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Dive Review of Nai'a Cruises Fiji/Nai'a in
Tonga/Ha'apai

Nai'a Cruises Fiji/Nai'a, Sep, 2008,

by Bob & Doris Schaffer, CA, USA (Contributor Contributor 14 reports). Report 4419.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience Over 1000 dives
Where else diving California, Galapagos, Mexico, PNG, Solomons, Cocos Island, Red Sea, Thailand, Maldives, Caribbean, Micronesia, Fiji
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather windy, cloudy Seas choppy, surge
Water Temp 75 to 78 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 5
Water Visibility 15 to 50 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions No diving after drinking alcohol
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

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

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

Subject Matter N/A Boat Facilities 5 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 5 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments Dry, secure, roomy, user-friendly photography room with an abundance of counter space, shelf space and electrical outlets separate from non-photography divers.

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

Accommodations 4 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling 4 stars
Value for $$ 4 stars
Beginners 5 stars
Advanced 2 stars
Comments For eight weeks each year, Nai'a leaves Fiji and goes to Tonga for the Humpback whale migration from Antarctica when the whales mate or give birth. Passengers board the boat in Nuku'alofa, Tonga after which it heads for the Ha'apai group of islands, an 8-hour crossing. Most swimming with whales in Tonga is done out of Vava'u where sightings and encounters must be shared with a number of boats, so the advantage to being on Nai'a is that it's the only boat in sight. Mornings are spent motoring the area looking for whales; when they are spotted, passengers don wet suits and snorkel gear and head for the skiffs. As the skiffs approach the whales, if the crew determines the whales will hang around, we quietly enter the water and slowly swim toward them for a good look. Some encounters last minutes, others up to an hour while mother whales show off their babes. When the whales don't cooperate, we give up and dive on local reefs for an afternoon and night dive and the next day, we start looking for whales again. Intermittently, we walked uninhabited islands and visited local villages. This was our 35th liveaboard trip, 6th trip on Nai'a, our third whale trip and the last of the season. We like the boat which is very well run and probably has the largest crew-to-passenger ratio of any liveaboard with 14 crew members for 18 guests. Cabins are spacious and comfortable with sufficient storage space and nice amenities like plenty of towels changed daily and a hair dryer. But there are also some voids such as the lack of grip bars in the showers, which should be there for safety even when the boat is at anchor. Some cabins are more comfortable than others and this time ours was a bit inconvenient because a light switch and towel racks were so high that the vertically-challenged one of us had to ask the other for help to turn on the light or hang a towel. Nai'a offers menu choices for sit-down meals and complimentary wine and beer at dinner and the food is outstanding. The mostly Fijian crew, many of whom have been with Nai'a for years, obviously like their jobs, go out of their way to make guests happy and comfortable and entertain in the evenings while they relax with guitars and song. Unfortunately, we hit bad weather. Very strong winds and rain made the 8-hour crossing to Ha'apai quite rough and the wind and clouds followed us for the rest of the trip, so we did not have the quality of whale encounters we experienced on previous trips but we did see them and several encounters lasted more than a few minutes; but the very choppy, murky water diminished the ease of swimming with and photographing the whales. Nevertheless, it was a great trip! If you're thinking of booking a whale trip and you don't fly Air New Zealand to Tonga, try to catch the Air Pacific direct flight from Nadi to Tonga (only 2 days a week) even if it means spending a day or two in a Nuku'alofa hotel before and after the charter, which is preferable to going to Tonga from Nadi through Suva which means baggage weight restrictions on a smaller plane, transferring your luggage yourself and standing in two immigration lines hoping you'll make the connecting flight!
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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