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Dive Review of Naia in
General Travel/Other Locations/New Caledonia

Naia, Jul, 2003,

by Rob Mougey, CO, US . Report 1209 has 1 Helpful vote.

No photos available at this time

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 5 stars Food 5 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving 3 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments This was an exploratory trip to New Caledonia. The 24-hour crossing from Vanuatu was quite rough. The sails were raised to help reduce the motion, but it was severe enough to confine many to their staterooms. The ship encountered some 20-30 ft seas.

The Naia had arranged to have customs agents fly to Lifou, a small island off the east coast of New Caledonia, in order to clear entry to the country. The process was quick and efficient, and we were soon diving with a local guide. Great rock formations and abundant fish life. The local dive guide expected follow the leader type diving, our group did our own thing, as most Naia folks are used to.

We moved on to the island of Ouvea that night for a dive site known for current, sharks and mantas along the wall. We once again had a local dive guide from the island. They knew the area quite well, but again, were expecting follow the leader diving. We tried to behave, and were rewarded with some great manta encounters. The current was slack for both dives, so there weren't many sharks to be seen.

For the next 8 days, the boat was on it's own. Exploratory diving at it's best. We headed north along the east coast of New Caledonia, seeking permission to dive interesting atolls and reefs from the locals. One very promising area was 'closed', but we managed to find some excellent coral bommies. As we moved further north, a small Minke whale decided to swim with us. She hung around while we were diving a pinnacle, and then followed us back to the boat. Several of us jumped in on snorkel, with a few on scuba, to play with her. After an hour, she tired of us and left.

As we continued north, we found excellent dive sites among the many walls and channels that make up New Caledonia. Currents were a bit unpredictable, but when running, provided some amazing big animal encounters. We encountered Grey Reef, Silver Tip and Black Tip sharks numbering in the dozens on each dive. We also typically saw Dogtooth Tuna, schools of barracuda and many other pelagic fish. If the big animals weren't your thing, there were plenty of Sea Fans, hard corals and reef fish to keep your attention. On a couple of dives, we simply had to ride the 3+ knot current and enjoy the view.

The sheer amount of marine life present on each dive was always surprising. It was obvious that there was no pressure from fishing and certainly few, if any, divers prior to our visit. It wasn't uncommon to encounter schools of Raccoon butterflies the size of dinner plates. We also had numerous sightings of the more elusive Black butterfly fish, also in large schools of 30-40. There were many wrasse species present, including unique species rarely seen or photographed such as the Mystery wrasse, unusual Fairy wrasses and the beautiful Harlequin Tusk.

The reefs were extremely healthy, sporting numerous species of Anthias, Angelfish, Puffers, and throngs of Rainbow Runners. It wasn't unusual to see many species of clownfish living in large groups of anemones that covered tops of the coral bommies. There were a few areas of soft coral; these appeared mainly in the channels were the tidal currents were strongest.

As we made our way around the top end of New Caledonia, we stopped at a small island to stretch our legs and do some tide pool and reef walking. We watched as small stingrays darted in the shallow water and were surprised by an 18-inch Black Tip Reef shark. It was hunting small fish in the shallows.

It came time to journey south to Noumea. The boat worked its way through the passages and we ended up on the western side of the Island. Diving was a bit more hit or miss as there were several rivers that emptied towards the west. A surreal moment emerged when we saw a wreck, sitting on top of the reef wall, fully out of the water. Seems that the freighter had been caught in a storm in the 1960's and missed the channel. Its rusting hulk, which measures over 300 feet in length, is an odd sight.

We arrived in Noumea 10 days after entering the country. For many of us, this was the end of a 23-day journey aboard Naia, having spent 10 days diving in Vanuatu and then 10 days diving in New Caledonia. Nearly everyone on board was a returning passenger, some of us with 5 and 6 trips. The Fijian crew is still among the best, the dive guides were attentive but not intrusive, and the overall experience was wonderful. Josh and Liz, the Cruise Directors, brought a fresh and enthusiastic faces to Naia. Rob Barrel was on the boat as well, providing his trademark dive briefing tagline "Here's the Deal"! We missed Cat, but forgave her for spending time with her new little girl.

We would return to dive New Caledonia again, but to do it right requires a live aboard. To date, there isnít one operating in this country. There are several local dive operators that can provide a flavor of some of the popular sites. Expect to be diving with many Japanese and European divers. Noumea itself is a pretty city, but like all of New Caledonia, it is quite expensive. Getting there can be a challenge. Many of us flew through Sydney, while others flew through Fiji, which required multiple hops and layovers.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving Vanuatu, Indonesia, Galapagos, Australia, Cayman, Fiji
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather windy, rainy, cloudy Seas choppy, currents
Water Temp 72-78°F / 22-26°C Wetsuit Thickness 5
Water Visibility 20-80 Ft/ 6-24 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions No restrictions. Solo diving OK.
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas 1 or 2
Dolphins Schools Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales >2
Corals 4 stars Tropical Fish 5 stars
Small Critters 5 stars Large Fish 4 stars
Large Pelagics 4 stars

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities 5 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 5 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments Naia's dedicated camera room was great as usual. The crew took great care in handling the cameras.
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