Tag Archives: snorkel

Snorkeling the Chimneys at Namena

The small island of Namena is the largest no-take reserve in Fiji.  Established in 1997, Namena is both a marine and bird preseve.  It is slowly coming back to its former glory after the 2016 cyclone devasted the island. Prior to the cyclone, this area boasted over 1,000 fish species, over 600 pairs of red-footed boobies and a major nesting ground for the critically endangered hawksbill sea turtle.

To access Namena you have to enter through one of few passes.  These passes were much easier to navigate than the passes of the Tuamotus in French Polynesia.  Near the island of Namena is one mooring.  We originally tried to anchor near the island but discovered too many bommies.  So, we checked out the mooring and determined it was safe to hold our home.  

The mooring is right in front of a small beach.  Perfect location to watch all of the nesting birds return home from a day of hunting.

Nesting birds are all over the island.  We saw lots of boobies!

We went ashore and found a trail that led us to the other side of the island.  Super pretty beaches.

Best Diving / Snorkeling in Fiji

Namena is the home of some of the best diving in Fiji.  They have many dive sites inside and outside the reef.  The most famous are the chimneys, teutons, mushroom, and grand central station pass.

We don’t have a compressor so we have to be selective about where we dive until we can find a place to refill our tanks.  We decided to snorkel the sites prior to getting all of our gear out.

The Chimneys

The Chimneys consist of two sheer towers about 10 meters in diamer and 25 meters tall.  The stretch majestically from the sea bed to the sun barely below the water’s surface.  My awesome GoPro doesn’t do well far away so I tried to take photos of one of the chimneys in sections.

The water was a bit silty or murky but it very well could have been the tide.  Both chimneys were teaming with little fish.  They stayed together in their schools and created these amazing blocks of color.

Blooming coral created small bursts of color on the top and on the sides of the chimneys.

Teutons and Mushroom Sites

My favorite sites were the Teutons and the Mushooms as there seemed to be even more schools of fish.  

Even the fish were getting into the Barbie craze…a pink comet trail of fish zoomed past me.

It was a strange feeling of being the new kid at school.  I stood out like a sore thumb in a sea of beauty.

Some fish were curious and came up to see me, but most fled at first site of my bubbles.

And then I found a large, beautiful soft coral with 4 nemos!

I simply love this coral and wish I had nemo protecting me!

Look at all of that stunning color! The best aquarium ever.

Namena Resort

Unfortunately, the Nemena Resort was destroyed in 2016 cyclone.  They have a great website that states they are rebuilding, but it sure does not look like it from where we stand.  It looks like there are people living in the houses up on the hill, but not much is going on.

We cetainly enjoyed our time in Namena.  It is amazing to see the underwater world and the land bounce back from the 2016 cyclone.  Nature is spell bounding and endures.

This blog post occured in mid-August.  Our blogs run 10-12 weeks behind actual live events.  Did you see the new Nawi Marina in Savusavu in our last blog?

The Wait for a Weather Window

And the wait begins…We started formulating our plan after we dropped Donald off at the Raiatea airport.  The problem is that our “plan” is contingent on weather.  We need to start heading east but the problem is the prevailing winds come out of the east.  So, what does that mean?  It means we would be heading into the wind and into the seas.  Which is not conducive to sailing – which means motoring.  Motoring is no fun and uses up diesel unnecessarily…so we wait for a better weather window.

We left north Raiatea and headed to Ile Haio, south Raiatea.  Of course, the 15nm to this baie is directly into the wind.  We attempted to fly the jib a few times but it was mostly a motor.  At least now we are in a really protected, beautiful baie that positions us for our departure to Huahine.

Exploring Ile Haio

While wait, we explore.  This baie is gorgeous and super protected.  The wind could be howling outside the lagoon and we would not know it except for the white caps.  Every once in awhile we will get a rogue gust, but for the most part it is very pleasant. 

Ile Haio, Raiatea

Ile Haio, Raiatea

Matt and I explored Ile Haio.  We walked one side of the island last time.  This time we walked around the entire island.  It is not too far, 1.7 miles over sand, rocks, trees, and rivers.

We left Sweetie at the north end of the island near a copra farm.  This is actually a nice farm with a sturdy copra drying center (the lower structure) and a small shack for the workers. I think there was a bigger structure or house at one point as there are cement pillars all around it.  Behind the shack is a stone, retaining wall.  Above and behind the wall are two graves.  Most Polynesians bury their loved ones in their yards or on their property.

Copra Farm on Ile Haio

Copra Farm on Ile Haio

We found lots and lots of crab holes as we walked along the water’s edge. You have to be careful as your foot can cause a collapse of the hole dropping you into their home (top photo).  We came across another shack more inland.  This appeared to be more lived in as there was laundry on lines, chickens wondering around, and a few goats.  It was rather pretty with patches of green grass surrounding their fenced in garden with papaya and banana trees, and some other weird fruit we could not identify (lower right).

I love seeing signs of nature’s success – against all odds.  How does this tree flourish when its trunk is so badly damaged?

We finally made it back to the lagoon side and captured Sugar Shack sitting pretty.

The Plan: After “the wait”

At the first weather window, we will head to Huahine.  Hopefully only staying for a week to 10 days before being able to move on again.  At the next weather window, we will make our way to Tahiti or Mo’orea (depending on the wind direction).   If we end up in Mo’orea we will meet up with some of our friends to procure boat parts that they brought back from the states for us.  A short stay there before heading to Tahiti to provision for the season.  After that we will continue heading east to the Tuamotus then south toward Gambier for season.

Exploring By Land

Matt and I took Sweetie exploring around Nao Nao.  We wanted to go ashore, but it is a private island with signs forbidding entrance, so we stayed by the shoreline.  The west side (closest to the channel) had a little dock and small beach.  Both were adorned with beautiful, white beach furniture and umbrellas (top photo).  We approached from the channel and slowly made our way around the tip of the island.  As we came around the other side, we saw a small resort or a really nice private residence. 

Nao Nao Private Island

Nao Nao Private Island

We continued on to the east side of the island, furthest away from the residence.  There were no “prive” signs down here, so we decided a quick walk about was in order.  I know, we are now bending the law.  It was a rocky shoreline but still really pretty.

We did find this funny tree with a bunch of shells hanging from it – does that make it a shell tree?

Exploring by Sea

We found a wonderful snorkel spot right by the tip of Nao Nao.  We were so surprised to find so many reef fish and at least 4 or 5 different species of puffer fish.  Lots of nemos protecting their coral.

Lots of different species of puffer fish.  I just love puffer fish!

Lots of pretty fish hanging out.  Lower left corner was a group of small brilliant blue fish playing house inside a vacant clam shell.

Pretty coral heads all over

Matt then took us all the way to the reef.  He had wo bob and weave around the coral heads, but we made it.

We wait for a week before we finally get a weather window to head to Huahine – we are off tomorrow.

Events from this blog occurred between October 6-10, 2020.  Our blog posts run 6-8 weeks behind our adventures.

Ilot Moute

Exclusively Taha’a – La Pirogue

Taha’a is full of sorts of hidden treasures and gems.  In this blog we will take you on our journey of the coral gardens drift snorkel and we will explore a small, private hotel called La Pirogue on Ilot Moute.  We swim in crystal clear waters and I get attached by a sea cucumber.

Among many other riches, Taha’a is famous for their coral gardens.  We have had the extreme joy of swimming the coral gardens several times.  We just can’t get enough of the unique beauty.  Our friends on Agape did not have a chance to drift the gardens so we encouraged them to try again.  We each left Bora Bora with a heading toward Taha’a and met at the Coral Gardens anchorage.

The current was pretty strong when we arrived in the morning.  We tied up our dinghies, swam to shore and walked the beach to the reef.  We waited for the tour groups to get started before we jumped in. The current is strongest closest to the reef so you have to maneuver yourself quickly to avoid hitting the corals.  In order to get photos, you have to gently grab a piece of dead coral to hold on while taking your photo.  It can be tricky but exhilarating.

We found lots of sea anemones with little fish including a clown fish.  It is fascinating watching the symbiotic relationship between the fish and the coral.  The fish get cleaned by the sea anemone and in return the fish protect them.

Sea life at coral gardens

Sea life at coral gardens

We also found a little octopus, but he would not come out and pose for the camera.  The top picture is his head sticking out, the middle shows him hidden from us with just his eyes and one leg showing.  The bottom photo is a giant sea cucumber

Octopus at Coral Gardens

Octopus at Coral Gardens

Rachel took some great photos with her fancy GoPro:

Coral Gardens Taha'a

Coral Gardens Taha’a

Beautiful corals in Taha'a

Beautiful corals in Taha’a

The colors on the corals are so vibrant and pure.

More beautiful corals at Coral Gardens

More beautiful corals at Coral Gardens

Sushi and Wahoo for Dinner

Agape (Josh, Rachel and Nicola) came over for dinner.  Rachel caught a tuna and made sushi rolls and then seared the Wahoo that we caught with John, Missy, and Carl.  We had a pretty sunset and a full moon.

Sunset at Taha'a

Sunset at Taha’a

Locals were burning trash on shore which always looks horrible from the anchorage (top picture).  But, the full moon came to brighten the night.



Ilot Moute and La Pirogue

Nicola has a flight out of Tahiti in a few days so our friends needed to get going.  The next day they headed out of the pass and were met with severe weather on the nose.  Not willing to put up with the boat bashing and slow slog, they met us at a new anchorage on the Northeast side of Taha’a.  This will be a good launching point for both of us to leave towards Tahiti and Huahine.  Another cruiser had told Matt about a little island called ilot Moute with a teeny tiny hotel called La Pirogue.

Ilot Moute

Ilot Moute

La Pirogue is situated on an island surrounded by jade waters.  It houses 4 bungalows and can accommodate 8 guests at a time.  The owners live on a boat moored in front of the hotel.  Cecile runs the day to day operations along with her husband and a maid.  Cecile was kind enough to let us come onshore and partake in some libations.

Approaching La Pirogue from the anchorage.  Don’t you love their welcome sign?

La Pirogue

La Pirogue

It is a quaint and peaceful setting, with thatched roof, raked sand, comfortable seating areas.  Their weather station warms my heart.  Life is so simple here.

La Pirogue

La Pirogue

Gross Surprise!

It was pretty hot, so I soaked my feet in the clear blue water.  I was running my feet along the sand when I unburied something. A rock, piece of coral, wood or treasure?  No!  A sea cucumber who was so agitated from my rubbing that he launched his defense mechanism.  What do you ask is that?  He spits out his guts and intestines.  White, noodle things. By the time I realized what was happening they were wrapped around my toes.  I was horrified!  Rachel came and helped me out, but YUCK!  I can’t look at sea cucumbers the samw way and just did not want to touch them anymore.  After a dip in the waters, Rachel rinsed off under the coconut shower head.

Coconut Shower at La Pirogue

Coconut Shower at La Pirogue

We so enjoyed our time at La Pirogue.

La Pirogue Celebrations

La Pirogue Celebrations

We Celebrate Josh’s Birthday

The next day was Josh’s birthday!  We all went back to La Pirogue to park our dinghies.  Cecile had mentioned good snorkeling by the reef and we wanted to see it.  You could either walk in 2’ of water through the sea cucumber field or swim it.  Since my sea cucumber attack, I was hesitant to go anywhere near them, yet they were everywhere.  Thank goodness the corals were amazing or I would have climbed back on shore.

The corals were healthy and vibrant.  All inviting you to come closer and take a look at their little community.


We found several Christmas trees nestled in the coral along with many gorgeous lipstick colored clams.  Check out this lizard fish sitting on top of the coral head.

Snorkeling near Ilot Moute

Snorkeling near Ilot Moute

After a great snorkel, we headed to another islet.  Matt and I explored this small islet the day before when it was packed with locals.  It has a cement slab and rebar arches and that is about it.  But, it was pretty darn cool to hang out on the rocks in the middle of the ocean.

Agape invited us over to celebrate Josh’s birthday.  Rachel made a really tasty turkey dinner and confetti cake with lemon frosting.  Happiest of Birthday’s Josh!

Josh's Birthday

Josh’s Birthday