Fiji Aggressor Diving
Written by Cathy Siegismund
Our last full day in Kadavu, we enjoyed an all-day three-tank dive trip to
Cape Washington in Kadavu, the mountainous end of the island .
We had been wanting to do this dive but the resort required a minimum of four
divers. Our last full day in Kadavu, four other cruisers decided to join us so we were able to make the
trip. The surge was fairly rough so the visibility wasn't as good as we had
hopped, but the dives were nevertheless quite good.
The next day, we stowed our dive gear and prepared for our overnight passage
to Musket Cove, a cruiser friendly marina/resort in the Mamanuca (pronounced mamanutha) island group to the west of Viti Levu. These islands are about 20
miles from the city centers of Lautoka and Nadi (pronounced Nandi) on Viti Levu. We left Kadavu
late on the afternoon of June 24. We had good wind from behind us, and had a
nice uneventful passage to the Mamanucas. Musket Cove is located on the small Malolo Lailai island, which is barely separated from Malolo. Malolo Lailai has
two resorts Musket Cove and Plantation Resort.
Entering reef bay at Malolo LaiLai
Plantation Island Resort, one of the two resorts on Malolo
There is a small stern tie marina at Musket Cove and a large mooring field as
well as anchoring.
Mooring field at Musket Cove with the small separation
between Malolo and Malolo Lailai in the background
We had a mooring ball reserved for the time we would be on the Fiji
Aggressor so we would worry less about leaving Felicity alone for eight days.
Musket Cove got its name as the island was originally purchased from the Fijians
for one musket, it was then later sold to the current owner (Dick Smith) for "many more muskets." Musket
Cove is one of those cruiser locations, which is a bit of a double-edged sword.
Cruisers seem to get stuck in places like this because of the conveniences; but
often to the neglect of further exploring of the surrounding islands. You join the
Musket Cove Yacht Club for a nominal fee and open a charge account with the
office. You can then use and "merely sign" for anything at the Musket Cove
resort. This includes things such as diving, Hobie cat rentals, windsurfer
rentals, golf, tennis, laundry facilities, meals at the restaurants, spa and
salon services, the gift shop, and items from the small but well stocked grocery
store. Musket Cove is also a place to pick up water, fuel, and a good location
to receive mail and packages. There is also a ferry service that makes three
round trips daily to Port Denarau which is about a 10 minute taxi ride to Nadi
and about a 45 minute ride to Lautoka. The ferry takes a bit over an hour each
way and costs $20 Fijian dollars each way if you've joined the yacht club.
Musket Cove Resort with its timeshares, marina, and mooring
We only had a couple of days before we had to leave for Nadi where we would
be picked up for our dive trip. We did laundry, cleaned up the boat and packed
for our trip. The Fiji Aggressor is moored at the Tradewinds Resort in Suva, but
as most guests fly into Nadi, the international airport, a bus would pick us
up there for the 3 1/2 hour drive along the southern Coral Coast of Viti Levu to
As the bus was picking us up at 0730, we had decided to take the ferry into Nadi
the night before and stay at a hotel near the airport. We took the morning ferry
in and then explored Lautoka some, ran some errands, and looked for boat parts we
would need to buy after our dive trip. We had decided to go to the ritzy Sheraton
hotel for a nice dinner. We were dressed and ready to go, as I wanted to explore
the reportedly nice gift shops, when Ken started dragging his feet. We had
to shoot a game of pool and have a drink. Finally, he agreed we could leave for
the Sheraton, as we were heading out the door, to my stunned amazement Tami
Connolley walked in! Tami is a good friend from Onyx, who we keep in contact with,
but who had never visited us. I'm sure I had that stupefied expression of
trying to place a familiar face out of context. It finally dawned on me that as
an additional part of my birthday present, Ken and Tami had conspired to very
successfully surprise me with her visit. She was to join us on the
Fiji Aggressor and then
spend another four days with us on Felicity. It was great, and such a wonderful
surprise. Tami put her luggage in her room, changed and we all headed off to
the Sheraton for dinner. We browsed the gift shops, where
Tami and I bought a couple sulus and looked at wood carvings. We then enjoyed a
nice dinner at the Sheraton's seafood buffet restaurant. Tami was tired
from her flight, and as we had an early bus to catch; we turned in early.
We were met at our hotel by the shuttle to drive us to Suva. The rest of the
group was already aboard when we got on the bus. The Fiji Aggressor can
accommodate ten guests, however, this trip only had eight. The boat
was comprised of two groups. Ken, Tami and I, and another group of five from
Colorado who were all work acquaintances and one woman's brother from California.
Most of them were excellent divers who had dived in
some of the world's best dive locations. Roger, an engineer, was an excellent
videographer and diver. Randy, another engineer was just getting into
photography, Roxanne, the most novice diver was also a work acquaintance. Sheri,
also with the Colorado group was a very accomplished diver and photographer and her brother Rick, a
professor at USC, was also an excellent diver.
The Fiji Aggressor
We were shown to the boat, met the crew and then separated out our dive gear
and got settled into our rooms. The Aggressor was laid out with the crews
quarters and bridge on the top deck, the main deck had one double cabin, where
Ken and I stayed, as well as the living space with a lounge area with TV and
video equipment, dining area, and camera area for everyone to dry and charge
their video and still cameras.
Our cabin aboard the Fiji Aggressor
A door led out to the aft deck where our dive gear was stowed and where a
table and lounge area was. This was where our dive briefings were held, and from
where we descended a few steps to the diving platform. The lower deck held the
other four double cabins, the galley, engine room and storage.
Once settled, we were introduced to the crew and given a briefing on the boat.
We also took care of some required paperwork, showing dive cards, deciding if we
would dive on air or Nitrox, signing up for any classes offered during the week,
etc. The only class I had wanted to take was a videography class, which wasn't
being offered. I opted out for any other classes as it was a PADI boat and I am
a NAUI certified diver and wanted to continue my diving certifications with
NAUI. Ken however, decided to get his advanced and Nitrox certifications.
The crew consisted of Fritz the captain, who had many years of operating all
sorts of ships, and though was English had been in Fiji
for many years.
Fritz in the wheelhouse
The rest of the crew were Sam, the engineer who also took care of our many
tank fills, Luke was our wonderful always cheerful cook, Moses our divemaster,
and Brett, our dive instructor.
Moses cleaning up the boat
Luke in the galley preparing another delicious meal
Brett, a relatively recent addition to the crew, was from New Zealand, but had spent the last few years working in the
Caribbean; he had been in Fiji for about six weeks.
Brett teaching class in the lounge area
The Fiji Aggressor leaves Suva and heads up the east side of Viti Levu, and for
days we would cruise the Koro Sea and the islands and reefs in the Lomaiviti
Dive map showing the dive locations of the
Normally, the boat would immediately leave Suva and begin the 10 or so hour
trip to the north, with dinner served underway. However, as it was predicted to
be a bit of a rough ride, it was decided for us to eat in Suva and leave at
about 2200, make an overnight passage and arrive in the morning at the first
dive site. Ken, Tami, and I headed into Suva to see Finding Nemo, which we thought
was a great movie and very appropriate to see at the start of a dive holiday.
Most of us took seasick meds and turned in early hoping to be asleep before the
boat left the pier. Our cabin was conveniently on the main deck with the living
space, but it also was on the second deck of the boat and in the bow. This made
for a pretty rough and bouncy night. No one got sick, but no one slept very well
either. The Aggressor is a fairly shallow draft power boat and it really pitched
and pounded as we made our way north into the seas.
I had only been on one other liveaboard dive boat in the Gulf of Mexico,
which was nice, but didn't have quite as many amenities as the Aggressor.
Something common to both trips however, was the amount of diving we
did. It is eat, sleep, dive, repeat. We did between three and five dives each day.
Doing so much diving is great, but it isn't a sit in the sun relaxing sort of vacation, everyone has come to dive! Each morning, usually sometime between 0530
and 0700 we would get up. Usually this was to a bell being rung, which was the 30
minutes to dive warning. We'd throw swimsuits on and grab something from a
continental breakfast, which would be set out. We'd then make our way back to
the aft deck where we'd have our dive briefing and start to gear up.
Each dive would be led by either Brett or Moses and sometimes both would be
on the dive. The diving was fantastic, and once we master video editing we
hope to have some footage that will do it justice. After our morning dive, as we
came out of the water we would give Fritz our bottom time, max depth, and hot
breakfast order for "second breakfast." We would rinse off and have breakfast.
For me, this was almost always followed by a retreat into our air-conditioned
cabin where I would read about a sentence in my book and fall asleep until the
bell rang in what seemed like only minutes later. Trying to fit five dives into a day
you only have 1.5-2.5 hours between each dive and then you're back in the water. We'd
come out, rinse off and then be alerted to the fact it was lunch time by Luke
playing a little wooden drum.
Luke announcing it was time for us to eat... again
We became somewhat like Pavlov's dogs, as after a while, it was a blur of bell - dive, drum - eat, and sleep in
between. It was an exhausting pace, but you were almost never willing to give up
the chance to get back in the water to do more great diving. Brett had gone to
university in Dunedin, New Zealand with some sort of marine biology degree and was always
excited and helpful to not only show us things on each dive but to go through our
photos, video, and the fish/coral identification books with us after each dive
to help us identify what we had just seen.
A few of the guests took advantage of the sun
deck on the bow of the Aggressor.
Sun deck on the bow of the Fiji Aggressor
Ken, Sheri and Rick were all taking classes, so during our short surface
intervals and after our last dive they were also squeezing in studying and classes
Ken studying in the lounge
Sheri and Rick having their final class review on the bow
It is hard to pick a favorite dive site, as overall we had great visibility
and amazing weather. It only rained a few times at night, and during the day
while we were diving it was as flat as a mill pond. Some of our favorite dives were
off Namenalala, Wakaya, and Gau islands. Being on a large liveaboard boat, we
also had the chance to dive some unique spots. Two of these sites were called
E-6 and Hi-8 named for the large amounts of film and video footage usually shot
on these dives. These sites are on pinnacles that start at a depth of
3,000 feet and rise to just below the surface. The pinnacles are a fair distance
from any of the surrounding islands and with the deep water and sheer walls
there is a good chance of seeing some of the larger pelagics. We did wonderful
shallow dives teeming with tropical fish, drift dives, wall dives, a pass dive,
night dives and a thrilling shark dive. The abundance and diversity of corals
and fishes are truly amazing. I continued to practice with my video camera and slowly
started to take better footage, although I see a lot of editing time ahead of
Swimming through reef fish so thick it's like confetti
Giant clam and some lovely purple soft coral
Beautiful coral and fans
Tami diving a large bommie
Tami hanging on in some very strong current in Nigali Passage after our shark dive
On our second to last night aboard the Aggressor, we were anchored off the
island of Gau (pronounced "now"). We had spent a full day and half diving off
the reef, and that night were going ashore to meet the village.
Ken and I were familiar with village and kava ceremony etiquette, but we were
all briefed on what to expect and how to modestly dress and act so as not to
offend. Part of the conservative dress is for both men and women to wear sulus
and shirts that do not expose bare shoulders. A few other points of etiquette
are shoes are taken off before entering any house, no sunglasses or hats should
be worn, and bags should not be carried over your shoulders.
Sheri helping Rick and Roger pick out and learn the finer
points of sulu tying
After we cleaned up from diving, we got dressed an then proceeded to horse
around on the foredeck and take photos. Sheri was trying to educate Brett on alternative sulu
tying options. In French Polynesia, we had seen the men tie a sulu or pareo into
a pair of shorts. I don't think Brett quite got the hang of this as his looked
more like a napi.
Brett going for the diaper or napi-look
Ken and Cath and Tami, Brett, and Sheri
dressed up for our village visit
Tami and Cath and the brother and sister dive team Rick
Part of our village visit was to present the chief with Kava and
we had to select a chief of our own to represent us. We chose Roger.
Roger, the Fiji Aggressor chief for the night
Each week, the
Aggressor stops at this village and the divers are met by villagers, given
a tour, take part in the Kava ceremony, and are given a dance performance. The
village also cooks some traditional Fijian food in a lovo or earth oven. A
similar method is common throughout Polynesia. A pit is dug in the
earth, where a very hot fire is built. When the coals are hot, food is laid in
the pit and then covered with palm fronds and dirt, and left to bake. After the
dance performance, we were to return to the Aggressor and eat the dinner, which
had been cooked in the lovo.
Ken and I weren't quite sure what to expect. You'd think that a village,
is visited every week by a dive boat with ten guests would be rather blasť
about the whole affair. Nothing could be further from the truth. Several of the
village women met us at a small dock where the Aggressor tender dropped us off.
We were introduced to everyone and given flowers to put behind our ears.
Soggie putting a flower behind my ear
Flowers are worn by everyone, and Brett was sporting a
lovely one as well
It was starting to get dark, but we were led on a tour of the village, which
sits along a large bay. As almost everywhere in Fiji, we were immediately
swarmed by a large group of village children. At first, they kept a shy
distance but as soon as we started saying bula they all want to meet us and
shake our hands.
Ken with a group of the village kids
The kids are always thrilled when you take their pictures with a digital camera or
video and then show them their pictures.
Once the temporary shyness abates, they are all happy to pose for
We were all led to the community hall, where we sat along one wall and it
seemed that most of the villagers were sitting across from us. The
chief and village elders were on one side, the village children on the
other, and everyone else between them.
The village children were on one side of the room
First was a welcome speech carefully given by the head of the village primary
school in English, followed by a welcome blessing and an exchange between one of
the village elders and Brett. Roger than presented the yaqona. The chief
accepted with the ceremonial response. Most of this was in Fijian.
The gift of kava being accepted
As the kava was being prepared, and we were all taking our turns drinking it,
all of the guests stood up and introduced themselves to the village, telling
them where we were from, and thanking them for their hospitality. We all were given
different sorts of floral leis and then the dancing and singing performance
Villagers performing great singing and
dancing for us
After a few dances, the women were asked to come up and
embarrass ourselves by joining in some of the dancing, followed by the guys.
Trying to join the villagers in some local dancing and singing
It was good fun and no doubt provided some good humor for
the locals. Some of the local ladies sat with us in the community hall. I sat
next to a woman named Soggie, who kept asking me to take pictures of her friends
and family as they danced, she also gave a running commentary on how well
everyone was dancing, who was making mistakes and how fat her sister had
become. It was quite funny. She enjoyed all the photos. I was also given an
address and asked to write to another one of the younger women in the village.
When we returned to Felicity, we printed out a number of the photos from that
sent them to the village.
Soggie and her son
After all the dancing and singing and more thank you's and
farewells, we were escorted back to the dock where Luke and Moses met us to take
us and our lovo cooked dinner on the Aggressor.
Tami and I with Fritz after we returned from
We had a nice dinner of Fijian food, and turned in fairly early
as we had one more early morning dive the following day, before the boat would
head back to Suva. The following day we did quite a nice wall dive. As soon as
we were on the boat we were as usual shuffled into breakfast, and were told
to leave all of our dive gear and it would all be washed and set out to dry on
our trip back to Suva.
Small dinghy sailboats practicing for the South
Pacific Games regattas
We had a beautiful calm sunny return trip to Suva. We arrived
in the late afternoon, and most of the group asked to be dropped off in downtown
Suva. The Aggressor would then be fuelled and we would meet back aboard for a
farewell cocktail hour with the crew. The South Pacific Games were in full
swing, so Suva was hopping. Ken and I were the only two who had been there
before, so we acted as tour guides and took everyone around to buy souvenirs,
postcards, etc. We had told Max and Prassad from the craft centre that we would
stop back in Suva after our dive trip to look at some kava bowls. A kava bowl
has a distinct shape and can be decorated with inlaid shell and different
carvings. We found a huge bowl that we liked and bought it.
Tami and I explored the market while Ken was
surfing at the Internet cafe
Soon it was time to return to the Aggressor at the Tradewinds
Hotel for our cocktail party. During the trip you can only drink after your last dive of
the day, and usually by that time we were all so tired we could hardly manage a
glass of wine or a beer with dinner. However, as our last night aboard the
Aggressor and no diving the following day we all cut loose. We had wine and beer
and Luke mixed up a batch of Kava breaking in our new kava bowl.
Luke preparing kava in our new bowl
Tami having her bowl of Kava, aka grog. As
this was our last night aboard, Luke made sure all of the cups were filled to
Moses and Luke enjoying the party
After getting a little giddy with quite a bit of wine and a
number of high tide bowls of Kava, a large group of us headed back into Suva.
After hearing Ken and Tami and I rave about how cute Finding Nemo was, a large
group of us including Brett all went to see it again.
We got back rather late and slept extremely well. The next morning
we had to be off the boat by 8am to catch the bus back to Nadi. We were sorry to
say goodbye to the Fiji Aggressor crew who really made the trip unforgettable.
On the bus ride, we all chatted about the trip and the
possibility of putting together a trip in 2004 to Chuck (aka Truk) in the
Caroline Islands, Micronesia for another Aggressor trip.