Shark Dive, Wednesday 13 June 2012
On The Shark Dive you will be able to experience the breathtaking sight of up to eight species of Sharks: Blacktip Reef Sharks, Whitetip Reef Sharks, Grey Reef Sharks, Silvertip Sharks, Tawny Nurse Sharks, Sicklefin Lemon Sharks, Bull Sharks and the occasional Tiger Shark. In addition, you can also encounter Giant Groupers, Maori Wrasse, Rainbow Runners, Giant Trevally, Java Morays, Eagle Rays and more than 400 species of tropical reef fish…
And the shark dive was started as an environmental project:
I had seen lots of sharks before, especially at Belize’s Blue Hole, where a dozen swim about 20’ away, at 100’ deep, but had never seen a feeding frenzy. There are a few videos of the daily event on youtube. Here is one. (Turn off the sound – it’s just music. Skip over him panning down the row of divers.)
This shows both dives, one 80’ down (spectators shoulder to shoulder behind a rope), the other 60’ down (spectators holding onto a low wall). The moray was 2’ behind me on the first dive, but no, I didn’t feed her.
Tammy is a photographer’s dream subject. She seems to love the camera and is happy to pose all day long for picture after picture. Usually found on the shallow slopes in the Reserve, she has set up house and keeps a watchful eye on proceedings!
The large black fish are black trevallies, about 2’ long, and, we were told, are just as menacing as the sharks. Yes, one of the divers feeds the sharks large fish heads from his hand. (He is wearing chain mail under his dive skin.)
The yellowish shark getting into the food bucket is a lemon shark, up to 11’ long and 400 lbs. The other large ones are bull sharks, up to 11′ and 500 lbs! We did not see the banded sea krait (snake) on this dive. (Tune in again tomorrow for that story.)
I had not expected so many fish! But of course they come for the free food too (dumped from what looks like a large trash can). A Moorish Idol swam by. Lots of zebra fish. A few small yellow fish drafting the sharks, as bicyclists draft each other.
The second dive was done after an hour above water, when we warmed up with hot chocolate, banana bread, cookies.
This time twice as many fish and sharks. Ducked as one shark went (fast!) over my head. (This also C’s photo.) Lots of remora. We were told how remora stick onto the sharks: they have a patch of velcro on their heads (photo from the Web) which adheres to the shark skin. So they get a free ride and free eats.
Two other boats were there with divers, but not as many as ours. When the allotted 20 minutes down was up, we let them exit up the lines first. (Because of the very strong currents, we had to move up and down lines, then across other lines to our respective boats.) I had 1000 lbs left both times; C had 1500. (We start with 3000 lbs of compressed air.) But one of our dive masters, Ian, came up on the second with almost none. He had been herding us and fighting the currents, while we were sitting around, sucking little air.
Average annual rainfall in Navua, Viti Levu is 140 inches a year, and I’ll bet Beqa is a lot more. It rained every day that we were there except for the day we left. I thought that maybe the climate and water conditions were due to the month we were there, since when I had been on the island of Taveuni in October many years ago the weather had been gorgeous, the diving fabulous in clear water. But I spoke with another couple who had gone to Beqa in November of last year and they said that it rained every day, the water was rough, murky, and cold. So I looked up Fiji’s precipitation and discovered that the larger islands have a wet side and a dry side and the Dive Taveuni resort (now Paradise Taveuni) is on the western side of its island. On the larger islands:
Heavy rains fall on the windward (southeastern) side, covering these sections of the islands with dense tropical forest. Lowlands on the western portions of each of the main islands are sheltered by the mountains and have a distinct dry season. Average annual rainfall in the “dry zone” of the larger islands is between 65-90 in, while in the lowland wet zone, 120-135 in.
(I do have to admit that to fly to Fiji and stay at Paradise Taveuni would cost about double what we paid for our trip and stay, which was incredibly inexpensive.)
We were supposed to see (for an additional fee, $95FJD pp) the famous Beqa fire walkers. Unfortunately, the Beqa Lagoon Resort, on the other side of the village, had a new manager who changed the fire walkers (who performed there) from 3pm to 8pm and we are not allowed to boat at night. (Then how will they do the night dive – additional $160FJD pp – on Saturday?)
But Sunday a number from our group had gone to the nearby village church and had raved about the singing. So… the church singers came to us, walking from the village in the rain. Their singing was nice, but I enjoyed the kids’ singing more. (I made two short movies to catch the singing, but this free blog won’t allow movies.)
Everybody has their hand out – church, school, village. For sheet music and folders for the church we raised $300US, for the school we brought supplies, for the village we can donate to their meeting hall fund tomorrow. (The last project had been for a generator.) Problem is, I forgot about that and all of the tips for housekeeper, waitress and kitchen help, dive assistants, boat driver, etc ,etc, and neglected to change American dollars to Fijian at the airport. But they took American. Note: tips are not allowed for the Fijians, but one may contribute to their Christmas fund.