The Dragon’s Head Adventures

Dragon island - Namenalala, FijiThe island of Namenalala is shaped something like a dragon. Karen actually noticed it first when we were arriving the other day. We were moored near a rock on the west end, which we later found out is called “Dragon’s Head”. There are pretty sand beaches lined with coconut trees on both sides of the narrow part of the island near the rock, which I guess is the dragon’s neck.

We finally got to dive on Sunday. We took the dinghy out and tied a long rope to it. Then we pulled the dinghy along as we dove. There is a sheer wall along the reef that slants very slightly from pure steep for 100 feet, and then drops straight down to the abyss (about 1000 feet according to our charts). We moved along the reef for a while seeing a variety of fish and coral. There were several new fish we haven’t seen before. I spotted a huge barracuda. But, we never saw any shark. We then got to an area where there are some huge round coral heads called pinnacles. There were even more fish here and Karen took pictures as we explored the area. Finally we rounded the pinnacles and did a no-decompression stop before rising back to the surface. It was a successful dive, and we really enjoyed it.

That evening the winds clocked to the north and it got a bit bouncy on our mooring. The winds were scheduled to clock around a bit to the west during the day, so we decided to stay another day here before heading west to Viti Levu. I called Moody’s Namena resort on the radio and asked about moving to the south side and going on a nature walk. Mr. Moody gave us permission, so we moved Tahina to an anchorage off the beach on the southeast side.

After lunch, we took the kayak ashore and met Mr. Moody. He has owned and lived on the island for 30 years, but he was originally from Pittsburg. Not only that, but he grew up in North Caroilna – so we recognized his accent. He also lived for 15 years in San Blas, Panama. We had lots in common to talk about. He showed us his resort which is carefully built on a small part of the eastern side of the island. He has purposely only developed 10 acres of the 110 acres of the island. The rest is virgin tropical forest.

We brought the resort some books as a gift for their guest library. He gave us some ripe bananas. Gift giving is a tradition in Fiji. We also met Nigel who is part of the staff here. Nigel had given us advice on the dive. Mr. Moody gave us a briefing on the nature walk. He told us we would end up at Dragon’s Head, and there is a trail up the rock.

We heard and saw many tropical birds along the way. We got pictures of nesting booby’s, both young nestlings and the adults. And we took photos of other kinds of birds as well, but it was challenging with all the vegetation. They have just one main trail around the island, and it is kept maintained for the guests. We finally made it down to the southwest side which ends up on the sandy beach – the neck of the dragon. It was a really pretty beach and we sat and relaxed a bit. Then we climbed the Dragon’s Head and were treated to some nice views. Although, I noticed it was getting cloudy now.

The clouds made the walk back a bit cooler. The walk back was along the northern coastline. We were under many trees with nesting booby’s, and were treated to pretty views of the coast. It was a much less strenuous part of the walk. We were soon back to the boat jetty for the resort and climbed up the road back to the office. There we met up with Nigel and Mr. Moody and told them about our walk. We stayed and chatted for a while, but noticed the wind had shifted south and it looked like it might rain. So, we went back to the beach and took our kayak back to the boat.

The night got to be an even bigger adventure. But, first we needed some refreshment from the walk. Karen took a shower, and I got some ice we had in our freezer. I made us some nice cold banana smoothies. What a nice treat! We relaxed for a while as dusk arrived. Suddenly I realized that the winds were not changing and it was getting swelly. It occurred to me we wouldn’t want to stay at anchor on this side of the island for the night. So, I suggested we move even though it was getting dark. We knew where the mooring was on the other side.

So, we raised anchor and motored back to the mooring. Karen got out the big scuba spotlight and we soon found it. But, the winds were still blowing 20+ knots and we had a hard time getting the boat positioned so Karen could life the mooring line. On the third try the hook got caught and she dropped the boat hook. Fortunately, it floats and I managed to get the boat in position for Karen to pick it up off the back. Then we tried again and finally got tied up. As we were moving the lines around, the underwater light (still turned on) fell through a hole on the trampoline into the water!

I immediately took off my shorts (I didn’t want to get them wet) and jumped naked into the water after the light. I went down about 30 feet, but couldn’t catch up with the light. So, I went back up and got back on the boat. The light was now sitting on the bottom in 75 feet of water. No problem, we’d just get scuba gear out and go retrieve it. So, I got a bathing suit on and Karen helped me gear up. A few minutes later I dove in and slowly followed my way down to the light on the bottom. It seemed a bit murky, but I finally saw it sitting on the sandy bottom. I picked it up and made my way slowly up. I couldn’t quite figure out where I was until I was near the surface – I was near the front of the boat. Finally, I surface between the hulls and got the lights onto the boat. Then took off the gear and lifted it on. A successful rescue!

After washing everything down, Karen started making dinner. I remarked that it was amazing that I was able to dive that first attempt without a mask and not lose the one contact I had in my eye. Then i was looking around the boat and suddenly realized – I HAD lost the contact! That was funny! Now I realized why the water seemed murky and I had a hard time seeing the boat coming up.

We decided we won’t attempt to move the boat like that at night again. Especially with so much wind blowing. Lesson number 565 for boating! Fortunately for us, the winds eased through the night and we had a nice calm sleep during the night.

[UPDATE: See the photos of our time on the island here.]

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One Response to The Dragon’s Head Adventures

  1. nanag says:

    Well, it seems as though you are really having a wonderful, funfilled trip! We all miss both of you, but we are so glad that you are having so much fun. One of you or both of you will need to write a book when you get back to the states. Where do you plan to live when you come home ( or is that too far away to think about now?) My dad is not doing so well, we are worried about him, but he is still ticking along. Take care of each other, and know that our whole family is with you in heart, and we all love both of you!

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