Tuesday, December 30, 2008


It was a FABULOUS party last night! The Pavilion was decorated as a Borneo Rainforest and the staff sang and danced and had tons of games for us to play! A wonderful time was had by all....

Time to get on the plane to Singapore.....enjoy the photos!

Busy, busy, busy! Too busy diving to edit photos & try and keep the blog updated!
Dives have been done on Paradise 1, Paradise 2, Sipadan Island, Siamil Island and Mabul & Kapalai! Everyone is having a wonderful time....up to four dives a day for some of us! Sightings have ranged from the smallest of nudibranchs to giant sleeping turtles!
Bob & I did a late afternoon dive on Paradise 2 the other afternoon and had a blast finding critters! The best part of the dive was the yawning crocodilefish! I settled down in front of him for a face shot and after the strobes flashed in his eyes, he gave me two HUGE yawns...I think he was trying to scare me away! They don't have any teeth as you can see from the inside of his huge jaw in the photo! I was so excited I squealed underwater and everyone heard me and knew that something "cool" had happened!
Tomorrow is our last day of diving...so sad, but we're all looking forward to the New Year's Eve party and then onward on Thursday to Singapore for our 3 day adventure there! Hopefully once we get to Singapore I'll have time to do some more photo editing!
It's been a quick stay here at the Water Village. Unfortunately you wait so long for the holiday to start and then once you arrive, the time goes so quickly! Hope everyone has a safe New Year's Eve and I'll update again in a day or so!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Yesterday & today the two boats were able to do three dives at Sipadan Island, so that means schools of jacks, barracuda, turtles, turtles & MORE turtles as well as beautiful hard & soft corals. Dives were done at Barracuda Point, Mid Reef, South Point, North Point and Hanging Garden. Everyone loved seeing and diving with all the fantastic turtles. Sharks cruised in and around the reef and schools of pyramid butterflyfish and unicornfish & red-lipped triggerfish circled us as we swam along the reef.
The weather is sunny and very warm...we had a little bit of rain and some wind and clouds yesterday, but overall it's been fantastic! The staff is working hard at planning the festivities for New Year's Eve and it's hard to believe we only have 2-1/2 more days of diving here...where DOES the time go?
Everyone sends their best regards!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

It's another day in Paradise! We did two dives today at a new place for us...SiaMil, an island about 45 minutes from Mabul. Great dives along a nice wall with lots of stuff to look at. First dive had blue ribbon eels, cuttlefish, TWO pgymy seahorses (1/4") and lots of other cool stuff. Second dive had a giant pink frogfish, peacock mantis shrimp and crocodile fish galore along with lots of hard & soft corals...really, really beautiful!Third dive of the day was over at Maki Point at Kapalai. It was a great dive to start with....robust ghostpipefish, ornate ghostpipefish, mantis shrimp, shrimp gobies and nudibranchs. Bob & I were tailing behind the group and making our safety stop at 15' when Ron, our diveguide, wrote the magic words on his slate..............BLUE RING! Wow, thank goodness we both had plenty of air left in our tanks! It was our very first blue ring and even though we'd seen pictures and knew they were small...it was still hard to realize that it was an octopus! They are only about 2-1/2" long and change colors as they cruise the reeftop feeding...needless to say, our cameras got quite a workout! Enjoy a couple of the pictures!Tomorrow 1/2 of the group will head to Sipadan Island for three dives. It's now a World Heritage site and they are severely limiting the number of divers per day. With almost a dozen resorts in the immediate area, it certainly limits the number of times you can dive there during a vacation, so we'll probably have to be content with only one day of diving there for each diver...which makes all of us sad because it's such fabulous diving, but in the interest of protecting the fragile reefs and the fantastic turtle population, we certainly understand.....

That's all for today...hope everyone's holidays are being spent sharing quality time with families & friends.

Well, it's Christmas Day in Malaysia....and we had three fabulous boat dives today....Eel Valley, Lobster Wall (no lobster!) and Don King Yama at Kapalai.
Everyone has finally gotten enough rest to be fully recovered from the travel travails & the last two pieces of missing luggage (including dive gear) arrived early today, so we've got some happycampers now! Sightings today included turtles, schools of bream, a juvenile blue ribbon eel still in his black phase as well as a "true" blue ribbon eel just a few feet farther down the reef. Everyone had exciting things to talk about after the dives and lots and lots of photos were taken...it's amazing what some fabulous diving can do to erase the stresses of travel!
Christmas Eve is a much bigger celebratory event than Christmas Day so last night's dinner included turkey & gravy along with some of the other trimmings. A Yule Log was also presented for dessert. Because the Christian staff had the evening off to go into Semporna for Christmas Eve services, our Muslim staffers serenaded us with Christmas Carols. The veranda was decorated with a Christmas tree, snowman & gingerbread houses. The guests all joined in singing the Christmas carols and then some of the staff entertained us with their fantastic dancing skills. We even had a performance from the "Miss Mabul" contestants..some of the male dive staff dressed as dancing girls! Those "gals" sure can dance!
We're enjoying the hot, sunny weather and calm seas...we're also thinking of our friends and family back home in the snow, ice & cold....we wish you were with us! Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas from Malaysia from the whole gang!


Well, planes (not on time), trains (not this time) & automobiles or vans as the case may be, we are FINALLY here! The weather in Detroit on Friday, which we thought had cleared up by the time we arrived the airport on Saturday, delayed our flights, cancelled our flights and then had to be re-routed to get to JFK on Sunday, at LaGuardia instead of Kennedy, by the way, so we could catch our Singapore Air flight out Sunday night. We saw a small portion of NYC traveling from LGA to JFK and then headed east...very east! It's a long, sad story, best left for recalling when the sting of the delays isn't still so painful! But we are all here and ready to have a fantastic diving holiday.....

We arrived here at the beautiful Sipadan Water Village the morning of the 24th, instead of the late afternoon of the 22nd! We were greeted with smiling faces and fruit drinks and as soon as everyone checked into their rooms, off to the Dive Centre we went. First a shore "orientation dive" for those new to the Resort....I think I recall hearing about seeing pipehorses, batfish, cardinal fish, cleaning stations, a school of squid.....those are just a few of the things the "newbies" saw! Lunch came next and then for those still awake, the first boat dive....more to follow on the diving!

Christmas Eve dinner is being set up on the reception veranda with a snowman, lots of beautiful decorations and table settings....pictures will follow tomorrow! For now, Merry Christmas, everyone, from beautiful Malaysia!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Holidays in Malaysia!

Well, we're off to Sipadan Water Village in Malaysia on the 20th...arrival at the Resort is the 22nd...keep an eye on the blog for (hopefully) daily updates of our diving & Holiday celebrations! Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah & Happy New Year to all!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Please don't open the comment!

Hello all...I've been told that there's a comment to my posting last week that has been infected with a virus, so please don't open that comment!

I'll update the blog in a few days with some photos of the beautiful Hamanai Resort along with a few more diving photos.....a great time was had by all!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Well, internet connection is not the best but here goes!

Monday's dives were more successful than today! We saw a "baby" whaleshark on our first dive....it was between 20-25 feet long and absolutely beautiful! It approached us gradually and actually came directly into both Kim's and Jenny's faces! Talk about a face-to-face encounter!

Today we got "skunked" on our two dives....lots of snapper spawning below us, but no whalesharks to greet us! Some of the group has decided to try again tomorrow....

Weather here is glorious and everyone is having a great time.....will update again when possible!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Off to Belize during Whale Shark Week!

On Saturday the 19th of April the group leaves for Belize and Hamanasi Resort, http://www.hamanasi.com . Hamanasi is located south of Belize City, in the Stann Creek District, and Hopkins. It's an ultra-deluxe resort located in the rainforest, but more importantly to us divers, it's only one and one-half hours by boat to Gladden Spit!

Gladden Spit is an area in the Belize Barrier Reef zone where several years ago fishermen, divers & scientists found whale sharks congregating during the full moons of April, May & June when the cubera snapper are spawning. The area is now strictly regulated to lessen the impact of too many divers and/or snorkelers and the regulating authority issues permits to dive & snorkel operations during the full moon weeks. The cost per diver for the opportunity to dive in the area is $190.00 each time!

Of course, as with any wild creatures, there are no guarantees of whale shark sightings but we're all hopeful to get several permits next week to dive in the area and have successful sightings!

Keep an eye on the blog during the week...internet access is somewhat limited, but barring any difficulties & success at Gladden Spit, I'll upload some current whale shark photos! The photo here is a shot my husband, Bob, took several years ago in Utila when we had a very briefing snorkeling encounter with this beauty!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

NAI’A thru Friday, 08FEB08…..

After a day at Namena Marine Park, it became apparent that weather conditions there were not optimal for the best diving, so we pulled anchor and headed closer to Vanua Levu and all the Nai’a dives sites there…

We dove Rob’s Knobs, Ron’s Rocks, Rick’s Delights, UndeNaiable, Humann Nature, Cat’s Meow, E-6 and many other beautiful sites. Currents ranged from mild to medium, visibility wasn’t the best – maybe 60’, but we saw lots and lots of sharks, blue-spotted stingrays, giant grouper, schools of many spotted sweetlips & different types of fusilers. The hard corals on some sites were heavily damaged on the tops of the reefs but the staghorn & table corals are the fastest growing, so they will recover quickly. The deeper hard corals had minimum storm damage and the sea fans and soft corals everywhere were unaffected.

The swim-thrus on some of the sites were amazing…full of giant sea fans and soft corals of every color. One of the swim-thrus contained a 300 lb + grouper! Lionfish were tucked under overhangs and swimming out in the blue. Several blue ribbon eels were seen and photographed, many nudibranch varieties were spotted and the usual Pacific marine life was vibrantly beautiful.

My favorite site of the whole trip was Cat’s Meow, named after Cat Holloway. Cat is an underwater photographer and wife of Rob Barrel who’s one of the Nai’a owners and who, incidentally, joined us on this trip. It was great fun seeing the video of evolution of the Nai’a from a booze cruise party boat into the beautiful Fijian sailing vessel she is today..and seeing Rob in shoulder-length blonde curly hair at a slightly younger age!

Back to Cat’s Meow…..what a gorgeous dive site! A huge swim-thru full of amazing colors, a gorgeous bommie totally encrusted in hard corals from the sea floor up to the top with lots of leather corals, black coral bushes, other soft corals and tons & tons fish life swarming it. The top 1/3 of the bommie is covered in fluorescent red anemones full of tomato clownfish skipping about…the rest of the bommie is covered in table corals and other hard and soft corals with anthias of every color skimming over the top, schools of trevally and fusiliers crusing by and hawkfish jumping from coral head to coral head!

This was a fabulous trip, in spite of the weather! We all know that you can’t predict when things like cyclones will decide to appear but the Captain and crew did their darndest to give us high quality diving. Safety is paramount so some of the dive sites they wanted to dive were not available to us, they found us more than suitable replacements. The tender drivers were there with “Bulas” the moment our heads broke the surface and handled our gear as if it were their own. Peni, the chef, and Suli & Seri were fabulous in taking good care of our non-diving needs.

One of our fellow passengers, Debbie Lathrop, wrote us a trip poem and has given me permission to share it with you….enjoy! It was, indeed, a trip of a lifetime!

Six divers out
Six divers in
With tales to tell…
About their swim.

Bubbles & bullshit…
Were bantered & braved
And the underwater antics…
Leaned towards the depraved.

Frantic poking & pointing…
And peering into the dark
All in hopes of a peek
At a white tip reef shark.

And rewarded they were…
For their dive guides knew best
Where the nudibranchs hang out…
And the trigger fish nest

The lights went out….
It rained like heck,
Even the squid left the ocean…
And littered the deck!

But the girls kept us fed
And kava filled the boat
We sang silly love songs
And made sounds like a goat

The seas were not calm
And the sun did not shine
But the trip will be remembered…
As ONE in a lifetime!

Debbie Lathrop

About that village visit!

Makogai Island was a Leper Colony from just after the turn of the 20th Century until the 1960’s. Everyone living there when they turned it into the Leper Colony was forced to leave the island and look for homes elsewhere. Our host for our visit was the current Chief, Chief Watson, and his family relocated to Suva where he went to school and lived for many years.

The Leper Colony had a very large hospital, a cinema and a jail as well as housing for the doctors and nurses and then cottages for the lepers, segregated by race, Fijian, Indo-Fijians, & Tongans.

When the colony was closed in the 1960’s, the local villagers were allowed to return to Makogai and resume their lives there. After a rousing welcome by the whole village at the shore, we had a tour of the grounds with Chief Watson, saw the cinema and could look at the jail, but because of the cyclone damage, couldn’t get close enough for a guided tour. The generator powering the village dates back to 1911 and was one of two that was left when they closed the Colony and is still providing electricity to the local villagers! For all these years they’ve been using spare parts from the second one to keep the first one operating!

After the tour, we were invited into their community house where we were “officially” welcomed by the chief and our Nai’a chief, Eddie, gave a greeting on behalf of the Nai’a and her guests and presented the village with a gift of kava. We then participated in their kava ceremony and watched several groups of school children perform local dances and songs for us. One of Chief Watson’s main concerns is not allowing the local culture, songs & traditions die out so the children are schooled by the elders in Fijian culture & traditions as well as regular schooling. Everyone speaks English since English is the official language of Fiji, but all children are raised speaking their own dialect of Fijian.

After the school children finished their dancing and singing, all of us were gathered up by individuals and we all performed several dances together! After we were worn out from all the dancing, the whole village sang us the Isa Lei (farewell) song and escorted us back to our waiting tenders and back to the Nai’a. It was a lovely visit and so wonderful to see the culture being handed down to the next generations.

NAI’A….Tuesday, February 5

An early morning journey brought us from Namena Marine Preserve to Makogi Island. With the remaining effects from Cyclone Gene still exhibiting themselves, it was decided to leave Namena and look for calmer waters.

The first dives were split between Becky’s and Rick’s Rocks. We dove with Captain Johnathan and dropped into calm waters…we made our way along the pinnacle just observing all the marine life to be seen. With the flashing of John’s “torch” , we headed over to see what amazing critter he may have found…..it was a HAIRY ghostpipefish…our first ever! It was tucked into a little crevice on a small patch of coral, red in color and totally awesome!

Other sightings on the dive were a beautiful white leaf scorpionfish, lots of different nudibranchs and then a beautiful banded sea snake hunting along the top of the reef!

When we surfaced, Johnathan told us that we’d missed “Becky’s” but that we were at “old Becky’s” and we were renaming it “Hairy’s”!

For the second dive, we went to Rick’s Rocks and the other tender went to “Hairy’s” and Johnathan found a second, smaller, hairy ghostpipefish, so there was a pair there!

Rick’s was also covered in hard and soft corals and an eagle ray was spotted out in the blue and a juvenile rockmover wrasse sighted.

Dive three was at Ron’s Delight and it was, indeed, delightful! It was time to take out the wide angle lens (finally) and it wasn’t a disappointment! The coral bommie is totally covered in soft corals of every imagineable color. We also spotted two pairs of lionfish cruising along the walls of the bommie and watched a small turtle chomping on a sponge near the top of the reef. The reef-top was amazingly covered in all shades of pink hard & soft corals…a most beautiful dive, one for which Fiji has earned the title “Soft Coral Capital” of the World!

After the third dive, it was time for our village visit….more later!

NAI’A on Monday, February 4…..

Welcome to our 2nd full day aboard Nai’a. We left Vatu I Ra early, early in the morning and headed to the Namena Marine Preserve Area….the local village on Namena had requested that a very large area around their island be set aside as a Marine Preserve and that request was granted a number of years ago. A $25 Fijian fee is levied on all guests diving in the Marine Preserve and it’s a “no take” zone so no fishing or collecting of specimens is allowed inside the preserve.

Our 1st dives were at either Teton I or Teton II depending on tenders, and both groups found that Cyclone Gene was still exerting a hold on diving conditions! Visibility was not at a normal level and the currents were totally unpredictable, but critters large and small were spotted by everyone. Sharks were seen, lots of various nudibranchs, leaf scorpionfish, schools of trevally and jacks and fusiliers were collecting at the head of each pinnacle to take advantage of the currents and food supply.
The top of both pinnacles are totally covered in lots of hard corals and literally thousands of anthias and clownfish! Unfortunately, with the strong currents, it was hard to enjoy them to the fullest, but hawkfish cavort on the reef tops and unicorn fish are seen off the tops of the bommies….safety stops were challenging to say the least!

After two dives at Teton I & II, the usual scenario is to cross the lagoon and dive North Save-A-Tack passage on an incoming tide. Well, much to everyone’s chagrin, apparently the lagoon was too full to allow an incoming tide! That’s one of the things that oceanic swells from cyclones can do, apparently! Anyway, after waiting a bit to see if perhaps the tide would, indeed, change, it was decided to dive the wall next to the passage instead. Several sharks were seen cruising the wall and a great dive was had by all.
The dusk dive was done at Two Thumbs Up and the bommie was covered in soft corals of all colors, pipefish flitting across the reef and sharks seen out in the distance!

The day ended with the Kava Party after dinner. The Fijian have beautiful voices and everyone participates in the kava party. Traditional Fijian songs are sung as well as popular contemporary favorites. The guests are welcome with the traditional kava drink and lots of music and merriment….a grand time was had by all!

NAI’A Sunday, 03FEBRUARY….

BULA and welcome to our Nai’a trip!
We boarded mid-afternoon on Saturday and after a greeting by our hostess for the trip, Sonia, and introductions of our fellow guests, we settled into our cabins and set up our dive gear. The normal Nai’a protocol is a short cruise out on boarding day to do a “check-out” dive so everyone can make sure their gear is functioning properly. Because of the cyclone, it was decided to forego our dive on Saturday afternoon and remain at the dock while the remnants of the storm left the area.

Late in the evening, Captain Johnathan headed east, remaining in the lagoon, hugging the northern coast of Viti Levu. Apparently Cyclone Gene wasn’t ready to release his grip on Fiji yet! It was a very smooth sailing inside the lagoon!

Early Sunday morning found us outside the lagoon near Vatu-I-Ra where we did our first dives. It was still cloudy and overcast but we had a great dive at Howard’s Diner, named after Howard Hall of the Imax “Coral Reef” fame.

Dive two was at Maytag and it was becoming increasingly apparent that the cyclone was having some effects not only on visibility but on currents! Currents that should have been slacking weren’t and tides that should have been going one way were going the opposite way! All in all, we had some good dives on Sunday, but the conditions weren’t optimal. No night dive was scheduled on Sunday due to the windy conditions.

All the guests were asking our Fijian staff for some “no rain” dances overnight!