Bula Kristy! Welcome back to Fiji

Their happiness is infectious.  My last trip to Fiji was for work (yes, I know. It’s not a bad gig!), and once the meetings and conferences were done in Nadi I managed to escape down the coast for a week of palm trees and sunshine.

First stop – Mango Bay! With a range of accommodation from dorm rooms to beachside bures, an in house dive shop, surf school, and a bar that will keep you entertained till the wee hours this place has something for everyone. As this property targets backpackers, they run regular activities to keep everyone entertained. This is great even for those who aren’t so young and crazy as you can join in the activities as and when you please, and the private accommodation is far enough away from the bar so as not to keep you up and night. I happened to be there during the Rugby World Cup, the owner, Danny, had put up a big screen outside by the beach and everyone sat around watching it in the moonlight. Such a great evening, and a perfect way to meet people when you are travelling alone.

My recollection of the diving is pretty good. At the time their compressor could only do tank fills to 180 bar, though no one seemed very concerned by this. On the first day the in house instructor Alex took me out on one of the shallower dives to test my skills, then for the next few days I was diving with the local DM’s.  From the dive hut you carry your gear down to a small tinny and jump onboard. Getting out past the waves was sometimes a bit of a challenge, but always worth it! Reef sharks, turtles and an abundance of tropical fish just waiting to entertain us.

Fiji Dive team

The amazing dive team. Baptiste, Joe, Mike and Darryl

From Mango Bay I headed south further down the Coral Coast to Pacific Harbour where I stayed at Uprising Beach Resort. This place is another great option that caters for all budgets, and it’s the perfect place to stay for those who are keen to do the famous Beqa Lagoon shark dive, a diving experience not to be missed on any trip to Fiji. There are a couple of dive operations you can go with. I chose Beqa Adventure Divers, also known as BAD. They are extremely popular, so much so that it does seem a little mechanical on arrival. The maximum group size is 20 people and they are booked out some time in advance so you can pretty much guarantee that you will be diving in a group of 20. I was a little skeptical as to how my day was going to go..

Once on board ‘MV Predator’ the briefing began. It was explained to us that this was a shark conservation project that has a dive operation associated with it, not the other way around. $20 from each diver goes to the local villages to stop them fishing in this area and keep the sharks protected. This made me feel a little easier about feeding wild animals, and they have Ron and Valerie Taylor’s blessing so they mustn’t be too bad right?

Once we reached the ‘arena’ we were ready for the show to begin! Giant stride off the back of the boat, descend down to 30m, grab a hold of the pre-positioned rocks surrounding the arena and just watch with eyes the size of saucepans and a neck seemingly made of rubber! About a dozen giant bull sharks, countless reef sharks, some silver tips, a tawny nurse and a lemon shark all came in to feed on tuna heads from the hands of the well trained staff. It was certainly an amazing spectacle, and one that will never be forgotten. Once our deco limits were running low we began a slightly nerve racking assent and safety stop then clambered back on the boat.

Dive number two was the same thing but shallower and because of the depth only attracted reef sharks. On a normal day this would be very impressive, but after the first dive your adrenalin levels become greedy and you spend most of the time with your eyes to the blue hoping that the big fellas might come back for more. Once back on board, the questions began. I generally have a lot of questions, this was no exception. The local staff were more than happy to answer them, and more importantly had all of the answers.  All in all it was a great experience and well worth spending the money on. It is a little weird in the sense that it’s not a dive as such, it’s a show. And feeding animals in the wild is something that you are always taught not to do, but that other option is that these beautiful creatures would be served with rice and cava in the surrounding villages if not for the conservation worth that BAD are doing.

Want to see more? Have a look at the gallery