Bates Family South Seas Sabbatical travel blog

Snorkelling trip (Count up to follow)

MV Reef Escape

Thunderbird 2 off to Waya island

Katua island


We have just completed the first 4 days of our cruise and it has been fabulous. We may yet join my parents who have been cruising (as in taking holidays on cruise liners rather than looking for casual sex in cars) for years. It is a relatively small boat with just over 50 passengers mostly from Australia with nearly as many crew as guests.

Each day is timetabled with maritime precision. We start with breakfast in the Yassawa saloon and end with drinks in the Ramarama lounge. When announced over the Tannoy these sound very "Vic Reeves Shooting stars- Oovaavoo".

In between opportunities to overeat and overdrink, we sail between dramatic volcanic atolls and visit idyllic beaches and coves. In scenes reminiscent of Thunderbirds, a large glass-bottomed boat is lowered into the sea on hydralic jacks from the back of the boat. The oldies are ferried to the shore for sunbathing and casual seashell and curio shopping while the more active are dropped off over the reef for the most amazing snorkelling. The boys can now accurately identify blue starfish, moorish idols, boxfish, angelfish and Nemos (Clownfish). Both boys have really taken to it and snorkelled for hours. When they check afterwards Gully has inevitably seen several more and much larger varieties of whatever fish compared with Kingsley.

I have done two dives with the boat's divemaster and the first engineer's wife. During the first dive we spotted feather starfish and a stonefish and in the second dive we encountered a group of 6 manta rays of between 1-3 metres. They are so graceful in the water and appear to fly by you. I had my camera with me but cannot process the images till we get home. As it was my first outing with the camera I am not expecting much.

On the third night the wind came up and we struggled with our anchorage. As the boat has such a shallow keel it was getting quite rocky. We were lurching wildly as we fell asleep. At four in the morning the captain knocked on our door and I wondered as I woke if we had run aground and needed to abandon ship. Instead it was medical emergency. The child psychiatrist deferred to the generalist and Ness went to attend a 70 year old with severe angina unresponsive to his usual medication. Ness may wish to fill in the details but several hours later at daylight a Seaplane landed to take him back to the main island. By lunchtime it was all round the ship and Ness had further patients with 2 days epistaxis (nosebleed), feverishness and anticlotting medication queries. If we stay any longer it may be worth setting up a Ridgeacre House branch surgery.

We have three more days booked but expect to meet up today with the Moores who arrived from Peru three days ago. Sensible adult conversation, company for the boys and some serious Cannasta. Sounds good to me.

Love Gordon



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