the world. The afternoon was spent enjoying open dive deck at tranquil Mane Bay. Divers jumped in and explored at their leisure. Stefan ran into a sea krait and brothers Roland and Thomas had a great time cruising the shallows looking for macro. The rockmover wrasse put on a show, as usual. Hostess Rita even jumped in for a snorkel with Gudrun and Peter. Good times!

Magnificent Morovo here we come! Arriving at the lush green volcanic island of Mbulo, we explored Carol Gardens where Peter, Eva and Stefan enjoyed the luscious coral and saw a friendly white tip reef shark. What a beautiful start to the day. Next up was the spectacular Cathedral where local expert John led them team through a series of caverns and caves twisting and turning along the shoreline and surfacing inside the caves where they were surrounded by green rainforest vegetation - spectacular! Roger came back with a wow to follow up on his earlier yee-ha and Ursula was equally impressed by the light streaming through the trees and into the water. Only three great expeditionary divers, Roger, Ursula and Peter went with our guides James and John to a new dive site; Mbego. They were delighted with the variety of fish and coral that they saw. The next dive we split the pack with Gudrun the snorkeller, plus Eva and Stefan repeating Cathedral, while Thomas, Roland, Peter and Roger checked out Tohanna. The current was doing all sorts of weird things, but the turtles must have liked it as three of them came out to play; that and 71 nudis! Final offering of the day was once again Coral Garden, this time for a night dive but our team were exhausted from so many dives and decided a cheeky wine on the roof was in order instead!

Our divers braved the swell to tackle Kavachi at Kicha and boy, did they hear that volcano rumble, as they were surrounded by thousands of fish. Roger and Ursula were high fives all round coming up from this dive. Next up and Thomas and Roland were delighted to see some reef sharks and turtles at Male Male Lagoon. Third dive of the day was an exploratory dive at Peava Wall, where Roger and Stefan were lucky enough to see a hammerhead shark cruising the passage. That was followed up by a visit to Peava village carving market where Eva was quick to snap up a bargain on beautiful handcrafted bowl. Gudrun loved the children singing and watching husband Peter hand out lollies to the delighted youngsters. Our explorers were tired out by all the fun so they headed off around the lagoon for a sunset cruise with tour guide John.

A rainy start to the day and everyone decided to have a nice cozy sleep in and have some delicious hot breakfast made by chef James. A quick and swift exit through Peava – thanks to Cpt. Klaus – and Taka made her way through the beautiful passages of Marovo Lagoon. Arriving at our next site Shark Bay, divers were greeted by 8 sharks circling the boat looking for food. As the sun showed its face again and the rain disappeared, Gudrun and Roland went for a snorkel while Little Karanjou was the dive for Roger and Ursula as well as Peter, Eva and Stefan. Peter saw a lovely bumphead parrotfish and a green turtle right underneath him. Roger got some nice shots of the oceanic triggerfish and barracuda. Next dive was a choice between Shark Bay, which Peter, Roger, Thomas and Roland took up, or South Karanjou, that was visited by Eva and Stefan. The boys at Shark Bay were delighted, Roland so happy to get some brilliantly lit shots of the shallow reef and Thomas was so happy to be swimming with the black tips. Our South Karanjou explorers did a beautiful reef dive with several sharks also hanging out with them. The day was finalized with a shark feed at Shark Bay. Thomass eyes went wide as a black tip went cruising past his face. Ursula got some great video from the safety of the deck. What an evening.

Friday morning our first site was one we have named Linking Logs, at North Njapuana. Fish life was excellent on the deep part of the wall with barracuda, giant trevally and a grey reef shark. Gudrun and Peter enjoyed the beauty of the wall in the shallows too. Even an eagle ray swam past Roger and Stefan. Second dive of the day was the always-interesting Kokoana North passage. An eagle ray swam above Roger and Ursula, while Peter got up close and personal with a hawksbill turtle. Two green turtles cruised along near brothers Roland and Thomas and Stefan found himself in a fishnado of around 200 chevron barracuda. Next up was the south side of the passage: Porepore. Gudrun and Peter had a lovely cruise along the wall where they saw several sharks and plenty of fish. Our fourth and final dive of the day was the outer side of Kokoana passage…where again, the fans whips and colorful soft corals made for a fantastic dive. With the afternoon sun burning hot Eva, Roger, Peter and Gudrun (along with a large portion of crew – I wonder why!?) visited the beach of a beautiful small tropical Island. Palm trees full with coconuts – lush green vegetation and white sand – what could you want more! What a perfect end to the day.

We had an overnight crossing to the Russells and woke up at Bat Cave. Stefan and Eva were lucky enough to see a pink pygmy sea horse and a curious silvertip shark, which followed them for over five minutes. Second offering for the day was the amazing Kastum Cave, where Mike and James led our explorers through the twisting and turning caverns of awesome light penetrating crevices. Carnival Point was up next for Gudrun Peter and Roger…the team were lucky enough to see a cuttlefish in all its glory as well as a cute little white bonnet anemonefish. We then steamed to Mane Island where Eva helped Charles pick out the vegetables from the local canoe market. The afternoon dive was NE Mane Wall, and Roger, Ursula, Roland, Peter and Thomas came back very happy. What a beautiful sheer wall covered with so much life and local guide James there to find some rare nudis. Coconuts were the order of the day and hostess Rita showed us how its done, with guests all enjoying a relaxing coconut in the sun. The lure of the well stocked bar and a nice bottle of red was enough for our divers to stay dry after dinner and prepare for another awesome day of diving

Stefan and Eva were again the early birds and went with instructor John to Blue Wall. They loved the lighting of reef from the sunlight cascading down through the shallows and were lucky enough to see some huge schools of barracuda. Next up was the famous Mirror Pond, and nobody wanted to miss this one. How incredible the sunlight was, penetrating the mix of fresh and salt water inside the crystal clear island pond. With 40m visibility and pristine coral walls, it was truly a dive to remember. Next up was Leru Cut and an equally amazing dive. Roland got some great shots of the light shaft on the way out of the cave and Roger and Ursula had their work cut out for them searching for the elusive pygmy seahorse. The afternoon dive was at South Leru. Peter and Gudrun loved the angry little nemos trying to bite Rogers camera lens, and Stefan and Eva were enthralled by the circling grey reef shark. A beautiful sunset at Karamulon topped off another great day.

Monday morning we woke up in spectacular Karamulon with our divers ready to rediscover one of their favourite dive sites; Karamulon Point. Eva got more than she bargained for when a territorial Triggerfish gave her an early morning wake up. Roger was overcome by the cuteness of a tiny baby shark and Stefan just loved the giant school of trevally hanging out at the point. Divers met Chief Raymond of Karamulon village as the village put on a spectacular show of dancing and singing. Great tour by chief Raymond of his village! An exploratory bommie was our next dive, and wow! A huge barrel sponge sat at 25m, in a beautiful field of corals. It was the last dive of the day however, that took the prize. The totally unexplored island in the north of the Russell islands heard the cheers and roars of divers surfacing from their spectacular dive. Schools of Trevally 300 strong, 10 Grey Whalers, 9 White tip harks and 3 Maori Wrasse! Wow!

A calm crossing over toward the east and Taka arrived in the Florida Islands! Baby Cakes was divers first dive of the day. 3 Devil rays approaching Stefan and Eva and hundreds of fish littering the colorful bommie was a great welcome to the Floridas. Cuttlefish Bay was up next on the diving menu. Reef hooks at the ready; our current-expecting divers plunged into the turquoise waters. Met by only a mild current and an assortment of reef critters like a moray eel and a giant Barracuda – Taka swooped them up and flew off to our next dive. Shark Reef was a little bit more of a current dive as Peter and Roger were VERY happy to have had their reef hooks. Hooking in at the point of the 10m deep reefs, they witnessed 5 very healthy Black Tip Reef Sharks and 18 intimidatingly large Grey Whalers cruise past as they held on. Everyone was in smiles coming back to Taka. You guys wanted a current dive – told ya! A nice finish to the day was a relaxing dive called Ed's Wall. Hundreds of milkfish, oceanic triggers and yellowtails swooping in and out of the fans along the wall really impressed Gudrun. A sunset beer to finish the day – and wow – what a day!

Tanavula Wall – a beautiful wall encrusted with hard and soft corals and teeming with fish life. Jackie found 30 x swallowtail nudibranch all in one spot and showed our onboard Nudie lover – Thomas. How excited he was! 8 Devil Rays used the current to sail gently past the group, marking perhaps what was going to be an exciting day - and WOW – it sure was going to be. Roaring, screeching, cheering, yelling and high-fiving divers came back aboard Taka to tell an amazing tale of their dive at Barracuda Wall. 29 Devil Rays had circled them for over 18 minutes coming as close as 1 m to some divers like Ursula, who got the whole thing on camera! WOW! Simply stunning! It was time for a little history lesson as next dive was a Mavis. A Japanese seaplane; Kawashini H6K, 26m in length and 40m in wingspan and being mostly intact it is simply a stunning dive. The final dive for our gang was at historic Ghavutu Wharf. Amongst the wreckage of the former colonial port they managed to find a WW2 landing barge and two Japanese observation towers – encrusted by beautiful corals.

Twin Tunnels two lava tubes that end at 37m was our divers first dive of the day. Sharks hunting schools of yellow tail scad with tuna and Spanish mackerel. Final dive of the trip was at the Garbage Patch where Stefan and Eva searched for the bow of the Minneapolis. A great trip was finished off by a tour of Tulagi and lunch at the relaxing Raiders hotel. A glass out steam back to Honiara, with spinner dolphins riding the bow wave….ahhh paradise.