Stop 7

Trip Start Jan 29, 2008
Trip End Apr 30, 2008

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

We arrived in Fiji to find pouring rain - again - why us?!!! The taxi took the best part of two hours to get us out to the Mango Bay Resort, but we'd known it was a good bit out of Nadi - we'd planned to be out of the hustle and bustle of a main city. Little did we know we were heading to the middle of nowhere, where the nearest town, cash machine, shop were all half an hour away by car! The drive was quite scary in the dark, there seemed to be potholes everywhere and we had to constantly keep an eye out for passing cows!
We got up the next day and headed straight for the beach. The resort was small enough and quiet and we spent our Sunday chilling out. We quickly realised there wasn't an awful lot to do there but the local staff had concocted a few events to keep us from boredom each day. Just as you'd fall asleep on your lounger a Fijian guy would walk up to the hollowed tree trunk, there especially for the purpose, knock out a jaws like drum beat, getting faster towards the end and then shout at the top of his lungs - "jewlerry making" "watermelon smashing", "climbing for coconuts" or "kava ceremony". It took us a while to get used to the accent but it was quite amusing to see what was coming next. The girls did a jewlerry making session and came back with a necklace that they'd made, a triangular piece of coconut shell sandpapered until smooth. That day I found out what diving was available and booked in for the next day.
Our first of two dives on the Monday was at 9 and I was up and out and kitted up along with a couple, Vincent and Judith from the Netherlands. The dive guide, Kari brought us out to the outer reef, ten minutes in the boat and then we got our tanks and masks on and did a backwards somersault into the water over the side of the boat. I was nervous after my previous experiences with diving, but it didn't take long for me to feel comfortable, and my mask didn't fill up too much this time! I even managed to clear it underwater without giving any sign of my previous problems! I even went deeper than I'd been before - 23 metres and didn't notice any claustaphobia or any problems. The others saw a shark but I managed to miss it! The next dive was taken by Tukes, a local guy, who reminded me a lot of Liz. He really took his time looking around and looking in crevasses etc, so much so that I'd find myself ahead of him some of the time and bumping into him others. Judith and Vincent were obviously experienced and although keeping within eyesight wandered round with their camera and had a good look at everything, which encouraged me to do the same. Towards the end of the dive Tukes found a sea slug covered in sand and wrote my name on it. This of course made me smile and my mask fillled, but I coped.
I had planned on taking it easy the next day but Tukes nabbed me as I was coming back from a swim and persuaded me to go snorkelling. An Australian couple came with us and we spent about 40 minutes on the inner reef. I stayed at the surface but Tukes kept going down and picking things up for us to look at. I touched a sea slug which was kind of gross and he got us a blue starfish to have a look at. He also brought us to see some nemo and I accidentally disturbed a parrot fish. She must have had a nest or something because she was circling around scaring off the other fish and when she saw me approaching she decided to have a go at me too. It was fascinating.
The previous day I'd told Judith and Vincent about a shark dive run from the next resort over and said I was thinking of doing it. They immediately jumped at the idea and booked and kept asking me if I'd booked - I'd only been thinking about it, it was quite a scary idea!!! I did book anyway and on Wednesday we went. The guys were feeling a bit dodgy that morning though and when we got there they were told they should reschedule - help!!! I bravely continued, shaking all the way, a half hour ride on the boat. A lovely Australian gentleman befriended me and said he'd be my buddy. Then he started telling me about all the incidents he'd had underwater, like running out of air at 18 metres - help!! It's not really a surprise that I was panicking a little when we got in the water and I had difficulty in getting down from the surface - I was subconsciously holding my breath and therefore floating... We got down to 24 metres and I forgot about everything else. There was a whirlwind of fish around the feeders, hundreds of them and then out of the gloom I could see sharks. We were about five feet away from them. One by one we were brought into the whirlwind and told to stroke the shark - are they mad?! They were nurse sharks though, so not known for biting humans at all. In fact they're quite cuddly, honestly!!! Apparently sometimes they'll come over and refuse food and will only leave after they've got their scratch for the day from the feeders. Shortly after we'd all been up the bull sharks started to appear. I only ever saw two at a time but apparently there was 15 there that day. They are big boys and not that cuddly. There were lemon sharks there as well, lighter coloured and smaller and while one of the feeders was trying to keep one of the lemons at his front and away from a guy with a camera one of the bulls slipped round back of him and walloped him over the head. I think I held my breath, waiting to see if there was any blood. There wasn't. Apparently she's called Madonna and she thinks that the feeders like that show of affection... The swim back up to 18 metres along a channel was a bit scary, knowing that the sharks were still behind you and some appearing to the left or right every now and then. One woman beside me ventured out a little bit away from our group and a curious lemon shark came to take a look. He got as far as her fin before one of the guides came over to shoo him away. In fairness to her she didn't panic. We had time to wander round the channel a bit. There's an upturned wreck down there to give the fish somewhere to sleep. My buddy kept wandering off to take a look at stuff but I kept an eye on him and was fine.
Our second dive was to 18 metres and featured more bull sharks. Again I was nervous but this time my buddy just grabbed my fins from below and dragged me to the bottom! There's been a tiger shark around but she didn't turn up that day. It was absolutely fascinating. This time there was silver tips as well and after the feed we took a trip in under the wreck - it wasn't too narrow a hole and I was following a guide so felt ok. When going up for our safety stop everywhere we looked seemed to be sharks circling below us. It was so fascinating. I came back to the resort with a huge smile on my face and the experience of a lifetime under my belt.
I planned on taking my last day on the beach, but was persuaded into the water once more. Thursday morning we set off (Judith and Vincent joined us again, having had their planned dive at Beqa lagoon cancelled) and I buddied up with Chantale who'd qualified OWD the day before. I was still on a high from the shark dive and poor Chantale had difficulties equalizing, but I made use of the time by posing underwater with Judith while Vincent took the shots with his camera. We were at a new site and it was pretty beautiful. Kari brought our attention to a white tip swimming underneath us about ten metres down at one point - my first shark in open water without them being fed! She then stopped to show us something on a wall when she noticed something out of the corner of her eye - Absolutely incredible - three nurse sharks asleep in an alcove. We just sat and watched for about five minutes. She'd warned us she was bringing us to a tunnel in the wall called claustraphobia and she wasn't joking. Chantale went first bless her and me second. It was tiny. My tank knocked off the top and I had to use my hands for propulsion as my feet caught on the coral when I tried to use my fins. I almost lost my regulator at the end as well when the line caught on a snag. Through it all though I was the epitomy of calm. I was rewarded with an eagle ray coming to up to say hello as soon as we came out. They're curious little things and he came round for a second look. Kari saw a turtle shortly after, we missed it but we really didn't care - we were so excited by what we'd seen already. Nearly better than the shark dive. That brings my dive total to 10 and I don't know how I'm going to top that five days in Fiji. I know I'm definitely going to follow up with my advanced diver, and I can't wait!!! I'm officially hooked.
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