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Fiji - December 04 – December 15, 2014  

The day started with Sheba waking me at 03:00 a.m.  Since another hour of sleep was not likely to make much of a difference I got up, showered, enjoyed a cup of tea, and ate a bowl of cereal while watching Sportsnet.  At 04:30 a.m. I woke Drew and by 05:00 a.m. we were out the door and on the road.  I anticipated a smooth trip to the airport but, as we entered the 401 highway at Thickson Rd. traffic was almost completely stopped in all three lanes.  Turning on the radio to get a traffic report informed us that the 401 was down to one lane due to construction at Lakeridge Rd.  Fortunately the next exit was only 1km. away but it took us 15 minutes to reach it and get onto an alternate route.  Lots of other people had similar ideas so there was still a lot of traffic but at least we were making headway in the right direction.  We re-entered the 401 at Brock St. in Pickering and it was smooth sailing from there on in to the airport.  I had anticipated, or maybe it was just wishful thinking, that the airport would not be crowded so early in the morning.  Unfortunately the line-up at the Air Canada check-in already filled the available aisles and so I joined the queue and waited.  And then waited some more.  There were only three ticket agents on duty and two of them were servicing the priority boarders so the line was hardly moving at all.  Eventually I was pulled from the line in order to get processed in time to catch my flight.  Once I had my boarding pass and had paid the $150 extra baggage fee it was off to the baggage drop off area and security screening.  Once again I was pulled from the line to get me through security before my plane left.  Upon arriving at the departure gate they were already boarding the plane and I did not even have a chance to catch my breath.  There was lots of room on the plane and, after stowing my carry-on luggage, made a quick dash to the facilities.  Now I could relax and settle into my seat.  We were almost 30 minutes late leaving Toronto but the flight was smooth and uneventful.  I watched Robocop and The Jersey Boys on the entertainment screen, had a chicken wrap for lunch and almost managed a few moments of shut eye.  We arrived at LAX and although I had been assured that my luggage would be transferred to the Fiji flight I stopped at the baggage claim to make sure that it did not get unloaded.  While there I met a fellow from Toronto who was part of a film crew involved in some sort of documentary.  There were 9 of them in the group and their loaded luggage carts reminded me of some of the trips that I have taken with Jonathan Bird.  I shudder to think how much their excess baggage charges were.  The Fiji flight leaves from the next terminal which was several hundred yards away so I walked outside and up the stairs to the departure area.  Apparently it had been raining quite hard for the past two days in Los Angeles but the skies were sunny and it was nice to be in warm temperatures again.  My flight was not posted but I was informed that it would not show up on the board until about 5 hours before the flight.  So, I settled into a seat and waited.  At one point I even fell asleep but was dismayed to learn when I awoke that only 15 minutes had passed.  A young family sat down beside me and we engaged in conversation.  He was Australian and his wife was from Colombia so we whiled away several hours with interesting conversation.  At 04:30 the flight information was listed on the board so I went to the check-in area.  The gates did not open until 05:00 p.m. but when they did there were 6 ticket agents to process the 30 people who were in line.  It took only 5 minutes to get my boarding pass and another five minutes to go through security.  Upon entering the passenger area of the terminal we now had a choice of restaurants and so I followed the lead of a rather attractive young lady in front of me and ordered a healthy salad.  There were electrical outlets by the seats so I could charge the computer and catch up on the trip report.   By now it is 09:00 p.m. my time and I am starting to feel the effects of too little sleep. Our flight does not leave for another 3 hours so hopefully I will be able to get some sleep during the flight.  That was also wishful thinking.  Although the flight is more than 12 hours I only managed perhaps a couple of hours of intermittent sleep in some of the most uncomfortable positions imaginable.  My seat was directly in front of the washrooms so it was restricted as to how much the seat would recline.  During the flight I watched Planet of the Apes, 22 Jump Street and Guardians of the Universe as well as a couple of sessions of the TV show Nashville so that gives you an idea as to just how much shut eye was available.  Eventually we reached our destination and disembarked.  Getting through customs was a bit of a trial since there were six agents on duty but four of them were handling Fiji residents and passengers transferring to other flights so we waited in line for more than an hour.  Once processed through customs I gathered my gear and headed to security.  The security agent made me unload all my gear and then only took a cursory glance through one of my bags.  Upon exiting the terminal I could not remember the name of the hotel that Nai’a had booked me into for the day so had to ask assistance to determine where my reservation was.  Eventually we got it sorted out and the shuttle arrived to take me to the hotel.  Once checked in I made a quick move for the bed and almost immediately dropped off to sleep.  I had asked for a 12:00 noon wake-up call and once awake stepped into the shower, got dressed, enjoyed a hot cup of tea and then made my way to the lobby to await the transport vehicle.  He showed up 30 minutes late but I was greeted on the bus by Aurea, a Mexican lady, who had been diving with us at Socorro earlier in the year.  We picked up additional passengers and made our way to the harbour.  Upon arrival we learned that there would only be 7 of us on this trip and we each have our own cabins.  The crew out number us 2 to 1 so we can expect really special attention to all of our diving needs.  We settled in to our rooms, changed, prepped our dive gear and I got the camera and housing set up.  The camera facility aboard Nai’a is one of the largest that I have ever encountered and, apart from Marvin, there is nobody else in there making use of the facilities.  To top things off, there are five women and only Marvin and I to service them all.  Good thing he is young.  At the introductions I informed the ladies that I may not be as good as I once was but am still as good once as I ever was.  We had the boat briefing and the dive briefing and then it was time to assemble our gear and prepare for the check-out dive.  By 04:30 we were in the skiff and ready for dive one.  The site, Samu, was perhaps only 40’ deep with several bommies and limited photo opportunities but it sure felt good to be back under water.  Aurea and I buddied up during the dive and, apart from Marvin, were the last to exit the water.  Right at the end of the dive Aurea spotted a nudibranch which was difficult to film because of the surge.  Once back on the boat I showered, changed and shortly thereafter it was time for a delicious dinner of salad, followed by a salmon and rice dish with carrot cake for dessert.  After dinner Moe conducted the safety briefing and then I caught up on the trip report before settling into my bunk to catch up on some much needed rest.  I awoke several times throughout the night but was almost immediately able to fall back asleep.  However, the sound of the anchor being lowered is the alarm indicator that it is time to get up and prepare for the first dive of the day.  I made a cup of tea and then immediately after the dive briefing it was time to assemble at the stern to board the skiff.  Our first dive is at Coral Corner and we are blessed with a proliferation of multi-coloured soft corals lining the reef.  There is quite a bit of current that moves us along and swimming into it is exhausting.  Amanda, the dive guide, points out a Leaf fish but all too soon it is time to ascend for the safety stop.  At 20 feet the current whisks me over the reef to the far side where I am able to drop down into the lee of the coral to complete my safety stop.  The skiff picks me up and along with a couple of other divers takes us back to the boat.  Once out of our gear and dried off it is time for a breakfast of vegetable omelet, potatoes and bacon.  After breakfast Joshua, the other cruise director and dive guide, conducts an environmental lecture that shows us a lot of what type of creatures we can expect to find on our dives.  I retreat to the cabin to fill out the trip report and then it is time to get ready for dive two.  This dive was conducted at Maytag and we encountered a school of jacks and a school of barracuda.  We descended to 90 feet but unfortunately the battery died on the camera so I was not able to film.  Joshua pointed out a couple of leaf scorpionfish which would have made for excellent photo subjects.  The reef is covered with both hard and soft corals and the top of the reef is absolutely spectacular. Aurea and I both reached our air limit at the same time and ascended for our safety stop. Upon reaching the surface the skiff picked us up but the current at the surface was significantly stronger than down below and it was a challenge to hold onto the rope and get out of our gear.  Moshi, the skiff operator literally lifted Aurea right out of the water and into the skiff.  Back aboard the boat we rinsed our gear, dried off and dressed for lunch and I changed the battery in preparation for the next dive.  Lunch consisted of a very tasty soup and curried chicken.  The portions tend to be huge because the Fijians are by nature large people.  Not sure if I can keep up the pace without gaining weight.  The skies have been overcast all day and the winds are quite strong which makes it tricky to get into the skiffs safely.  The assistance provided by the staff is exemplary.  Our next dive is at a site called Mellow Yellow due to the proliferation of small yellow fish and bright yellow corals.  The scenery is spectacular.  We encounter a few white tip sharks patrolling through an opening and Amanda is exceptional at finding all the small creatures.  It is difficult to film them though since they tend to hide in crevices and I am not about to damage the reef just to get a few seconds of film.  Aurea and I tend to exhaust our air supply at the same time so at the end of the dive we ascended to the top of the reef for our safety stops.  There is a lot of life here and many photo opportunities.  After the dive they weighed anchor and we set off for another destination.  Our next dive is at Alacrity, a wall about 60’ deep.  Joshua finds all kinds of incredibly small creatures which are absolutely impossible to film with a wide angle lens.  He showed us a pair of pygmy squid that were less than ¼” long and Marvin found a nudibranch that was first discovered by Joshua that was less than 1/8” long.  After our dive we enjoyed a dinner of a delicious ginger and mango soup followed by red snapper and a poached pear and ice cream for dessert.  After dinner Marvin and I joined Amanda for the night dive at Alacrity. Unfortunately my light with the new bulb kept shutting off so it was quite frustrating trying to film.  After our dive I watched part of a movie on TV and then it was time for bed. 

The anchor being lowered woke me up and I hurried to get dressed and ready for the first dive but it was only 03:40 a.m. so I went back to bed for some more rest.  We awoke in the morning to a beautiful double rainbow that surrounded the house of David Gilmour, a Canadian gold billionaire.  He owns the entire island which hosts a resort that charges $1000/night and even his house can be rented out for a paltry $10,000/night.  After a cup of tea it was time to get ready for our first dive.  Almost immediately after reaching the rubble on the sea floor Dianne spotted a winged pipefish.  After everyone had their chance to see it Marvin and I moved in to film.  Then, Aurea found a second one just a few feet away.  By the time we had finished filming the rest of the group had disappeared around the reef.  The coral here is mostly hard but quite beautiful.  A lone manta ray swam past but was too far away to film.  I ran low on air first and was picked up by the skiff and waited for the rest of the group to board.  After changing into dry clothes it was time for breakfast after which Joshua regaled us with more environmental information.  Then it was time to get ready for the second dive of the day.   We were on the same wall but just further down at a site called Lion’s Den and the hard corals are once again quite spectacular.  Although the site was named for lionfish we only saw two of them and they are quite a bit smaller those that can be found in the Caribbean.  After our dive we had lunch and then it was time for a nap.  I woke up when they dropped the anchor but the dive briefing had already been conducted and the other divers were already boarding the skiff.  Aurea and I had both slept in and were late getting ready.  Not to worry, the skiff came back and took the pair of us out to Rick’s Rocks.  When entering the water I lost my mask but fortunately Aurea was able to retrieve it.  Eventually we joined the rest of the group and filmed a lot of nudibranchs and other small creatures on the bottom.  While ascending to our safety stop we came across the top of the reef which was just spectacular, a cacophony of colour with soft corals of every colour and anthias darting in and out of the reef.  It seems to me that Joshua and Amanda are somehow focused on finding all kinds of small stuff and are missing the big picture.  Aurea and I finished our dive while everybody else went back to the boat.  After we had rinsed our gear, showered and dried off it was time to get ready for the tour of a traditional Fiji village.  We were greeted by their chief and given a tour of their facilities. They are sponsored by the Fishing authority and are raising giant clams and hawksbill turtles to repopulate the area.  After the tour of the grounds which were first established as a leper colony in 1911 we were treated to a kava ceremony.  The bitter liquid leaves your lips and tongue numb and after several drinks I am certain that other parts of the body, most notably the brain, would go numb as well.  The children danced for us and the adults sang and then we all joined in for some traditional Fiji dancing.  There is an incredible sense of community in the village and the children were genuinely pleased to entertain us.  All too soon it was time to head back to the boat for dinner .  I had selected the filet mignon and it was cooked perfectly and extremely tender; my compliments to the chef.  After dinner we watched a short video of the restoration of Nai’a which took an entire year to complete.  Then it was time for bed since our first dive tomorrow is scheduled for 07:00 a.m. 

I again woke when the anchor was dropped but it was only 04:40 a.m. so it was back to bed again.  At 06:00 a.m. I got up, enjoyed a cup of tea and then woke Aurea to prepare for the first dive.  After the briefing we got into the skiff and set off for Anthia’s Avenue.  There are several large bommies at this site decorated with soft corals of just about every colour and the anthias dart in and out around the periphery.  Joshua located a sea snake deep inside a crevice, a couple of nudibranchs and a porcelain crab.  There was a bit of current here and crossing from bommie to bommie consumed quite a bit of air so I had to abort the dive early.  I was picked up by the skiff, returned to the boat and was able to treat myself to a hot shower since I was the first one back on the boat.  After updating the trip report it was time for breakfast.  Our next dive is at Jim’s Alley, a conglomeration of bommies that drop to about 60’ with the top of the reef at about 15’.  We were fortunate to dive the site at slack tide so were afforded plenty of opportunities to film the soft corals, anenomes and the creatures that have made their home here.  Unfortunately the hard corals had been decimated by a crown of thorns invasion and are only just beginning to recover.  After the dive we enjoyed a lunch of fish soup and salad which left us about 30 minutes to prepare for the next dive of the day.  We waited for the tide to turn and then dropped into the entrance to Nigali Passage.  The current was just ripping.  We encountered a couple of schools of barracuda and a school of jacks as we were whisked along through the channel.  Upon reaching a crevice in the coral we stopped to enjoy the main attraction.  A dozen or so grey reef sharks circled in the channel oblivious to the current.  It was almost impossible to film them because they did not approach closely and moving out from the crevice put you right into the teeth of the current.  Upon reaching our turn around air limit we launched into the current until we could take shelter behind the coral for our safety stop.  At the end of this dive I felt cold for the first time.  Many of the other divers have been complaining about the cold all week.  We have only briefly seen sunshine while it has been overcast and very windy all week.  The weather is certainly not conducive to working on the tan.  We did a second dive at Nigali Passage which was led this time by Moe.  The current had subsided significantly making it possible to film the school of barracuda and a lone white tip shark resting on the bottom. Once we reached the crevice Moe started feeding bread to the smaller fish which, in turn, excited the sharks and they approached us much more closely.  This time I was able to get some footage as there was quite a bit of action right in front of us.  When we reached our turnaround air limit we set off in a different direction to the shelter of the reef.  This afforded us even more photo opportunities including a tiny yellow goby embedded in a hole in a large brain coral.  We made our way back to the boat, rinsed our gear, luxuriated in a hot shower and then took a quick nap.  I was awakened in time for a dinner of tomato soup, roast pork with green beans and potatoes followed by a fruit cocktail and ice cream, all washed down with several glasses of wine.  After dinner a few of us stayed up until 9:30 watching “Lone Survivor” on the television.  Then it was once again time for bed. 

I woke up several times throughout the night and, once again, when the anchor was dropped. I checked the time but it was only 03:30 a.m. so it was back to sleep.  They lowered the skiffs at 06:00 a.m. which signaled that it was time to get up.  A cup of tea got the day started and then we prepared for our first dive which is at a site called Grand Central Station in the Namena Lagoon.  For the first time on this trip the sun is shining so I hope to see more vibrant colours amongst the coral and fish.  We dropped into the blue and fortunately Aurea spotted my lens cover which was drifting off into the distance.  We spent several minutes and more than 1000 psi just floating around with nothing to see.  Eventually I moved away from the group to the arch where there was at least some coral growth.  The current was quite strong going through the coral arch but there were few photo opportunities.  The group was moving towards another bommie so I followed them and completed my safety stop just behind the bommie out of the current.  Joshua asked me what the dive was like and I asked him if he wanted me to be completely honest.  When he responded in the affirmative I told him that it was pretty much a waste of an air fill.  And this is a site that they have touted as being one of their signature locations.  They moved the boat to the south side of the lagoon to take advantage of the tidal flow while we enjoyed breakfast.  Afterwards Joshua regaled us with more environmental behaviours, this time involving camouflage.  We prepared for our second dive of the day which will be held at a location called Tetons 3 to Tetons 1.  The dive plan involved circling the coral mounts descending as we go.  The reef is host to lots of corals, both hard and soft, gorgonians and sea fans with numerous small fish swimming in and out.  Joshua set about finding all the small stuff but, for the most part, I just stayed out of the way.  Aurea circled the bommie until we reached the sea floor but by this time everyone else had already left.  Unsure as to which direction they had gone we followed the directions given in the briefing and made our way to Tetons 1.  There is a lot of life and lots of colour on these bommies and photo opportunities abound.  We were able to complete the safety stop on top of the bommie but, even though there was plenty to film, the surge made things a bit of a challenge.  Then it was back in the skiff to dry off and get changed for lunch.  I slept for a bit after lunch but all too soon it was time to get back in the water.  We were diving Two Thumbs Up for our third dive of the day.  I altered my profile to film the top of the bommie and slowly worked my way around to the bottom.  Again there is lots of light and lots of colour.  The rest of the group poked around in the rubble to see who could find the smallest living creature.  Joining them is like engaging in a rugby scrum to see who can get a look at whatever tiny thing they have found.  For the most part I just kept my distance.  It seems odd to me that since Fiji is the soft coral capital of the world they seem to ignore the beauty of the reef in search of macro subjects. To each their own I suppose but it seems to me that they are completely missing the point.   Our last dive of the day is at Tetons II.  Aurea and I got separated from the group and so continued on amongst the surrounding bommies.  It was actually quite pleasant, just the two of us in relatively shallow water swimming from one reef to the next.  The strata was comprised mostly of hard coral with not as much interest as some of the larger bommies but I was able to film a couple of large clams along with all the requisite reef fish. Eventually we made our way back to Teton II and rejoined the group.  Soft corals and anemomes abound at the top of the bommie so it was a pleasant way to finish the dive.  After breaking down our gear and showering we sat down to a dinner of roast lamb shank.  Once again it was way more food than I could consume but absolutely delicious.  After dinner we assembled on the dive deck for a kava party.  The Fijian crew take up their instruments and they all sing the traditional Fijian songs.  After every second song they pass around coconut bowls filled with kava.  There is an almost immediate numbing of the lips and tongue and a mild sedation effect.  After several tunes and several bowls of kava the official part of the ceremony was concluded and some of the passengers retired to their rooms.  The group now played requests of popular songs and the kava continued to flow.  Aurea and I stayed with them although Aurea was not participating in the kava consumption.  At first they were filling my bowl to “low tide” but then it became “high tide” every time.  We finished off two large buckets of kava and then Suliana brought out a third bucket.  Fortunately the generator failed and we were suddenly immersed in pitch black darkness.  It felt as though we had all suddenly gone blind.  Using a flashlight I made my way to my cabin and settled into a deep sleep. 

The sound of the skiffs being lowered into the water woke me and I got up and made a cup of tea and a couple of slices of toast.  At 07:00 a.m., I woke Aurea and we prepared for our first dive.  We are back at Grand Central Station and Moe is leading us on the dive.  Again we set off into the blue but this time I was able to film the school of jacks as well as a solitary grey reef shark.  We made our way over to the arch where I filmed a Titan Triggerfish moving coral rubble away to get at some tasty morsel.  We allowed the current to whisk us along until we reached the bommie known as Kansas.  Here I was able to film a large green moray as well as the spectacular soft corals, anenomes and anemone fish. Then it was back to the boat for breakfast.  The environmental briefing has been postponed since Joshua and Amanda are conducting a rescue course.  After another very brief nap it was time to prepare for our next dive.  This site is called Schoolhouse and consists of several small bommies on top of the wall.  A school of barracuda swam out in the blue while the colourful reef fish dart in and out of the coral crevices.  Aurea and I were the first to run low on air so we ascended and were taken back to the boat.  After rinsing our gear we went up onto the sundeck to work on our tans.  Then it was time for lunch.  Another short nap and then it was time to prepare for dive four.  This time we are diving Magic Mushroom II, a large bommie that is shaped somewhat like a mushroom.  Big Moe led the dive in search of a pygmy pipefish which he was unable to find.  However, he did locate an adult and a juvenile blue ribbon eel.  Once again there is a profusion of life and colour on the reef.  I finished the dive on the top of the reef but the surge made it difficult to keep the housing steady.  Once back on the boat I needed to change film in the camera but, after doing so, the right hand grip trigger would not respond.  I swapped the right hand grip out for the spare one but it did not work either.  I checked the circuit board connections but could not determine what was causing the problem.  After several attempts I decided to break down the housing and put it away.  By now it was time to get ready for dive four.  We set off for Magic Mushroom I and I learned a few things.  First of all, your air lasts much longer when you are not pushing a large housing around.  Secondly, you see a lot more reef life since you can go much more slowly and get much closer to the fish.  Third, the fish do not swim away when you approach as if they have some sort of phobia about being filmed.  I circled the bommie over and over again, varying the depth to ensure that I saw all of it.  By the time that I completed my safety stop all of the other divers with the exception of Marvin, had left the scene.  We had to wait several minutes before the skiff returned to pick us up.  Once back on the boat I rinsed my gear and rinsed myself under the hot shower.  A few of the crew were enjoying some kava at the bow and they invited me to join them.  After a large bowl of kava I thought it best to get dry and before I was dressed it was already time for dinner.  I skipped the night dive since there did not seem to be much of a point without the camera.  Perhaps an early night is in order.  I got into my bunk and almost immediately fell asleep but awoke about midnight.  Unfortunately this time I was not able to immediately fall back asleep so contented myself with writing the trip report.  Eventually, about 02:30 a.m., I was able to fall back asleep.   

Joshua woke me at 07:10 and I barely had time to get ready for the first dive.  The site is called E6 since when it was first discovered they filmed it with Kodachrome E6 film.  It is a huge pinnacle that would probably take four or five dives to make it all the way around.  I used the GoPro camera to take pictures on this dive and we encountered several nudibranchs and a tiny ornate ghost pipefish. We finished the dive and got back to the boat where it was discovered that we had lost Renee.  Fortunately the seas were calm and there was not much current so before too long she was seen drifting off in the distance. The skiff immediately set out to retrieve her.  After drying off and changing it was time for breakfast. After breakfast Joshua showed us another environmental video and then it was time to get ready for the next dive.  This site is called Mount Mutiny since it is near where Captain Bligh was cast adrift with 17 sailors during the mutiny on the Bounty.  The wall is spectacular with multi-coloured soft corals adorning every square inch of space.  We completed the dive just in time for lunch.  We are doing our last dive of this trip on Mount Mutiny but this time the sun has put in another appearance.  We dropped into the water a little farther back to see more of the reef.  It is a shame that I was not able to film this reef since the corals are some of the most spectacular that we have seen.  After the dive we rinsed our gear and hung it up to dry on the sun deck.  Then it was time to start packing.  I slept for a bit until it was time for the chef’s farewell dinner.  This was a self serve affair with a mixture of many of the meals that we have enjoyed on the trip.  Afterwards Joshua showed a slide presentation of some of the pictures that were taken on the trip.  Then we stowed our wet gear in the engine room since it had started to rain and most people retired to their berths to continue packing.  Aurea and I watched some of my videos on the TV until it was time for bed. 

I was awoken by the sound of the anchor being raised, got dressed and finished packing.  Then it was time to pay the bill and have a quick continental breakfast.  The bus arrived to take us to our respective destinations and we said our goodbyes to the crew. I was dropped off at the Raffles hotel and settled into my room.  I have a 32 hour layover and there are only 5 channels on the TV, with two of them showing CNN.  I had lunch by the pool but retreated to the room since the air conditioning is a welcome respite from the heat.  Later in the day I strolled through the grounds and then enjoyed dinner again by the pool.  I slept well throughout the night, waking up about 09:00 a.m.  After showering and enjoying a cup of tea it was time to pack my things and check-out of the hotel.  My flight does not leave until 06:10 p.m. so there will be quite a wait in the hotel lobby.  The airport is just across the road from the hotel so getting there should not be a challenge.  I ate lunch about 01:00 p.m. in the hopes that it would keep me nourished until aboard the plane.  Fiji Airways still serves a hot meal on their flights, a throwback to the good old days of air travel, so I can be assured not to go hungry on the way to Honolulu.  The shuttle bus took me to the airport and I checked through quickly and made my way to the duty free store.  We boarded on time but the plane had to make a stop to refuel before we could make it all the way to Honolulu.  Another long flight with dubious in-flight entertainment and an uncomfortable sleep left me exhausted by the time we landed.  Fortunately my seat was in the front half of the plane so I was spared an even longer wait to get through customs and immigration.  I made my way outside to see about getting transportation to the hotel.  The courtesy phone was practically useless but a shuttle bus driver helped me to try to get picked up by my hotel shuttle.  Her efforts were no better than my own so she just gave me a ride.  It was 04:30 a.m. by the time I reached the hotel lobby and was told that my reservation was for the following day.  The choice was to check-in right away and check out by 11:00 a.m. or wait until 06:00 a.m. and check-out whenever.  I opted to wait the ninety minutes but it was a real challenge trying to stay awake.  Eventually I checked in and by 06:30 was fast asleep.  The Hawaiian marathon was scheduled for later in the day and it was raining and really windy.  I only slept for about five hours and then watched the Seahawks beat San Francisco and the Maple Leafs beat Los Angeles.  Then I made my way to the restaurant for lunch.  Now I understand why the hotel only gets 2 stars; it is a Chinese restaurant and the food is not particularly good.  Unfortunately there is no other alternative choice available.  Twenty minutes after returning to my room I experienced a bout of diarrhea, just the sort of thing you want to take with you to the airport prior to a 9 hour flight.  After checking out of the hotel at 09:00 p.m. the shuttle bus took me to the airport and there were only a few people in front of me in line.  However, both my bags were now overweight; something to do with adding wet scuba gear and a litre of scotch to my dive bag.  So, the attendant made me remove some things, except for the bottle of scotch, and place them in my carry on.  The good news is that they did not charge me $150 for the second bag.  The bad news is that the flight is delayed an hour due to having to clear ice from the plane before take-off in Vancouver.  So we wait and then wait some more.  Eventually we are cleared to board and settle into our seats.  More bad news; Air Canada no longer provide in-flight entertainment, pillows or blankets on long haul international red eye flights.  Whoever designed air plane seats should be made to spend twelve hours in them trying to sleep; my back may never recover.  After what seems to be an interminably long time the captain announces that we are descending for our landing in Toronto.  We disembark, make our way through customs and immigration and then proceed to collect our luggage.  Due to the oversize nature of the housing case it is always the last piece of luggage unloaded and so, consequently, I am the last passenger to leave the airport.  I contact Drew who is waiting in the parking garage and he picks me up and we set off for home.  By this time we are in the throes of rush hour and we both question how people are able to drive in this traffic every day.  Once back in Brooklin we pop into the new local pub for dinner and then finally make it back home.  The gear is unpacked and hung up to dry and then a hot cup of tea reminds me why it is so good to be home.  I am fading fast from the travails of the past three days of travel and by 08:00 p.m. head off to bed.  I wake up about 12:30 and decide that since I am wide awake might just as well do my laundry and upload a couple of videos to the computer.  By 04:30 a.m. I am sufficiently tired enough to go back to sleep and don’t wake up again until 11:00 a.m.  It will still take a few more days to recover from the jet lag though. 

The Good:  The Fijian people are the most welcoming people that I have ever met on my travels.  They go out of their way to assist you, are friendly and are genuinely happy with their lot in life; then again they virtually live in paradise.  The liveaboard Nai’a is exceptionally well appointed and has ample work and storage space for cameras and housings.  The food is very well prepared and the portions are extremely generous. 

The Bad:  It was disappointing that, although we were diving in a marine preserve, the dive guides allowed several divers to wear gloves and one in particular, the photographer in the group, could not take a picture without first grabbing a hand hold of whatever living coral provided the most support.  I admonished him on one occasion but he took no notice.  As far as I know the dive guides never mentioned to him that he was killing coral with every picture that he took.  Although we were diving in an area known as the soft coral capital of the world the dive guides seemed intently focused on seeing who could find the smallest living creature amongst the rubble.  It seemed to me to be a case of not being able to see the forest for the trees. 

The Ugly:  Getting to Fiji and back is certainly not half of the fun.  The layovers at the airports are excessively long and the return leg from Honolulu to Toronto via Air Canada was excruciating.  There was no in-flight entertainment provided and, even though it was a 9 hour international red eye flight, no pillows or blankets were offered unless you were prepared to pay for them.                        

 

 

Katyk Briceño
"Amazing!!! Beautiful!!" 
 
Daniel LaFrance  
"Beautiful, akin to an underwater spiritual experience of sorts."
 
Walter Marshall   
"Whenever I watch your videos I am just taken away." 
 
Shaun Diaz   
"Well done, very well done. Mysterious, gorgeous and deeply inspiring... The best part is I am not naming any of it. It is nature in its most perfect and beautiful form." 
 
Christie Lopez  
"David...the video is beautiful and so is the music!! I love the music!!!!" 
 
Brian Dodd
"I just wanted to thank you for the moments of peace and beauty these clips brought to my hectic life."