Fiji: Sharks, lots of rain and the friendliest people

Before I got the flight to Fiji I was informed to check that my flight hadn’t been cancelled because of some massive floods that had hit the islands. It wasn’t a good omen for my stay in these paradise islands, but fortunately the flight wasn’t cancelled and I arrived in thick cloud but fortunately no rain. However, a quick check of the weather forecast was not pleasant reading with cloud, rain, thunderstorms and a cyclone expected to pass by during my 10 day stay ūüė¶

This radically changed my plans which had been to visit the Yasawa Islands on a 7 day island-hopping pass which takes you to some, apparently, breathtakingly beautiful islands. Probably not so if you couldn’t see the island because of the rain… so instead I decided to just stick to the main island of Vitu Levu where I might be able to do rainy-day¬†activities¬†instead, and if the weather looked like improving, taking a trip to an island later in the week.

My first stop was a backpacker resort in the middle of no-where on the southern Coral Coast called BeachHouse. After a 4 hour bus journey from Nadi I arrived and immediately got stuck into a game of volleyball with a few locals from a nearby village who were visiting their mates at the resort. They invited me to their village later that evening and after finding that¬†there wasn’t much going on in the resort I sauntered down with an Ozzie bloke and a bottle of rum in hand. The village had no shops, bars or anything…it was just a bunch of huts and we were ¬†enthusiastically¬†welcomed into one of the bigger huts where we sat around in a circle on the floor for a Kava ceremony. Kava or grog is a drink made from the root of the Kava plant and it is mixed in a huge bowl from which cups are taken (like punch). The brown, murky drink resembles dishwater and tastes a bit like muddy water; it is non-alcoholic¬†but has anaesthetic and sedative qualities; and in Fiji it is drunk everyday. I think just about everyone from the village popped there heads in at some point to see the foreigners neck a few cups. After a point we shared the rum out and ended up having a dance around to some pop music they played through the TV!

The next couple of days I chilled around the resort doing a bit of snorkelling and swimming. I also attempted to surf which is hugely popular in Fiji.  The actual break is about 100m out to sea where the coral reef drops off. I managed to get up a few times, but it was quite daunting catching a wave  when you can see the sharp coral just a metre or so beneath the crystal clear water.

My next stop on the island was a resort called Uprising attached to a small village called Pacific Harbour. I was here for one main reason: the Shark Dive. ¬†I befriended some Brits at the resort, Bex and Christian; and a Danish chap called Dan and after checking that we weren’t going to get hit by a passing cyclone, booked to do the dive. The day before the dive I noticed the gash in my foot from jumping off the tree into the river in Paihia, NZ was getting a bit manky and my foot had swollen and gone red wwhich seemed to imply infection. Wanting to avoid amputation I caught the bus to the next town with a doctors surgery, Navua, and located the doctor’s surgery at the back of a supermarket. ¬†After being prescribed antibiotics my next concern was that the ¬†sharks would sniff out the wound and have my foot off…

The following day and with a slightly less angry foot, we sailed out to the middle of ¬†the Beqa lagoon in the rain; to an aptly named dive site, The Bistro. After the briefing and safety warnings etc… we descended to 23m and one of the ‘shark feeders’ towed a wheelie-bin full of fish bits in front of us which sparked a huge frenzy of hundreds of fish of all descriptions including ¬†sharks. We saw Sicklefin Lemon sharks, Nurse sharks, Black Tips, Silver Tips and the man-eating Bull shark all fighting for a bit of grub. These were accompanied by Giant Trevellies, Remoras, a huge Grouper, Moral eels and a list of other fish as long as my arm. It was quite amazing to see the feeders pull out a huge head of Tuna which they would then hand-feed directly to these massive powerful bull sharks.

The second dive was more of the same but this time Christian, who was given a closer spot to take some pictures, had a bull shark come right up to him which one of the guides had to bop on the nose with a metal rod! The two dives were definitely up there with the best dives I’ve ever done and it was awesome to see the sharks in action.

Sicklefin Lemon Shark – generally not dangerous to humans:

Here I hand the camera to one of the guides to get some better shots. ¬†You’ll see a few Bulls at the start and then Lemons and Nurses later. ¬†At the end a Lemon shark gets in between the guide and me which was pretty cool to see:

Loads of sharks (Bull at the front):

Bull shark having a feed:

This Grouper was HUGE:

Christian goes face-to-face with a Bull:

Back on land I decided that I would head to the capital, Suva, with the plan to have a day trip to a nearby island the next day. However, the weather was really deteriorating and the forecast was to get worse. Not wanting to get stuck on the other side of the island to the airport I decided to cut my losses and get back to Nadi the next day and just chill in the rain there.

And that’s what I did. I had found a really cool, cheap hostel when I first arrived in Nadi, called Bamboo and so I headed back there for the last few days. During this time the weather was really bad and all I could do was sit around the hostel making friends and chatting. This is quite easy to do in Fiji and¬†especially¬†at Bamboo where there were loads of ‘staff’ that kinda just hung-out and chatted.

Normal night at the Bamboo.  One of the staff gets a tattoo whilst another strums out some tunes and the Kava bowl (bottom left) is always on the go:

Volleyball at Bamboo.  It was absolutely hammering down, but the show must go on!

The rain just about held out on the last night for the Polynesian fire and dancing show:

I had come to find that the Fijians were the friendliest people I had come across on my travels, and the laid back and social attitude was totally infectious. I had really enjoyed Fiji despite not seeing the sun for the duration, because the people made up for it.

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