This trip couldn’t have come any sooner. The cold weather was starting to get to me and thoughts of a trip to the warmer climate of Fiji filled my head on a daily basis. Finally the day arrived, and a very early flight brought promise of a half day lounging around a Fijian resort drinking a cold drink, while sitting in a hammock watching the sun go down. That night I dreamt of the island resorts and the wonderful diving they promised. 7am the next morning were up and on a bus to the port, a quick 2 hour boat trip watching the crystal clear water and lots of small tropical islands pass.
We arrive at our first destination – 2 nights on the beautiful Kuata Island where we are greeted on the boat by a dancing warrior stationed on the top of a very large pinnacle sticking out of the ocean. Seconds later we are on the beach greeted with song by the locals. Our dive guides were already waiting for us; they had cylinders ready to go, they took our gear and had it all set up for us and loaded onto the boat ready to go as we checked into our rooms and got ready. Within an hour of hitting the beach we were on the boat and heading out to do our first dive.
As we arrived at the dive location the Marine biologist, Thomas Vignaud, that lives and works on the island gave us our first shark dive briefing. After the safety and site briefing excitement took over and I was geared up and in the water within seconds already looking for the sharks. As I descended down, into the crystal clear water which easily allowed up to 30 meters of visibility, there right on the edge I spot the first one – a rather large female circling, then another, then another, and another. Within minutes of us hitting the water there was easily 15 bull sharks surrounding us and yet I felt no fear just amazement of these beautiful animals, they seemed to glide so gracefully through the water. We knelt behind a rock wall created for the divers to sit back and watch, the wall creates the perfect perch to rest your arms to take pictures! Behind us and what seemed like almost 2 to 1 were the dive guides, each equipped with a large aluminium pole, just incase the sharks got too curious, and behind them was a sloping wall to ensure nothing snuck up on them.
Then it started, as if they knew, Thomas was swarmed by hundreds of fish as he took out the first bit of feed. He attached it to a pole swam up and released it into the open water in front of us; as the large swarm of fish started at the feed they act as a homing device for the sharks that can detect their muscle movement in the water. The biggest female around pushes her way past the others and swallows the piece of fish whole, it seemed so calm, everything I had ever seen showed them to be such aggressive eaters but they were just so calm and lazy about it. This was like nothing I have ever seen, these animals were so beautiful, but they could be so quick and powerful when they wanted to be. The first time one turned around in front of me I could feel their power, like a massive wave of water crashing down on top of you – enough to move the rocks on the wall and if I hadn’t been holding onto the wall it probably would have pushed me backwards. They knew the second that Thomas had run out of food and slowly one by one they swam off into the distance
Back at the island we enjoyed a very large buffet lunch with a range of fresh salads and meats cooked in the traditional ways of the local village. We also had more time to rest and relax in our beach front safari tents – a very nice tent with hardwood floors, a little front v
eranda with chairs set out to enjoy the view of the neighbouring island and the house reef. Before dinner we had a information session and learned more about the research that Thomas and his crew are doing, and we were very impressed with their work, considering how limited their resources are; everything from making the island a marine sanctuary, to regrowing corals and reefs damaged by dynamite fishing, and tagging and tracking local sharks
Over the next three days we enjoyed several more dives with the beautiful bull sharks and many other sites that offered a great variety of sea life. Beautiful scaling sea fan forests and luscious colourful reefs swarming with small tropical fish, turtles taking naps in small cracks in the coral in the mid-day sun. Brightly clouded Nudibranches of all shapes and sizes lots of little black tip reef sharks and blue spotted lagoon rays, Morays, shrimp, pipefish, flat worms, octopus and tons of different species of fish.
It all seemed to go by so quickly, a week of relaxing on tropical islands and some of the best dives I’ve ever done! I had a great time, met some great new people and made some friends, and I already can’t wait to go back.