24th December, Fiji, Naviti (Yasawas Group)
Just as we had expected, we awoke to blue skies in the morning. Last night's torrential rain showed no sign of reappearing in a hurry (but then we'd been surprised by it yesterday evening too!).
Manda was feeling a little bit woozy this morning - the boat had been rocking a bit too much for her to consider snorkelling just yet. Instead I went out just off the boat with Sylvie. Previously, we'd been taken by the transfer boat further over toward the shore where the water is shallower and the coral is closer to investigate.
Even though it had rained, the water was not murked up in any way, and I rarely simply stay floating at the surface when snorkelling. My favourite thing about snorkelling is spotting something deeper underwater, taking a few lungfuls of air then diving down to take a good look. The boat was sitting in water that was about 7 metres deep, and some of the coral directly underneath the boat reduced the depth to between 5 and 6 metres. This was perfect for me.
I spent the next hour diving straight down then stopping, vertical, upside-down, facing a reef teeming with fish. Looking down (as in, back to the surface), I could see the morning light shimmering off the water. The current was not too strong, but it was easy for me to maintain this upside-down position, with my head in a cloud of fish just drifting along with them wherever the current took them. Somewhere in the distance I could hear dolphins chirping away to each other. I kept a look out for them, but the sound could easily have travelled for a mile or two - perhaps more - so I had to settle for watching the smaller fish. Simply fantastic - it's just a shame having to come back up for breath.
We had some interesting new arrivals on the boat today - Anne and Andy (who were from Leeds, Sheffield or thereabouts - sorry, Anne/Andy, if you are reading - you can correct us on this one!) who were doing a round-the-world trip too, but had managed to squeeze something like 15 stops out of their tickets. I need to have words with Becky back at STA, I reckon, heh. Also joining us were Robert and Ohara. Robert was also from Leeds direction while his wife was a Filipino girl with attitude - not in a bad way, but an entertaining way (well, from our point of view at least). She told us about how they would bicker and she'd call him stupid ("Well, he is!"), he'd call her 'bunnion' (some kind of Filipino insult that means ugly), she'd retort with something like 'balloon' (Robert had put on weight since going on travels, she told us). Like cat and dog. Great fun to watch. Ohara's joking only just masked the fact that she was not having the best time travelling - they were at the tail end of it all and she seemed to want it to be over.
In the evening Manda sat with Ohara (who had reappeared wearing a T-shirt that read 'I'm with Stupid' but then sat at the table such that it was pointing toward me!) and looked at some of Ohara's photos of the trip so far - the Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam; Robert also had some photos that they had enlarged, including some stunning pictures of Angkor Wat (Cambodia) taken at sunrise and sunset.
Afterwards we went out to the front of the boat to look at the stars - I had noticed that it was a clear night, and from the bow we got a clearer view. The crew were very good - they saw that we were watching the skies and then switched off the lights in the bridge which gave us an almost perfect view above. Moments later we all saw a shooting star that lasted a good 4-5 seconds. On Christmas Eve this seemed very appropriate. Ohara's wish was not likely to come true though - she was missing her family something chronic (Manda later told me that at one point Ohara had been close to tears on the bow).
Manda and I didn't wait up until 12pm to see in Xmas day. Normally we would do this, but it seemed so unlike Christmas here on a boat in the Yasawas, with the warm evening air and just a handful of people on the deck. Had there been a full house (or boat) there may have been more of a party atmosphere, but it was almost as if everyone had accepted that this was not a traditional Christmas Eve. We said our goodnights before the 10pm.