Saturday, April 1, 2017
Arrived in Fiji in the early morning. As we stood up on the plane I saw Harrison Ford and his family standing across the aisle from us. OMG! All that time on the plane with my favorite actor and I only found out when it was over. ~sigh~
At the airport we joined up with our scuba group and all got in a van for the 2+ hour drive to the resort. On the way we stopped at a little souvenir shop and Alan and I got some postcards for the moms.
Once we arrived at the resort we got our rooms and were then fed some lunch. We got our briefings on the next day’s dives around dinnertime, had dinner and then everyone went to bed early.
Sunday, April 2, 2017
Got up early for a good breakfast and then headed out for our first two dives.
Our first dive was on Three Nuns. I started out at 3200 psi and had a horrible time with weights. I struggled most of the dive to stay down. The current was tough, but manageable. I ended the dive with 800 psi – one of my worst returns.
Our second dive was on Seven Sisters, starting out with 3200 psi. This time I over-weighted on purpose and that helped, although my right side was decidedly heavier and pulled me in that direction. The currents were the worst I have encountered anywhere in five years of diving but I got a few interesting photos. Time will tell. I ended on 750 psi. New record.
After the two dives we had lunch and Alan told me I’d cut off Pat twice. I felt awful for that and found her and apologized. She was sweet and said she’d make it up to me by cutting me off on future dives.
Monday, April 3, 2017
While on our way to the first dive of the day we had the pleasure of the company of a pod of Spinner Dolphins. It didn’t last long, but it was fun all the same.
Our first dive today was Turtle Head. I got my weights balanced (finally) and had a good dive. Still strong currents thought. Ended up with 1100 psi. Happy about that.
Second dive was Yanuca – a drift dive. Perfect! Saw a very small reef shark. Got some okay pictures – loads of new fish to admire when compared to Caribbean fish. I think there or more brightly colored fish here – but it could be the newness of it all.
We had lunch back at the resort and rested then went out for a third dive, this time at Pipe Dream – another drift dive. Lots of pretty soft coral.
One thing Alan and I find disappointing is the visibility. We had gotten the impression that the waters here were pretty and clear, but that hasn’t been the case so far.
Tuesday, April 4, 2017
This morning there was a little trouble with the boat engine, but once repairs were effected we were off for our first dive. On the way we encountered a pod of Pilot Whales and hung out with them for a while.
Ponte’s Playground was amazing. The currents were strong, but it was all good. There were two really cool swim-throughs and I saw a giant clam and pointed it out to one of the other divers. When coming up I could see that Alan was having trouble with his flipper and I went to help. Somehow during that moment, I lost my camera. Forever.
The second dive was further away and a drift dive. I tried to enjoy it despite the loss of my camera. We all saw a large Hawksbill Sea Turtle and I saw another giant clam and had a little fun with it.
On the way back to the island we saw some Spinner Dolphins and also came across the Pilot Whale pod again, this time they were playing and we had fun watching them.
This evening we were entertained by a Kava Ceremony, songs by the locals in which we got to participate, and dancing.
The Kava Ceremony is the way of greeting special guests on Fiji. The chief makes up a concoction of a root that has been pounded to a paste and then placed in a cloth and pressed through water (sort of like making tea, but bigger) to make a large bowl of Kava to drink. Using hollowed coconut shells, cut in half, a shell-full of the Kava is presented by the chief to each guest to drink. The tradition is to clap once, with cupped hands, say, “Bula!” enthusiastically, then then take the bowl and down the brew. Easier said than done since the Kava does not taste especially good. Once drunk, the guest gives the bowl back to the chief, claps three times and says, “Bula!” again. On our evening the chief was feeling especially generous and each guest got at least two shells of Kava. It makes your mouth and lips go numb.
After the ceremony there was much singing by everyone and dancing.
Dinner was a feast that had been cooked entirely in a pit. There was fish, chicken, pork, greens, native root vegetables, and a sweet potato salad. Dessert was a sweet apple cake. Everyone went away from the table stuffed.
Afterward we were briefed on the next day’s dives, with sharks!
Wednesday, April 5, 2017
Shark dive day!!! And not in a cage. This was out in the open.
Waidroka Resort arranged for a 2-tank shark dive with AquaTrek at Beqa dive site for whomever wanted to go. Naturally, we signed up. We were heavily briefed the night before, and then briefed again on the dive boat the next morning; no waving at the sharks or at a camera, keep yourself and camera tucked in behind the wall (a two-foot wall made of chunks of coral), be aware of your surroundings at all times, and much more. It all boiled down to not making yourself look like fish bait.
We were told that we would suck air like crazy as we descended because we were either scared or excited. They were right. I blew through air like crazy, I didn’t realize just how I’d been breathing before entry and I’d oxygenated my body, so descending was a chore until I realized what had happened and began to deep breathe and relax. We were to get in and descend immediately, no waiting on a line, so of course this added to my anxiety for descending quickly, but I got over it and finally got down and followed the group the short distance to the wall.
Alan was on my right the first time down, Warren, our dive master, was too Alan’s right and the other divers were assembled on either side of us along the wall. Shark wranglers, each with a sort of shepherd’s pole, came down and positioned themselves behind us.
There was no waiting to see sharks, they were already there; bull sharks, nurse sharks, lemon sharks, gray sharks, white tip sharks, and silver tip sharks. The bull sharks were the largest, most well over six or eight feet long and just big like a dump truck. They all swam in front of us along with a huge battalion of assorted fish – loads of Sergeant Majors, some wrasse, and… well I lost interest in the little guys, my attention was pinned on the sharks.
The sharks and fish swam around some lockers on the floor of the ocean. This locker held several tuna heads. A few of the wranglers swam up over us and positioned themselves in front of the wall, one of them reached into a locker and pulled out a tuna head and held it out for a bull shark to take, which it did, with no violent body language. It moved away with the head and everything resumed as normal, although you could tell there was some excitement in the fish and sharks because it was feeding time.
We were entertained like this for quite a while, some of the sharks got very, very close. I mean like within only several inches close. One of the big bull sharks’ fins came within maybe six inches of my mask. I was fascinated and happy to be witnessing this display.
We were down for about 35 minutes before getting the signal to move carefully away and back to the boat.
Once up all the chatter was, “big”, “OMG”, etc. everyone was thrilled.
We had some rest, coffee, tea and a snack. While up the wrangler’s boat reported that a Tiger Shark was in the area! That made Warren whoop with excitement. He loves sharks and has studied them for years (he has a degree in this stuff).
Warren was very informative about the sharks, the differences in each, how they act when they hunt, verses how they act when they are fed like this. He told us how this feeding at this site helped to study the sharks further and did not impact the ecology of it by as much as others argued it did. Having this feeding area and the protected waters around it, helps the sharks to thrive instead of being caught (illegally) for shark fins for China and Japan.
On the second dive we were cautioned to stay close together and near the ocean floor when approaching the wall this time in case the tiger shark was close by. We did. She was.
Her name is Survivor. She is fifteen feel long and at least a good 800 pounds. She is a Tiger shark and she was exciting! Naturally she stole the show – the bull sharks had nothing on her for size. She cruised by the wall of divers many times, sometimes moving her head in our direction, sometimes swimming over the top of us. The wranglers kept things from getting out of hand, but there was one moment, right in front of me, that I had my doubts and cautiously lowered myself just a little bit more behind the wall until it was over. It felt like she was only six inches from my mask, but in reality, it was probably more like twelve inches.
Thirty minutes was over too soon, and she had moved far enough away for the moment to allow us all to very carefully negotiate our way back to our boat. What a thrill!!!
Warren got lots of good GoPro video, which he shared with everyone once we were back at the resort.
Once we were back on the boat we were all taken to Suva island for a pre-packed lunch, some swimming and general relaxing before heading out to our last dive of the day at Rainbow Valley and the Tunnel of Love. It was a tough dive. The current coming around the valley was almost impossible. My thighs were burning. Alan and two other divers had to quit shortly after because they’d burned through too much 02. I stayed with Chelle and the others and got to enjoy the beautiful Tunnel of Love, which was a pass through two pinnacles lined with loads of soft coral. It was sort of ethereal and a nice image to end the diving day on.
Thursday, April 6, 2017
Last day of diving. Unfortunately, the Kava has had some pretty nasty side effects for both of us. I took some Imodium to help. Apparently we weren’t the only divers who had ill effects from the Kava – one other diver, Page, asked for some of our Imodium too. Alan took some too, but his problem persisted, and he had a bad cramp in his calf. He decided not to go diving, so I went without him.
We dove (twice) off of Frigates Reef and it was some of the best diving of the whole trip. I was sorry Alan missed it. We saw a Zebra Shark and a few sleeping White Tips, and on the third dive, on Three Nuns, we saw THREE Blue Fire Clams! I even saw the “blue fire” on one of them. 😊
Afterward Alan met us at the dock and helped me get all my gear together, rinsed and out to dry.
Dinner was delicious tonight; we had octopus for the appetizer, fish and polenta for dinner, and crepes for desert. Yum!
Friday, April 7, 2017
Today we took a 45 minute trip on a longboat, with five other people, up a river to a waterfall where we got to enjoy a dip in the waterfall’s pool. It was cold, but so very refreshing. Afterward we visited a Fijian village, changed our clothes, and were treated to a Kava ceremony, a bit different from the first one at the resort. We were welcomed then as family of the villagers. They entertained us with songs, then got us all up dancing, even Alan danced! When the dancing was done we had a dinner fit for a king. My favorite was the fish cooked in coconut milk and I asked the ladies how it was prepared. I can’t wait to try it at home.
After dinner we were taken on a tour of the little village, shown how important coconut is to Fijians, introduced to the pre-school children who sang some songs for us, and then enjoyed shopping the homemade wares back in the lodge.
It was a long day, but it was a full day of making some new friends. I left the village promising to send our village guide, Nim, some genuine North Carolina pine cones.
Dinner tonight was pork with a dessert of rice pudding served on dry ice. We toasted our hosts, sang happy birthday to Dave, and somewhere along the line I began to feel a bittersweet melancholy that it was all coming to an end.
Alan and I will leave our diving gear with them to take home for us, and we will head to the airport for our flight to Melbourne.
Saturday, April 8, 2017
We spent the day saying good-bye to all our hosts and new friends at the resort. The staff sang us a sweet song good-bye and we (David’s family and us) all piled into a van along with our luggage and headed out to the ONLY pizza restaurant on the island. Alan and I shared a seafood pizza with crab, octopus, scallops and more – delicious!
Afterward David wanted very much to hit Fiji’s national sand dunes park so we all went there and hiked up some steep dunes before piling back into the van and heading to the airport so Alan and I could catch our plane.
We are deeply in debt to David for taking out dive bag back home for us. We’ll have to do something special for him and Page.
The flight was cramped – isn’t it always – and overly long, but we got to Melbourne and our hotel without a hitch at around midnight.