Contributed by Scuba Diver Australasia
Blue Lagoon, Castaway, Savage Islands, Anacondas ... names that evoke impressions of aquamarine water, waving coconut palms, white sand beaches, secret gardens, hidden lakes, swift rivers, waterfalls, high mountains and raw adventure. In reality they are titles of Hollywood movies and they were filmed in Fiji. The familiar links between all these movies are obvious – Fiji is a remote outpost, white sand beaches and boats are essential aspects of life. In fact, the boat "The Bloody Mary" which features in Anacondas has been transformed into a fully-fitted bar at the Lagoon Resort Hotel in Pacific Harbour!
Cast across the expanse of the South Pacific Ocean, the Fiji archipelago comprises 322 islands surrounded by lush coral reefs, warm azure waters and abundant marine life. For avid scuba divers, surfers, sky divers and the sun worshippers who simply wish to day dream beneath coconut palms, Fiji is the destination of dreams but watch out for those falling coconuts, they are the islands number one killer! Wonder if Fijian law provides life sentencing for felonious coconut palms?
Defined by the area between the latitudes 15° and 22° South, and the longitude 177° West and 174° East, the island country covers over 700,000 square kilometres with only 3 percent of that being land. The capital township of Suva is located on the biggest island of Viti Levu and the second largest is Vanua Levu in the North. Amid its wealth of natural beauty, Fiji's true magic lies in its people and the melting pot of diverse cultures, rich mixture of vibrant, exuberant Melanesians, East Indians, Polynesians, Micronesians, Chinese, and Caucasians, each with a cuisine and culture of their own. The people are genuinely warm; smile easily and they are great with children. For those who can’t leave their kids behind but wish to sneak out for a dive or two during a family holiday, willing baby sitters are very easy to find.
Throughout the archipelago, the islands are remarkably beautiful, an idyllic locale for the romantic, honeymooners, families, backpackers, the young and young at heart alike. While the five-star resorts are furnished for the rich and famous ala Nicole Kidman and Mel Gibson, the backpacker accommodation is also pretty impressive. One such resort is the Nadi Bay Resort, just 10 mins from the airport. It offers everything from dormitory class accommodation to self contained apartment suites. According to my three year old, the swimming pool there is of dog bone shape, lushly fringed with tropical palms. The water is warm, the girls are gorgeous, and life's good.
For the fearless diver, Fiji has a few adrenaline fixes to die for. At 7.45am Christa Pickering a travel consultant by profession was already on her way to the biggest dive of her career. I was curious of her impending adventure; I went along for the ride. At 8.15am, she free fell from the sky at 10,000 metres and landed on the fine volcanic sand beach. Just 30 minutes later I was laughing my fins off when I was shooting her being attacked by a heinous Yellow damselfish at 30 metres below the surface.
If that is not a sufficient fix, I suggest hiring a car, push the limit for a 90 minute drive to meet with Rusi, Mini or Manasa at Beqa Adventure Diver. They are the official shark feeders and predictably they can beckon up to 8 species of sharks in one dive. Among the big boys is the Bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas) and it is not uncommon to find up to 50 full grown sharks turning up for this unique adventure. Considered to be the most dangerous shark in the world, even surpassing the Great White shark, Bull sharks have a bad reputation. Possessing broad, serrated triangular teeth and very powerful jaws, bull sharks are known to eat almost anything. Position yourself next to one of the feeders and wait for one of these broad shouldered sharks to appear right up close and personal. Seeing one of these fearsome but magnificent animals opening their jaws for a fish barely a foot away is like the opening scene from 'JAWS' in real time, a surrealistic heart pumping experience that will be forever embedded in your mind. And if you are really lucky, Tiger sharks are also known to turn up to feed. I was incredibly lucky; of four day outings to Shark Reef, the Tiger sharks turned up for three. However that is a story for the future, and I am already planning to return for another incredible Fiji experience.
Nadi, the gateway to Fiji diving is located 2 hours flight north of Auckland,
3 hours from Sydney, 9 hours away from Los Angeles and as a crow flies, about
9 hours away from Singapore. Direct flights from Sydney, Los Angeles, Tokyo
and Seoul, otherwise connect Air New Zealand from Auckland.
For Sky Dive Advernture: www.AquaBlueFiji.com - [email protected]; www.skydivefiji.com.fj
For the best Sharkdive: www.fiji-sharks.com; - [email protected]
**the author wishes to thanks Uri & Naomi Simpson, Christa Pickering, Cassie and Tony of SKYDIVE Fiji, Mike Neumann, James Beasley, Rusi, Mini, Manasa, David and Eliki for their assistance for making this feature possible.
This article was originally published in Scubadiver Australasia