Central and Western Province - August 16 to 26, 2016

 We took a tour of Peava School after enjoying a carving market. Thanks to all our guests who brought school supplies with them as part of Pack for a Purpose.

We took a tour of Peava School after enjoying a carving market. Thanks to all our guests who brought school supplies with them as part of Pack for a Purpose.

Welcome Aboard Everyone!  It's a quiet group arriving for our long range trip ... could it be the jetlag?  We are welcoming back repeat offenders; Andrew and Mary - who had so much fun last week - they decided to stay on for more adventures and silliness with the crew.

Day 1 – White Beach was our splashdown point for our checkout dives. Divers Alex and Stephen were particularly excited by a friendly two-spotted goby, spending quality time in the shallows. A bit deeper, we are exploring ammunition, forklifts and overturned trucks.  Later, we raced to our next location ... Kaukau. Fighting against a mild current, the site offered a rare pippy-long-stockings anemone fish with a photogenic smile for cameras, especially Ellen’s!. The next stop at Funnel was a splash of culture with a local spear-fisherman going about his day in the shallows and a friendly soccer game on the beach. By chance, we found a blue anemone with clownfish and even a porcelain crab. Our last stop of the day, Custom Cave was one to remember! Following the cave into the darkness and slowly ascending the chimney-like inside to the surface, divers were greeted by luscious green overhang of foliage.

Day 2: A mild crossing to Mbulo Island overnight and we are ready for our first dive of the day. Divers back-rolled into the watery blue at the Korner and are greeted by a school of more than 15 bump head parrotfish. Ellen and her camera went into action. Following the wall around, divers soon realized a strong current was forming and everyone used their trusty reef hooks to briefly enjoy the crazy ride. Alex got a great workout in the current, one hand holding his body weight on the reef hook - the other holding the same weight of his sizeable camera! South West Male Male proved also to be an interesting dive. Seeing grey reef and grey whaler sharks, the dive turned into an amusing ride of horizontal swell 5m each way. Taka retreated back into Mbulo Island Bay for a night and even a fluro dive which Blaise particularly liked.

Day 3: Anchored at Mbulo Bay overnight, everyone was glad to get good night's sleep. Our first dive was at Kavachi Corner: stunning! Andrew had a great time reef-hooking and watching the grey whalers cruise past. Amos and John were out busy taking HD photos even in strong currents – good on em! The rest of the divers got shown an amazing display of sharks hunting the countless trevally and barracuda. Dive two held more of the same for Andrew and Mossy, while everyone else took the slightly less rollercoaster option of Picnic, a great place for checking out critters in the shallows.  Before lunch we were treated to a carvers market onPeava, where we met some of instructor John’s pikininis and Gladys, the local school teacher. Rolex and the carvers showed off their finest carvings with Alan snapping up an armful of bargains. The kids exchanged songs for lollies and everyone left happy. Next up was Male Male Lagoon which boasted crocodile fish and some interesting anemone fish with unusual markings. The final dive of the day was a relaxing cruise around Mbulo Bay where James and Alex found a hawksbill turtle and Alan, Stephen and Jackie witnessed two kinds of anemonefish fighting over the same anemone. Anchored for the night at Karanjou, we watched the sharks circle the boat.  

Day 3: Live dropping in at the Nose was an exciting wall dive. Gigantic gorgonian fans had cameras flashing and the macro fans like Mary looking hard for tiny stuff. A couple of grey whalers came to say hello, swimming within arms reach of John. Drifting along the wall at Kokoana Passage, again sharks came in close to check out the group. Hiding amongst the whips and fans along the wall were many little critters and crabs, which James had a good eye for. Everyone saddled up for the south side of the passage and were met by two opposing currents along with zooming Barracuda and Jacks along the wall. “Must be a good place to go fishing”, Thomas would have thought, as moments later his line struck and caught a 1.7m Wahu. Another encounter of sharks at Karanjou, when Skipper Dan threw fish scraps near divers holding onto the mooring line. Thrashing sharks stalking their prey just inches away from Mary, Amos, Blaise and Mossy! Andrew and Stephen decided to go on a ‘boys only sunset fishing tour’ around the Island and came back victorious. Stephen skillfully produced some beautiful cuts of sashimi from his Trevally. The excitement for the day didn’t end there as the brave night divers returned with tales of a curious octopus. Lets see what tomorrow has in store for us!

Day 4: Arrived at Mary Island after a night filled with up-down-left-right swells with Dan navigating us through the night. The first dive at Mary's Bommies was quite spectacular where guest Mary finds another octopus, and Blaise and Alex do some amazing swim-throughs. Trevally Point was filled with intense currents and huge fish-life. From Barracuda to Trevally, Andrew was in his favorite element. Baracudda Point was a more mild current and divers got quite a show as a fish-nado slowly started to form out of hundreds of Trevally. A feathery sea star attached itself to Alan as it was drifting along in the current giving everyone a little underwater giggle. Both Rita and Luke deserve a tremendous round of applause as they did yet another Discover Scuba Dive going to 8m with Mike. Last dive of the day, divers once again chose to go to Barracuda Point to see baby reef sharks and grey whalers. Overnight, it was a relatively short crossing to the Russell Islands from Mary Island, yet quite an adventurous one as swells and winds picked up.

 Mossy and Mike educate our guests on the Crown of Thorns starfish and the eradication program we have undertaken on board.

Mossy and Mike educate our guests on the Crown of Thorns starfish and the eradication program we have undertaken on board.

Day 5: Everyone got that well needed sleep as Dan moored Taka strategically in the calmest bay in the whole Russell Island chain; Mane Bay. Only a few motivated divers fought their way out of bed for the fist dive at Blue Wall. Ask Amos, Mary, Alex, Stephen or Andrew and I’m sure they would all agree: “It was well worth it”. Pristine reef and amazing shallows with overhanging trees from the island made for a spectacular start to the day. Mirror Pond, our next dive site, had everyone excited. Either to the possibility of seeing a crocodile or the beautiful rays of sunlight penetrating the freshwater pond ... no one will know. Photographers like Ellen and Amos, Andrew and Mary surely got some great photos there! Leru Cut had photographers once again excited. Alan made a great model of a Hiroshima bomb, as he kicked his way back out of the cavern leaving the tender ride back to Taka filled with laughter and slightly sandy gear. It seemed like everyone went to sleep for the 4th dive of the day at NE Mane with a meager 3 divers plunging in. The 5th dive we had a total of 0! Andrew and Stephen made the most of the opportunity and went fishing, coming back just at dark settled in to deliver two good sized Barracuda. Meanwhile Mary made friends, handing out sugary lollies to kids from the local village, who had paddled over in their canoes.

Day 6: We are kicking off the morning with an exciting dive at Bat Cave. Dark and gloomy, the cave made for a spectacular surface inside. Even for the macro fans there were two hidden pygmy seahorses which Shaz managed to find. At out next dive site, Karamulon divers had a great time reef hooking in a current as schools of barracuda zoomed past. 15 grey whalers and even an eagle ray was spotted by Alex. Mary had a less fortunate dive as her camera housing flooded but we quickly got it drying in a bowl of rice. Hope it gets better Mary! A surprise beach picnic for lunch had everyone stretching their sea legs on the sandy white beach, snorkeling and playing beach volleyball. Coconuts and pizza for lunch: what more could you want? Rita almost fell out of the tender as the crew decided to rev the tender extra hard making a funny sight from shore. Rainbow Reef once again showed an eagle ray, which Andrew spotted. Stephen spotted a crocodile fish at the float line, and in the distance a triggerfish building a nest made for an interesting dive. The last dive of the day was at a small island called Kisan. Fish Market made for a perfect finish to the day with moderate currents and fields and fields of stag horn coral where grey whalers cruised past the group. Crossing over to the Foridas tonight! Lets hope its pothole free!

Day 7: Moored safely overnight at one of our favorite sites: Baby Cakes. Ellen was fortunate to find 5 eagle rays swimming together, and James was approached by a manta ray! What a way to kick off the day! Off to Passage Rock where guests were astounded by the current and hanging on for a rollercoaster ride. Third up was Tanavula Point which Blaise enjoyed just for the sheer beauty of the wall. The final dive of the day was the Catalina, where Amos did some camera work with a thousand lights. It was a particular favourite of Andrew, our rust lover.

Day 8: Twin Tunnels was a nice early morning wake up for our gang with a fairly deep dive. Another highlight for intrepid explorer Andrew and his trusty little pony bottle buddy who loved exploring the nooks and crannies around the tunnels. The Mavis & Ghavutu Wharf were the final site of the trip with Shaz leading the muck divers on a hunt for hidden macro and Mike taking the lead for the rustheads on the Mavis. A great trip capped with a bumpy truck ride for a land tour round Tulagi, a rain shower and a few candies for the local kids. Relaxing at the bar with kiwi Bob at Raiders was the perfect end.

Thanks to everyone joining us!

Trip Directors: Jackie and Mike