2 Aug 2010

Thigh Slapping Fun!!!

It's going to be one helluva week at Rydges Hideaway – we have the Fiji Country Music Festival (apparently Fiji's first), six days of thigh slapping, toe tapping fun. Not that I know any country music, unless it was sung by Dolly Parton... Isn't Celine Dion a little country too? Although none of the names on the menu mean a thing to me, all the Australians get themselves all excited when I mention John Williamson is headlining... Apparently he wrote some song or other that is a bit of an Ozzie anthem – True Blue, or something along those lines. At least it means that I can reclaim Oggy, Oggy, Oggy... Just cos it sounds a little like Ozzie, does not make it automatically theirs! I think we may be coming to Hideaway for a bit of a jig this evening, after special cocktails. Apparently the Fijians are very good at line dancing, and I am sure they can make a cowboy hat look rather fetching – they manage to make man skirts look awesome!

ChiChi completed her Rescue course on Monday with great aplomb. We were a real little entertainment troupe round the pool that morning, yelling 'diver diver are you OK?' whilst everyone enjoyed their breakfasts... We coerced Te to be the body, all 6 foot and kava belly of him, and ChiChi and I spent an hour dragging him in and out of the water... neither of us won much in the height lottery, so poor old Te got mostly dragged and dumped, before getting his wetsuit ripped open so we could practice CPR – much to the horror of two little girls, both around two, who just stood beside Te, dripping wet in their water wings, with looks of great concern on their faces at ChiChi's administrations, almost in tears when Te bounded back up again for another round of drag and drop. I wish I had a camera!

You'll of course notice that there is no mention of Mere completing her course... Poor old Mere got another ear infection and was off work for three days last week. I have told her to give up her ear cleaning addiction and be at one with her ear wax, so it can do it's job and protect her ears from the nasty bugs that seem to find her so tasty. Funnily enough, I mentioned rescue to her again last night, and she turned up to work with cotton wool in her ear again, think I am just going to have to surprise her one day...

ChiChi also completed her Deep Diver Speciality with Alex before she returned to Canada, one of the many specialties we offer. Our reefs are perfect for deep diving, with lovely visibility currently, the only problem being making sure you don't go too deep. I'm not telling the boys that I am a drysuit speciality instructor, as I refuse point blank to teach that out here, however much they plead! The water is a balmy 26°C at the moment (around 80°F), but they all want hoods and if they find gloves the excitement levels are super high! I'm still diving in my 3mm shortie, and am happy as long as the eight day wind is not blowing up top.

Two of our first time divers, Marie and Jack, booked in for two dives with us, and the weather conditions were perfect to take them out to The Edge for their first dive. I've been out the water for a few days, so was really excited to get back out there. The Edge is one of those dives sites I find really hard to brief, as there is just so much to see, it's kind of one of those 'ahhhh!' dives, where you don't know what to look at as it is all so beautiful. We regularly get 20m vis, but this particular day it was like diving in gin – just stunning! Only problem being that Marie and Jack are now way too spoilt!!!

Anyway, time to go and crash the Jim Haynes Big Beach Brunch, see if I can snaffle any bacon...

25 Jul 2010

Well done Diveaway boys!!!

Hah, surprise!!! Its less than a week since my last blog....

A real mix this week of certified divers and first time divers, so we got to visit a lot of our less dived and more advanced sites. I say we, I mean Alex and the boys as I am still full of cold.... Bordello had some fabulous vis earlier this week, with turtles and sharks making themselves apparent, and we had white tips and grey reefs on Fanny Hill yesterday. Just one solitary barracuda though, the currents were not favourable for the big school we sometimes see.

We've been keeping the guests at Hideaway pool amused this week with our rescue course antics - luckily no one has called in the emergency services as per our yelled instructions... ChiChi and Mere have been doing an awesome job, and I am only slightly hoarse from all the shouting. Mere had been threatened with no food at the Diveaway lovo if she hadn't finished her rescue by Saturday, so she spent the whole day sulking, as there was no way we were going to get finished... We couldn't be that mean to her tho!!! She did spend the whole evening complaining about having a sore ear, so we will see if she turns up for work on Monday - any bets? ChiChi is an excellent panicker and should make herself available for all rescue courses - she managed to give Mere a few good dunks and she is a tiny lady!

The lovo was a whole lot of fun, with Tuks and Epi doing the bulk of the cooking. Lovo is a traditional way to cook food in Fiji, with stones being heated up prior to food being put on top and buried for several hours.... Just like in the UK, boys do the occasional outside cooking for parties with lots of fuss, girls do the rest (and always the tidying up!). We even managed to liberate Damos from Mango Bay for the evening, but 5 hours later he was getting withdrawl symptoms and had to go back... I can highly recommend lovo lamb and chicken, and sweet potato is just lush! There is a sign, on King's Road north of Nadi pointing towards the 'lovu crematorium'... My imagination was conjuring up images of food being cooked on top of gently smouldering dead people, until the taxi driver pointed out that lovu, with a u at the end, means crematorium in Fijian...

The lovo was a very late celebration for Te and Tuks getting their Divemaster certifications through from PADI. With busy family lives it's difficult to get us all together at once, and even last night Salo was missing as he caught chicken pox off his nephew - NOT small pox as Alex keeps telling everyone.... So massive belated congratulations to the Te and Tuks, big man hugs and slaps - you the man!!!

So a relaxing Sunday catching up on Facebook and only 18 more sleeps til my family come to see me, exciting times!!!! Rescue update coming soon!

21 Jul 2010

Welcome to Planet Ogg!

Oh o, are you lot in trouble!! Apparently my blog can be about anything at all, not just diving at Diveaway Fiji, so welcome to the ramblings of a slightly narked diving instructor!!! As ever, it has been a while, not as long as last time, although it appears I did start writing this on the 2nd of June...

It's been a busy start to July as it was winter holidays for the schools in Oz and NZ, so Hideaway pool has been a real assault course for pool lessons – kids can't half kick hard! Lots of people have been completing their Open Water courses whilst they stayed at Hideaway and Outrigger, so congratulations to you all! I hope Aude and Gwen can forgive me for my appalling French accent. Luckily for Andi, his girlfriend Asarela could translate the bits in German that we couldn't figure out between us. Now, if I had needed to ask any of them where the nearest train station was, or tell them I have a sister called Janice, it would have been a different matter!

Quite a few of our recent certs went on to do some more diving around Fiji, so I hope you guys had a great time! Scott completed his Junior Open Water, then headed up to Taveuni with his family – His final dive on Stingray was a lot of fun, we found so much cool stuff to look at, we did an hours dive and didn't even get half way along the reef! It was all the small brown things that were captivating us, along with some amusing octopus antics. Bridget and Ben had another eight days in Fiji after they completed their course, with lots more diving planned. Bridget is nearly a marine biologist, so thoroughly enjoyed all the nudibranchs and other invertebrates we found – Christmas Tree worms rule! And Ben, you can keep telling us that the tank opens the same way as a tap and we will still look blank and have to stop and think about it, these things just don't make sense!

None of us were as good at spotting critters as Tom, another of our Junior Open Water students. Him and his Divemaster mum Suze spend a lot of their time at an Island off Oz called Lady Elliot, and he is well versed in all the small things, including finding pop corn shrimp and nudibranchs all over the place! The anemone fish were still his favourites, so our Nemo's site was a winner. You can see all three types of nemo fish that can be found in Fiji all in a few square meters of anemone encrusted rocks – the Pink, the Tomato and Fiji's own variation on the Clark's anemone fish. Some even share the same anemone, which is highly unusual. Thanks to Suze for her impersonation of Diveaway staff – you had most people fooled!

I've been more out the water than in the last week as I have been poorly, so Alex has had to get wet. He reckons the vis on Stingray is clearing up again after the big swells, so I can't wait to get back in the water. Might even just go out diving with Te, Tuks and Esala, just to see some more of our dive sites – Chimney sounds particularly interesting, even need a torch...

I have a rescue course starting on Friday with ChiChi. She has been in Fiji for a few weeks doing an archaeological dig at the Sigatoka sand dunes with her friend Jenn, who also completed her Open Water course. Apparently one of the dig leaders does look a little like Indiana Jones, so it might be worth a little visit... No whip tho, just the hat. I am hoping to get Mere to complete her course at the same time... she is either ill, or just takes random days off whenever I mention it! Maybe we will have to send her down to Mango Bay to do the course with Damos – bet she's not ill then!!!

I was excited to get a letter from the lovely people at Fiji immigration the other day, allowing me to stay and continue working in the country for a good long time. At least it means I will be here for when my family come out from the UK to visit, wouldn't have been the most popular sister/ daughter otherwise!!! Am compiling my list of things required from home – can't get past good chocolate and pesto... and a can opener that works!

10 Jul 2010

The Drop Zone Fiji - Sportdiver.com

The Drop Zone is the ultimate dive and surf film which follows professional surfers on the adventure of a lifetime. Alex Gray, Cheyne Magnusson and Holly Beck headed to Tahiti in 2008 for an epic adventure – The Drop Zone Tahiti. Now the three young surfers are back and will be joined by two more - Maria Gonzalez and Bede Durbidge. The five of them will explore Fiji on a unique journey both above and below the surface.

Follow Holly, Alex, Cheyne, Maria and Bede – check out the Drop Zone Fiji blog and photos live from Fiji!

HollyBeck DropZone

Holly Beck Palos Verdes, California, USA
Holly is a former National Scholastic Surfing Association champ and is known for appearances on television shows such as North Shore Boardinghouse and The Best Damn Sports Show. She spends a lot of time down at her house in Nicaragua and is epic on keeping the world up to date on her travels. Holly Beck is not only one of the best female surfers on the planet but she is also a world traveler, actress, and a person who can definitely capture the world in film, photos and in print.
Holly's Drop Zone Fiji Blog

Alex Gray Rancho Palos Verdes, California, USA
Alex Gray is one of the most unique people on the planet. He is a pro surfer, world traveler, comedian, ladies man, yoga god, paddler, and inspiration to many. He grew up in the South Bay of Los Angeles and still loves to come home and spend time with his family after long trips around the world. This is his second appearance in Drop Zone.
Alex's Drop Zone Fiji Blog

AlexGray DropZone
CheyneMagnusson DropZone

Cheyne Magnusson Lahaina, Maui but currently in Oceanside, California, USA
Cheyne is not your typical pro surfer from Maui. He looks a little different and also lives a little different. He may rip like the rest of the upcoming crew that dominate Honolua Bay but he also tears it up on any skate ramp, had a big role in the Lords of Dogtown movie, free dives like a fish, enjoys a good party and was a high profile member of a MTV reality show.
Cheyne's Drop Zone Fiji Blog

Maria Gonzalez Puerto Rico
Body Glove's newest Team Member. More about Maria coming soon.

Maria's Drop Zone Fiji Blog

MariaGonzalez DropZone

Bede Durbidge Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Bede grew up on North Stradbroke Island, a small island off the coast of Queensland, Australia and moved to the Gold Coast when he was 20. He is in his sixth year on the Men's Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Tour and is currently ranked number three in the world. To date, Bede has won a total of three ASP events and the Vans Triple Crown and he is still striving to achieve his dream of winning a World Title!
Bede's Drop Zone Fiji Blog

Photo credit [top to bottom] (Holly, Alex, Cheyne) Courtesy of PADI Americas and Body Glove; Photographer Justin Lewis, (Maria) Courtesy of Body Glove; Photographer: Mark Kawakami, (Bede) Courtesy of Bede Durbidge; Photographer Adam Weathered.

The Drop Zone Fiji - Sportdiver.com: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

18 Jun 2010

Diveaway Fiji at Mango Bay and Beachouse in Fiji

Turtle diving in FijiNew blog about Diveaway Fiji at Mango Bay and Beachouse in Fiji

New blog about Diveaway Fiji at Mango Bay and Beachouse in Fiji

8 May 2010

Catch Up!!!

Looking at the date of my last blog, it's been a long time – Hurricane Tomas came and went, and here on Viti Levu we were not too badly affected, strong winds and rough seas being about the worst of it. On the outer islands it was a different story, luckily there weren't many lives lost, but crops were devastated, and when you survive on subsistence farming it's a huge blow. There will also have been damage to the reefs around some of the outer islands, though the impact will be hard to determine due to the remoteness of the islands. We are nearing the end of cyclone season, the end of May is the official finish, so fingers crossed we will have a peaceful tropical winter.

During the last two months I spent another three weeks at Mango Bay as we waved good bye to Nick and waited for Damos, our new instructor to start. It was a busy few weeks, with eight people completing their open water courses and two more their advanced courses. Robbie stayed on to complete his divemaster course and is already nearing the end of his internship. You guys all know who you are – plenty of fun had and friendships made. I hope everyone enjoyed their travels and their diving!

Fast forward to the last couple of weeks, and the diving has been interesting! A huge rainstorm caused all the rivers to flood, the silty run off streams being clearly visible in the dark blue sea. I dived The Edge with Christine on her first dive in the ocean, and the visibility was an awesome 20+ metres to begin with. As we swam inside the reef, the visibility in the top 10m of water became appalling, you could see about one metre. 10m and below the visibility remained 20m+ - it was awesome to see such a phenomenon, caused by the silt being suspended in the fresh river water floating on top of the salt water.

I got to see a lizard fish on the hunt just at the mooring of Stingray. I had just descended with Liam and was watching the cleaner wrasse clean his leg. I hadn't yet pointed this out to Liam as it was the first minute of his first dive, and he may not have been so impressed at being cleaned. Suddenly there was a commotion beside his leg, caused by a lizard fish launching itself up from the bottom to catch the cleaner wrasse, which I then watched it enjoy thoroughly for breakfast!

Mere and I still haven't dived Bordello together, though I did have to use and abuse her for a rescue course. Or more precisely, Paul did.... As always, the rescue course was a lot of fun, even though Paul did answer back... Large swells and big tides made for some interesting surface currents requiring lots of hard work on Paul's part, and much dunking of poor Mere. She had to have three days off work afterwards!! Well done Paul!

Three more open water courses have been completed at Hideaway in the last week, keeping me pretty busy. Huge swells made for some really interesting conditions, making fin pivoting and hovering a real challenge – luckily nothing says you have to stay in exactly the same place! So well done to Tim, Lorna and Nathan, you rose to the challenge and dealt with the conditions incredibly well.

I finally managed a day out the water today, though was tempted to join Esala and his certified divers for a pleasure dive as conditions looked so inviting this morning. I opted for dry land and was most disappointed to hear tales of two manta rays joining them on Bordello! It is rare to see mantas off the Coral Coast, but there are many feeding and cleaning stations throughout the Fiji islands, and the mantas have to get there somehow. These are some of my favourite underwater creatures and always make my dive when I see them. They are gentle giants, and can measure well over two metres from wing tip to wing tip. They feed on plankton and it is a wonder to me that such large animals can survive on such small ones.

And finally a HUGE CONGRATULATIONS to Jo and Phil, two of my discover scuba diving students. On the safety stop at Nemos, Phil produced a sign from his pocket asking Jo to marry him! It was so exciting, and she did say yes, well I think that's what the gigantic clash of regulators and all the bubbles was about! Phil had been planning it for weeks, made even more impressive by the fact that Jo didn't really want to try diving in the sea... Best wishes to you both from all the team at Diveaway.

Take care, blogging again soon – promise!


16 Mar 2010

The Waiting Game

We are currently playing the waiting game at Diveaway Fiji. Hurricane Tomas is on it's way, currently over the northern islands of Fiji and upgraded to a category 4 hurricane overnight – the worst Fiji has seen since the early 70s. I am in the capital Suva at the moment, and we have had a curfew imposed, if you are out on the streets you get locked up!!

Diveaway's boats have been out the water since Friday when Alex, with his extra sensory cyclone tracking abilities, saw the low pressure system develop into a cyclone and turn this way. Epi and Salo got the boats to safe water (hopefully) and moored them up in the mangroves, and all staff are making their homes secure. It's starting to get windy, but doesn't feel any different yet to a crappy day, I guess I won't be saying that by 6pm tonight! The December cyclone was bad enough, and that was only a category 2.

Radio weather bulletins report 'phenomenal seas' at the cyclone centre – I dread to think! We just have to sit and wait now and hope that the worst of the weather is out to sea, that damage is minimal and that as many people in Fiji as possible are safe and sound. And fingers crossed for our marine environment too....

15 Feb 2010

Instructors notes

Wednesday 11th February

After a week down Mango Bay, all in the name of work, it is good to be back at Rydges Hideaway with Mere to keep me in line. Mango has some awesome dive sites (well the three I saw anyway!), but Stingray at Hideaway has quickly become one of my favourites as the life is so abundant and diverse. Lucky really, as I get to see a whole lot of it!

Mango Bay was a lot of fun, with Anthony completing his Scuba Diver course and, I suspect, beginning a serious addiction to bubbles, and John completing his Open Water course and off to meet the fishes in Hawaii – well done guys, you made my first dives at Mango! It was also great to find plenty of Europeans to chat to over a happy hour draught Fiji Bitter at Beachouse.

Back at Hideaway things are fairly quiet, with the boat going out most days, but not too full, less people to laugh at surprise entries. The lion fish at Stingray are still out hunting through the sea grass bed every day, and the white tips certainly know I am back, and can’t be found anywhere... The cleaner wrasse have decided that I am in good need of a clean, and can regularly be found chowing on my legs.

I had my first encounter with a seriously territorial titan triggerfish yesterday. I was showing Rachel the moray eels hanging out in the rocks, only to look up and see one pelting towards us with teeth bared. A quick swoosh with my fin just managed to deflect it, but not for long, and she was back for more. The titans have a conical shaped territory extending up from their egg sites, so you are never too sure when you are no longer trespassing. I am thinking of doing The Edge tomorrow with the DSDs, just in case... Far, far scarier than the sharks, and I understand why Alex calls them evil bastard fish!

Mere has promised to take me to Bordello soon, not a site I have done yet. She has promised me a huge and friendly Napoleon Wrasse, so I am really excited. These beautiful fish are under threat of extinction as a steak of their flesh fetches a high price in Chinese restaurants. They can live to be 100, and don’t start breeding until they are 20 years old, so it’s all about sensible fishing practices, as they are commonly caught using cyanide poisoning, fatal for all of the reef creatures within the vicinity. They live in groups, with one dominant male and a harem of females. If the male leaves the harem, and there are no other real men to take over, the top female changes sex and rules the pack – neat trick, but I think I’ll leave it to the fish!

So, fingers crossed for light rains and flat seas all in the name of good visibility! The Edge and Bordello, here we come...

2 Feb 2010

CORAL E-Current Photo Contest | Coral Reef Alliance

Enter your favorite coral reef photographs in the CORAL E-Current Photo Contest for a chance to win a copy of Reef—a gorgeous coffee table book featuring beautiful coral reef photographs contributed by Scubazoo photographers.

Each winning photograph will be featured in an edition of E-Current, CORAL's free electronic newsletter. The names of winning photographers will also be posted on the CORAL website with their photographs, which will be available for download as desktop wallpaper. All entrants will receive a subscription to E-Current.

All photos entered will be evaluated by CORAL staff members, who will choose the top three finalists. None of the CORAL staff members are professional photographers nor do they have special knowledge of artistic presentation or composition. Each staff member will select the photos that strike them most for whatever reason. The winning photograph will be chosen from the three finalists by professional underwater photographer and CORAL columnist, Jeff Yonover.

CORAL E-Current Photo Contest | Coral Reef Alliance

31 Jan 2010

Beyond Blue Issue 6

Beyond Blue Issue 6We kick off the new year with an issue of Beyond Blue dedicated soley to the polar regions of our planet, and the wildlife that call these dangerous places their home.

We also take a look at the recent discussions regarding climate change, and what the future may hold for the evolution of our planet.

To open the deep blue world of Beyond Blue all you have to do is register online at www.beyondbluemag.com and enjoy!

Beyond Blue Issue 6

20 Jan 2010

Diveaway Fiji : Scuba Diving on the Coral Coast in the Fiji Islands - Diveaway Fiji : Scuba Diving on the Coral Coast in the Fiji Islands

Diveaway Staff in FijiDiveaway Fiji operates from the beautiful Coral Coast of Viti Levu, Fiji's main island. Our boats run out from our bases at the Rydges Hideaway and Mango Bay Resorts; we have diveshops at the Outrigger on the Lagoon and the Beachouse as well as being the dive op of choice for many of the boutique resorts and backpackers dotted along the Coral Coast.

Lionfish face diving in Fiji

As a small, friendly dive operation, we enjoy sharing our beautiful dive sites with divers from complete beginners through to the very experienced.

Dive groups are deliberately kept small and as there are no other operators on our dive sites there is never a crowd underwater to spoil your view - see fish not bubbles! Since we started diving here in 2003 we have discovered many great dive sites and a host of amazing marine life.

We have a variety of sites from dramatic wall dives and coral covered reef slopes to adrenalin buzzing drift dives.

Moray eeel diving on Coral Coast, FijiFrequent encounters with turtles, sharks, eagle rays, barracudas and of course all those other fantastic tropical reef fish.

Soft and hard coral grows prolifically and magnificent gorgonian fans host multicoloured crinoids and longnosed hawkfish - a photographers delight!

We are very lucky to have incredibly easy access to all our dive sites. At Taqage the furthest away is 10 minutes by boat and the closest has been recorded at 19 seconds!

Sundance divesite at Mango Bay, FijiThis enables us to offer the deeply civilised option of a morning two tank dive returning to the Rydges Hideaway Resort between the dives for a restoring cup of tea or even a hint of breakfast.

We are also usually back from the second dive by 11.30, giving you the rest of the day to do all those relaxing holiday things that you can’t do bobbing around on a boat.

From Mango Bay the boat zooms straight off from the beach in front of the dive shop, again to divesites dotted along the Coast a short boat ride away. Here too we usually return to the resort between dives

We dive Monday to Saturday, usually 2 or 3 dives a day, with night dives on request

Diveaway Fiji : Scuba Diving on the Coral Coast in the Fiji Islands - Diveaway Fiji : Scuba Diving on the Coral Coast in the Fiji Islands