Divers are explorers. We like new experiences, (probably the reason we learn to dive in the first place), so it makes sense that divers like the other aspects of travel too – discovering new places, new people, new landscapes, new food and new cultures. Which is why small ship cruises are becoming more and more popular as a holiday choice, providing a combination of travel both above and below the waves.
If you want to explore an archipelago like Fiji and get som ediving in along the way, there is a simple solution: Captain Cook Cruises. A small cruising ship that sails through some of the more remote parts of Fiji visiting both world class dive sites, will assume you’ve heard of the famous Great White Wall of Taveuni, as well as waterfalls, villages, and historic towns. The ship sails overnight from one destination to the next, in 7 to 11 night cruises, with the different itineraries taking different routes through the archipelago.
Imagine that for a moment: every morning you wake up in a different place, get to do two dives, on dives on sites less dived, in a small group, in clear warm sunlit waters and the rest of the day and evening you can go ashore, visit natural wonders or villages or just sip cocktails around the pool.
A typical day starts with a peak out of the window of your air-conditioned en-suite cabin onto today’s destination the lush Fijian hills sloping gently to a small village on a white sandy shore. The water’s flat, the air’s warm, the sun’s shining and the fish are waiting!
Over a buffet breakfast you practically interrogate the dive guide in your eagerness to learn about today’s dive sites. Walls, bommies, swim throughs, actually it doesn’t matter they all deliver in their own way: and the drill is the same: be at the rear stairs at 9 AM with your basics. The tender pulls around, all the gear is already loaded the tanks are already set up the weights on board. The trip in the tender is rarely more than 10 minutes and on board are the dive instructor, the dive guide, the skipper and often a spare deck hand just to help people get in and out of the gear. As you arrive at the dive site pinpointed by GPS you have that momentary thought: are you sure in the right place – there’s nobody else here? Before you remember that that’s precisely why you came.
As you slip beneath the calm clear waters it shows: expenses of unbroken hard coral, great meadows of soft corals, populated by Fijian friendly fish and usually all above the 20m mark giving plenty of dive time and great natural light.
On the way back to the ship we occasionally stop off to join the snorkelers exploring the shallow coral reefs closer to shore, or even drop off at the beach to play around with a stand-up paddle boards or kayaks. Then it’s back to the comforts of a floating resort, a quick shower and change, and lunch around the pool.
The afternoon might be filled with a trip to the local historic town, a school, even a church service to hear the Fijians sing. Longer excursions are also on offer to check out an extinct volcano and caves or plunging waterfall where you can climb a few hundred metres for the expansive view before cooling off in the fresh water pool being pummelled by the cascading flow.
Wherever you go the activities are laid on and the Fijian hosts are as friendly as ever. Even at a school visit we are entertained by little kids performing the warrior dance mimicking the full performance will see at the Lovo and Meke evening later that day. It starts with the traditional Kava Ceremony and goes through a variety of warrior and women’s dancing through to the Meke feast. We watch it being dug up from the fire pit before being laid out banquet style and served with fine wines and cold beer.
Dinner on board is also a bit of a ceremony: something to dress for. Cocktails and canapés are served prior, the perfect opportunity to relax on the deck and watched the sun ease slowly towards the horizon, followed by three course dinner on white linen with starched napkins. There’s usually entertainment too though often the other guests are entertainment enough. Table companions herald from all sorts of places – Mildura to Moldova, but all have in common the desire to travel, explore and meet interesting, friendly people.
The practicalities of diving and cruising are straightforward. You don’t need to worry about your gear: it appears on the tender when you’re ready to go diving; you leave it on the tender when you get back to the ship and miraculously it reappears, refilled and re-set up ready to go for the next dive. The cabins are equipped with desks and power points perfect for laptop, camera prep and battery charging.
There is also a qualified marine biologist on board – one that grew up in these waters and gives insightful presentations on the health of the reefs, the potential threats and what can be done about them. You can also learn to dive on board, learning all the basics skills in the pool and experiencing your first open water dive in the warm clear waters.
Now might be the time to change your perspective of cruising. It’s about exploring new cultures and places both above and below the waterline not sitting on the deck sipping cocktails – though you can do that too!