We boarded the Fiji Aggressor II -- there are two Aggressor boats in Fiji -- an 18-passenger liveaboard. We have been looking forward to this trip for a month. This is our forth liveaboard during our 6 months and dive liveaboards costs have consumed over 25% of our entire 6 months budget! The Fiji Aggressor II does not disappoint. Our deluxe en suite (with bathroom) cabin has a double bed, drawers, closet, hot shower, and vanity. The boat has plenty of books, CDs, DVDs, and videos. Only 10 divers are booked so we all have plenty of elbow room. Terry and I dash up to the “sun deck” and claim 2 of the 4 hammocks; a nice touch.
Turns out one of the divers on board was an orthopedic surgeon. He asked me about my finger. After briefly inspecting it and the X-Ray, he said it was slightly rotated and he could do a reduction for me on board as long as there was Lidocaine in the first aid kit. We had a 7-hour crossing to make and it was really rough. The catamaran rocked port and starboard tossing any unoccupied chairs on their backs. The kitchen crew scrambled to keep plates and silverware in their cabinets and draws, and the fridge doors closed. I wasn’t feeling too stable myself and with the sounds of crashes from the kitchen I thought we should wait until we arrived at our destination until the boat stopped tossing. That night he had the splint off and was examining it. No Lidocaine, but he tried to move the bone anyway. After 10 days it had already started healing and was unmovable. He looked at it carefully with fingers bent and said the rotation was not bad at all and it would be alright. He re-splinted it, fingers slightly bent. Now I just have to wait and see.
The days schedule is always basically the same. We wake at 6:30 and head straight for breakfast. After breakfast, we suit up for the dive briefing. Once the dive briefing is over, every one piles into Sherman, the boat’s aluminum skiff. The entire skiff is lowered into the water via a hydraulic cradle, and Sherman takes off like a vehicle from an episode from the original Batman TV series. After the dive, a snack, lunch, dinner, some food, always is waiting for us. I was in a constant state of eating junk food; potato chips, muffins, brownies, ice cream, etc. Then an hour and a half or so and we are back underwater. This goes on for five dives a day; unless this became too much and we only do three or four. After the colder dives Terry and I hop in the hot tub on the “spa deck” and review the photos and videos from the dive. Between this, movies, looking up fish in the guide books, napping, I decided to tackle the 800+ page Harry Potter 5 before we see the movie it in Suva.
Terry keeps trying to tell jokes under water. Still unsuccessfully. Although now she gives me this “joke sign” underwater before telling a joke. It lets me know a joke is coming and supposedly helps me get the joke. Now every time she gives the joke sign I start laughing. She said that when I finally get one of her jokes it will be so good it may be dangerous; I immediately replied, “No chance of that happening”. During the week we saw pipefish, blue ribbon eels, nudibranchs (I’ll spare you the many photos, ok, I’ll include a few), sharks, lionfish, leaf scorpionfish, and a plethora of other fish and soft corals. During one of the cooler divers, Terry and I put our hands down on a small ledge and a couple of cleaner shrimp give us a cleaning. These two lovely creatures (Terry and the shrimp) have a symbiotic relationship; Terry gets a manicure and the shrimp gets a feeding (see the video).
On day four of diving,... (this intro is rarely a good sign) the morning dive was a shark feed dive. We were unaware that the boat did a shark feed on this trip and I debated not doing the dive at all. It was a minor shark feed; a few fish heads for a few gray reef sharks. When I started this trip 6 months ago I had no opinion about shark feeds; we even did the shark feed on the Mike Ball boat in the Coral Sea. But somewhere along the way, I developed one. We refused to pay money and support the shark feeds in Beqa, so why did I do the shark dive? Not sure. I think I felt that this was a minor once-a-week feed that was already paid for (so already supported.) Anyway, joining the feed were a school of hungry snappers and a large potato cod named Leroy. If you remember the photos from the Mike Ball boat in the Coral Sea, we did a dive at Cod Hole and took a photo of Terry with a giant potato cod. The sharks barely ate on this dive, because the snappers were dominating the food placed about 4 feet in front and slightly below us. We were warned that the snapper have sharp teeth and not to point at them during the dive if we wanted to keep all of our digits. I heeded this warning and stayed away from the snappers whose fangs were clearly visible. Most divers wore gloves; Terry and I wore one each, Terry because she lost one (in Taveuni and was still doing her Michael Jackson impersonation) and me because the glove would not fit over my splint. Terry sat back with hands on lap and enjoyed the show. I on the other hand (excuse the pun) was taking video with my splint hand when seemingly toothless Leroy spun around and bit my hand. Large potato cods have large mouths and my entire hand, splint and all was in his mouth as he thrashed it back and forth. Later the diver on my left said I had screamed, but I only remember tossing a few obscenities Leroy’s way. I eventually retrieved my hand. Terry said she grabbed my arm and was trying to pull it out of Leroy’s mouth. The splint was bent in half with my finger still taped in, and I now had a new souvenir, a gash on top of my right hand that was slowly oozing blood during a shark dive! Later Terry suggested -- and I entirely agree -- that Leroy, in the context of being fed by divers, thought my splint with white tape holding it in place was a shiny fishy treat. I was lucky the snappers or a shark didn’t get me first because I am sure I wouldn’t have gotten away with just a gash. The snappers have smaller mouths and are capable of taking a chunk out of a hand. The the fact that Leroy greedily swallowed my entire hand probably prevented his small but sharp teeth from doing too much damage. This was dive no. 199 for me. Terry , wide-eyed, gave me the “Ok?” sign, and I replied, “Ok” with my good hand. She took the camera for me and we finished the dive. Once the feed was over, we had to leave the mini underwater amphitheater and let the current take us through the pass with the sharks still swimming about. I covered my hand, so as to not chum the water too much, and swam with Terry a good distance away just in case the sharks came to finish me off Top side, with two doctors and a nurse practitioner on board, me and my stale EMT skills were out ranked and I got very good medical care. My finger, although aching, remained unbroken. Anyway, I think I finally resolved my position on shark feeding. On our last night there was a small cocktail party and I enjoyed a glass of “Mad Fish” Australian wine.
[Terry: The morning started out great! Mark and I slept like babies while the other divers grumbled they couldn’t sleep due to the rocking of the boat last night. Due to the strong current, the first morning dive was delayed half an hour so I even got to sleep in late. Mark and I had a good chat over coffee and tea and we were in good spirits. We even got to our dive briefing early. During the briefing, James said a really big potato cod will follow us for the shark feeding and we have to push him out of our view of the sharks. “Just push him away!” is what James said laughing. The current was not too bad and the visibility was pretty good. The amphitheater area for shark feeding was more protected than that of the Mike Ball’s shark feed and I felt pretty safe. I always thought the potato cods were these big gentle fish that divers love to pet. Even on this dive, Peter, the orthopedic surgeon, petted Leroy on our way to the shark feeding amphitheater site. Then all of the sudden, I see Mark’s whole hand disappear into Leroy’s mouth and Mark struggling to pull his arm out. I helped pull Mark’s chewed up hand out of cod’s mouth and I was glad to see that his hand was still intact. Mark gave me the ok sign but I wasn’t sure. I thought maybe Mark didn’t want to make a big deal out of it, but his hand was bleeding in the middle of a shark feeding dive! Other divers didn’t realize what had happened and some of them continued to pet Leroy and Mark and I tried to warn them. Mark and I finished the dive early and during our 3-minute safety stop, Mark looked at his hands and rolled his eyes. I could tell he was pretty frustrated but continued being the chatty social butterfly that he is. He even got the doctors laugh and joke about what had happened. Dave, the other doctor, joked that maybe Mark should just chop that cursed hand off now before something else happens. Needless to say, we skipped the next dive.]
Update: It was suggested that it may not have been food poisoning that caused me to get sick at Tokoriki, but an Australian virus. Apparently some of the guests went to the hospital. Although it does not explain how I got it without any contact with other guests or why Terry never got it either. Doesn’t explain why I felt better as soon as I puked my dinner up. But who knows; I think the jury is out on this one. I certainly do not want to damage the good name of Tokoriki Resort with my slander.
- Oh no, it’s over ;(
- There be whales here!
- Bad, bad Leroy
- Killing time near Suva
- Handicap Diver Below!