Pacific Harbour, Fiji - Sept 27-Oct 4
Oct 4, 2011
|September 27, 2011
Even though we didn’t need to be up early, the Kiwi in our room was up around 7am and the two Asians were unpacking and repacking and changing beds and generally being f*cking loud and annoying so we were both up fairly early. I still felt bad so just laid in bed and read before going for a long shower. Once we were packed we went down to the common area to hang out. Our flight wasn’t until 2pm and I soon found out it had been delayed until 4pm. It was barely 10am and they already knew our flight was going to be at least 2 hours late so that didn’t bode well. Despite the delay, we decided to leave the hostel at 11, preferring the “comfort” of the airport over the hostel! After some leftover pizza for breakfast, we boarded the airport bus and were at the international terminal just before midday and were able to get rid of our bags immediately. We had some NZ dollars to spend so after lunch at another Mac’s bar (they’ve spread in the last 18 months, I swear!) we perused our spending options in the various shops. Most of the souvenir shops are identical but we were able to find an ice-tray which made tiki-shaped ice and Elizabeth couldn’t resist it… and I spent the final few dollars on chocolate!
The flight to Fiji was less than three hours and the large plane was pretty full. It left a little later than the supposed delayed time so with the time difference it was almost 6.30pm and dark by the time we landed at Nadi, Fiji’s main airport. We joined the lengthy immigration queue and were immediately reminded of Bermuda. The locals queue was shorter than the visitor one yet they had more immigration staff dealing with them and it seemed like those that were working weren’t in a rush. This was compounded as our delayed flight meant we landed around the same time as a large flight from Australia and another from NZ so the arrivals terminal was busy and buzzing with three plane-loads of people, all looking for immigration forms, all looking for luggage and all looking for resort pick-ups. After immigration, we got our luggage pretty quickly and joined the ‘goods to declare’ line, Elizabeth having found a cool looking shell in NZ she decided she wanted to keep!
Outside, still with the shell, we found our driver and loaded our bags into the minivan. It was dark already but the humidity was high and I soon found myself sweating lifting our heavy bags around. It was quite a change from NZ! The drive to our resort, the Uprising Hotel in a place called Pacific Harbour, took around 2 hours although I’m sure it should’ve taken longer. Our driver was a bit mental but I’m sure he wanted to get us where we were going so he could go home, too. He advised us that the resort was expensive and he stopped at a shop for us to pick up some stuff. I was a bit hesitant about whether he was telling us the truth but we wanted to get some water so we picked up a case for 30 Fiji Dollars, about US$18. He told us this would be at least double at the resort so we thought it was worth getting now. As it turns out, he was under-estimating as it would’ve been about 3 times more at the resort although most of the other things, we were to find out, were more reasonable. However, as we were diving four days we knew we’d drink plenty of water so that was a good investment! We also bought a beer to drink along the way, opting to try the Fiji Bitter. It wasn’t great and with the rough roads and dodgy driving, we were soon both regretting our option for alcohol! We arrived at the resort just before 10pm and it was so dark we could barely see anything and as the porter led us to our room we could’ve been going anywhere. Instead, we found ourselves in an amazing villa with a large sitting area, a large bedroom, balcony area and an indoor AND outdoor shower area! For now though, our thoughts turned to bed as we had to be ready to go diving at 7.30am and we had a whole week here to enjoy our surroundings, both internally and externally!
September 28, 2011
Despite a late arrival, we still had an unavoidable early start. We had booked four days diving here in Fiji and today was the first of those, with a 7.30am pickup. Rising at 6.30, we forced ourselves to eat some breakfast before we were picked up and dropped at the Beqa Adventure Divers shop. We got all our equipment sorted and were soon on the boat and on the way. We had a couple of dive students with us so the boat dropped them off at a beach on Yacuna Island for some easier, shallower dives before taking us out into the open ocean for our dives.
The first dive was at a site called Seven Sisters, so called because of the seven coral heads scattered around. The site also had a wreck which we started at and was really cool. The ship was stood upright in the water and looked quite spooky through the water as we approached it. My cold wasn’t helping me though as I had trouble descending and clearing the pressure in my ears but I persevered and was glad I did. Fiji is known for the soft corals and there were loads of large, colourful seafans around and the array of tropical fish was quite impressive although there didn’t seem to be as many in number as we’d seen in Bali. After a surface interval near the beach, we went back to the open ocean and a site called Three Nuns. The current was quite strong now but the sites and coral provided a good shelter and we were able to swim around quite comfortably. We saw some lovely colourful nudi-branchs as well as lots of parrotfish, wrasse, clownfish and a lot more seafans. I had fun trying to take different pictures of the seafans to get a different perspective and to try and get the best light to show the wonderful colours. The two dives were OK and I felt a lot more comfortable on the second one as my ears weren’t hurting quite so much!
We got back to the hotel about 2pm and were just in time to grab lunch. The hotel is more like your typical resort and has a nice restaurant on site, with a pool and a beachfront area with the villas and bures (more traditional Fijian homes) surrounding the gardens and waterside. Other than breakfast this morning we’d not really seen too much of the resort so it was lovely to be able to sit in the restaurant and look out over the ocean as we ate. I’m sure this isn’t the “true” Fiji but it sure feels nice to treat ourselves after spending so long in dorm rooms and hostels. The food at the resort isn’t that cheap but there is little else around so we decided to test the food here. My tuna burger came with the biggest bit of fish I’d ever seen but given how hungry diving makes me, it didn’t last long! Let’s hope the sharks are as hungry for tuna tomorrow!
After a nice long shower, the rain started and we decided to hang out in our room and watch some TV. That didn’t last long though as we both soon fell asleep and had a good afternoon nap! In the evening we went to the resort restaurant and tried their Indian curries. Fiji has a large Indian community, much of which the locals don’t like but we thought we should try the curry at least once! We tried a different beer this time, called Vonu, and it was much better. The curry was surprisingly good too and the breads, popadums, dips and dhal soup which accompanied it were all lovely and helped us sleep well!
September 29, 2011
Another day or diving and another early start so a 7am breakfast and 7.30am pickup it was. Well, it would’ve been if our pickup hadn’t been running on Fiji time! The dives this time were our first day of shark diving and consequently the boat was full and there was even a second boat going. The trip to the dive sites was really short and we were briefed about the feedings and sharks we were going to see.
The dives are in a channel between the main island and two smaller islands and it took around 30 minutes to get there. After suiting up inside the reef, we moored right above some coral walls and were soon in the water. The first stop was at 30m down and here we all sat behind a coral wall and watched some large bull sharks circling, waiting to be fed. There were 5 or 6 sharks circling around but in the 20 minutes we watched them, none of them seemed very keen in coming close to the feeder or us. The thought of wanting to be close to bull sharks sounds crazy but when you are in this kind of environment it just doesn’t seem like you are surrounded by animals which could harm you at will. The whole setup makes the dive a bit, well, sterile and lacks the anticipation. It is great seeing the sharks but you don’t have the “will I/won’t I see them” that you have on other dives and with other creatures. One of the funniest things about this first stop was that I was level with an anemone and the resident clownfish took offense to my proximity and kept nibbling at my mask strap. From there, we ascended to 10 metres where Papa, our boat captain, was waiting for us with more fish food and more sharks. These sharks were much smaller than the bulls but we were much closer to them. In fact, we were so close the Asian guy next to me decided he was going to stroke one. Now, don’t get me wrong, these sharks were a lot smaller but they were still 4 or 5 feet long and the grey sharks particularly looked like they’d take no prisoners. I was wary about holding my camera out too far yet here was this idiot trying to pet one! Thankfully, everything was OK and my position right by the feeder was perfect to get some amazing close up video and see the sharks taking the food straight out of Papa’s hands and then swim away, often right over my head. The final stop was at 4m and the main sharks here were smaller white and black tip reef sharks but it was a great safety stop. When doing deep dives, you often have to do what they call a safety stop at 5m for 3 minutes, to stop any adverse effects from excess nitrogen and such like in your system and this was a fun way to pass those few minutes, watching sharks be hand fed. Unfortunately, there were some people in our group with large camera rigs and for some reason they were given prime spots in front of everyone else. One guy sat right in front of me and I couldn’t see anything. One of the guides grabbed me and found me a new spot but I was really annoyed. I bet these people haven’t paid any more than I have so why should they get to sit closer, get prime viewing and block other people? It’s rude and inconsiderate and is bad on the part of the dive company to allow this, too. What is the saying? We’re all equal but some are more equal than others…
After our surface interval, we descended to 25m to start our second dive. This time the bull sharks were expected to come in closer as they had got a “taster” on the earlier dive but it seemed like they were happy staying away. The current had picked up too and even the feeding frenzy of the other fish, the trevally and the large groupers, seemed muted and often the current took the feed away and out of sight before we saw it being eaten. It was a bit disappointing but it was kind of what I expected, given the staged nature of the shark appearances.
We were soon back at the dive shop and we were a bit disappointed as we hadn’t got the close up look of the bigger sharks that we’d hoped for and we hadn’t seen a tiger shark. These are pretty elusive and quite rare but one shows up around here about once a week so hopefully we’ll get a better chance to see more next time!
Back at the hostel I tried a lovely Fijian fish dish called kokoda and it had a lovely fresh flavour, cooked in with lime juice, coconut, chilli and coriander. It was really nice and light and very refreshing and made a change from some of the heavier stuff I’ve had lately. Of course, I didn’t feel very full though so ended up eating half of Elizabeth’s stir-fry too! Another long, relaxing shower followed and another afternoon nap came after that!
In the evening we had dinner with another couple staying at the resort. Simon had been diving with us the last couple of days but his wife, Jocelyn, had been ill so hadn’t been able to dive. It was nice to be able to sit and chat with some other people who like diving and travelling like us and they have certainly been a lot more places and done a lot more dives than us – they both had well over 700 dives with Simon having over 1,000. By comparison, I have about 70!
September 30, 2011
We had a break in the diving today but that didn’t mean we had much of a lie in. We had decided to go and visit the capital Suva today and wanted to catch the first bus at 10.15. Some people seemed to think we were made taking the local bus but it was much cheaper than getting a taxi and when the bus turned up it was actually a new vehicle and was air-conditioned, sort of. The journey took just over an hour, including a stop for about 20 minutes at some tiny village but we were soon in the heart of the city. Well, to be precise, we were in the heart of the bus station which was crazily busy and typically hectic.
As we were walking along the street we got chatting to a local who insisted on walking us around. I was a little wary of where we’d end up but he seemed nice enough and to start with he took us to where we wanted to go, the Fiji Museum. We had hoped he’d leave us alone here but he actually came into the museum with us and followed us around. This guy was impossible to get rid of and I didn’t want to be outright rude but my hints just weren’t working.
The museum itself was a bit crappy but it did have an interesting display cabinet about Thomas Baker, a missionary to Fiji who was eaten by a load of villagers he annoyed. Having spent time with missionaries, I sympathise with the Fijians; I just haven’t developed their taste for human flesh yet! Amongst the articles in the cabinet were Baker’s shoes, complete with teeth marks, and some of the clubs they’d used to kill him as well as various implements used to cook and eat him! Of course, the Fijian village has since apologized to his descendants because they claim they’ve had nothing but bad luck since consuming Mr. Baker. Maybe they served him with white wine rather than red…
The chap wouldn’t leave us alone and we were soon walking around the town with him to tow and going to some shops with him. What a flamin’ surprise? His “brother” owned a shop selling rugby shirts that were cheaper than everywhere else and the craft shop we went to was traditional Fijian and not run by “bloody Indian immigrants”. It was interesting to hear him talk about how tourists should not support the Indian shops but should support the local villagers. Whilst I agree that you should help those most in need, it seems a bit much that you should think so badly of a significant proportion of your population, especially when you consider their role in the country previously. I did want a rugby shirt and we did want to look around some of the local shops so it wasn’t all bad but it was the inconvenience of having this guy “guide” us and not leave us alone. After our little shopping trip we ended up with a Fiji shirt for me and a picture and we were able to get rid of our new friend and get some food. On the way to lunch we stopped at a touristy shop (run by Indians, of course) and picked up some postcards and a souvenir magnet. We went to a café called the Bad Dog Café and I had a vegetarian platter, complete with roti chips and various dips, and Elizabeth had a curry platter.
After our late lunch, we headed back to the bus station where we were lucky enough to arrive just as a bus was getting ready to leave so we quickly bought a ticket and got on board. The bus was pretty busy but at least it was still air-conditioned. We weren’t sure where we were and it was only as we passed our resort that Elizabeth spotted it and she quickly pressed the button to stop the bus and we hopped off. We were both quite quiet and spent the rest of the evening just lazing around and catching up on some sleep before another early start tomorrow for some more sharks!
October 1, 2011
Today was another day of shark diving and yet again it was an early start and a full boat. Simon and Jocelyn were on the boat with us and the rest of the divers were made up of a bunch of students, some American and some Canadian. The group of them wouldn’t stop talking and this was quite annoying when the dive guides were trying to give the boat and dive briefings and the two Canadian girls just kept talking over the top of him, even ignoring people in their own group telling them to shut up. Thankfully, under the water you can’t hear non-stop talking so we were keen to get wet!
The two dives were to have the same order as the ones two days ago so on the first dive we descended to 30m and I was able to get a nice prime spot near to the feeder and even as we descended we could see quite a few bull sharks around. The sharks were still tentative on this dive and much of the feeding seemed to be of the other large fish rather than the sharks. At the 10m stop the current had picked up a bit and it was a struggle staying still but we got some great views of the grey sharks as they grabbed chunks of tuna from Papa’s hand and swam right over our heads. Due to the current, we didn’t do the 4m stop and instead did our safety stop holding onto the mooring line.
During the surface interval the Canadian girls didn’t shut up and were really annoying. At one point, they were having a conversation from opposite ends of the boat, with one of them shouting right in my ear. To make it worse, they were French Canadian! I was glad to get back in the water.
The second dive was again at 25m but this time the bull sharks came really close, swimming past right in front of the reef wall, barely 3 or 4 feet away. At one point a massive tuna head came loose and the current took it past me, past Elizabeth, past Jocelyn and then looked like it was about to nestle right by Simon! He looked a bit nervous and he was quite happy when one of the guides came and scooped it up and knocked it away! Nevertheless, the sharks were really close and with their size you don’t want to be reaching your hands out too far. I wish the Asian guy had tried petting one of these! The current was quite strong still and we did our safety stop holding the mooring line before getting back on the boat and heading back. These two dives had been a lot better than the first two shark dives we’d done and we were glad to get some up close looks.
Back on dry land, we waited for our lift back to the hotel before getting some lunch and having our usual routine of eat, shower, sleep! I didn’t sleep much though as there was a lot of rugby on today and I wanted to watch most of it. I watched one game in the room, another in the bar and then started to watch the France v Tonga match before Simon invited me over to help them finish their bottle of rum. It was a tough offer to turn down! The evening match was England v Scotland so the four of us descended on the bar to watch the match and (eventually) making the most of the “all you can drink before the first try for $10” offer! The evening wasn’t going all that well so we were all grateful for England’s late try that sealed a tight victory… even if it did stop the all-you-can-drink fun! We were diving tomorrow, our final day, so we didn’t want to stay up and drink too late so we soon headed to bed to get some sleep.
October 2, 2011
Despite the early start today, we were a little more pleased when we got to the dive shop to discover that the boat today was just us, one student and three dive guides, including Papa. This meant that once we had dropped off the student at the same beach as before, it would just be us diving alone with the guide. It’s nice to have others on the boat to chat with sometimes but it’s also nice when you can get your gear on without bumping into loads of other people and it is really a bonus when you have the area of ocean all to yourself. And the fish, of course.
The two dives were both really great and despite some current we were adequately sheltered by the coral and got to see some cool stuff. Along with lots of small nudi-branchs and the usual array of clownfish, wrasse, parrotfish and other tropical fish, we saw a large moray eel hiding in the coral, a spiny lobster, some tiny see-through shrimp clinging to an anemone and a bloody massive napoleon wrasse. We also got to see a shark, probably a grey shark, swimming around in the sand a bit away from us. It is so much cooler seeing sharks in the natural environment rather than the staged arena of the feeding. With the student diving a bit away from us, our surface interval between the two dives was quite long and at the end we had to go back and pick him up so we were quite late getting back to the dive shop, around 2pm which meant a rush to get back to the hotel in time for some lunch. After settling up for payment and buying a couple of t-shirts from the dive shop, our lift turned up and we were back just in time to order.
We decided to have some lighter snacks for lunch before settling into our routine. This time I did have a short nap before watching the final group matches of the rugby. It is such a luxury to have our own TV!
Our dinner consisted of plonking ourselves in front of the TV in the bar and watching Ireland beat Italy whilst eating Thai curry… not very Fijian, I grant you, but just what we wanted! Tomorrow is our last “proper” day in Fiji (although we are here on the 4th until almost midnight) but we’ve decided that having dived four days and been into the capital, we’re going to laze by the pool and get someone to do laundry for us!
October 3, 2011
We got up early this morning to ensure we had a decent breakfast before all the good stuff disappeared but after that we went into sleep mode! We handed our laundry over to reception and camped out in the restaurant/pool area, taking a well-earned dip in the pool just before lunch. After some food and more lazing around, Elizabeth went back to the room to lie down and do some of her travel journal away from the noise and distraction of the repetitive music being played in the bar. I hung out there a bit longer and got my travel journal up to date and got some pictures uploaded of the diving, too. In the evening we enjoyed a nice Indian curry, less spicy than our last one but just as good, before settling in to watch some crappy films on TV.
October 4, 2011
Today we had to check out of our room by 10am so after breakfast and packing up, we left our bags at reception and lazed around the hotel. We were flying to Hawai’i tonight but our flight wasn’t until almost midnight so we had plenty of lazing about to do today. We had decided to get some stuff ordered online and so we ended up buying a mini-fridge for the car for our drive across the US and a dive computer to replace my one which broke about 2 years ago(!) . We also took the chance to email a few friends about meeting up with them when we are in the US so hopefully some of them will be around when we are! We also got our postcards written and posted so we were pretty much done with Fiji for now other than me getting a few pictures around the resort. It was a hot, humid day today but it wasn’t too bright so I managed to get some nice shots of the beach and pool and garden areas.
Anyway, we're now getting ready to head to the airport where we'll fly from Nadi, Fiji to CHRISTMAS Island and then onto Honolulu! See you over the dateline!