On November 12th, 2018 on a rainy and cold day in Suva, I drove up early to Pacific Harbour with my childhood friend Una who was on holiday from Australia. We were going to do the shark dive and it wasn’t the first time for the both of us. The weather that Monday morning wasn’t very promising and it seemed like there was going to be a mini-cyclone or somewhat developing into one. This was the usual Suva weather but then again we were into the cyclone season, so anything was possible.
I for one having last dived about 6 years ago, was sort of hoping the dive would be cancelled but my dear friend Una was ever the enthusiast and rain or shine, she was focused on getting her next shark dive ticked off her list.
At just a few minutes after 8am, we arrived at the Beqa Adventure Divers (BAD) office located at the Lagoon Resort in Pacific Harbour. First on the agenda, we checked in at the reception with the lovely Nanise who has been with BAD as a loyal staff for years and a prominent face in Fiji’s dive tourism industry. Her wonderful smile and kind words of welcome eased some of my reluctance and hesitation for the upcoming dive. After paying our marine reserve levy of FJD$25 (per person) and signing our life away into the safety of BAD and their dive masters, we were escorted by Marine Biologist and dive master, Manoa to suit up.
All geared up with our snorkels, fins, weights, BCD, regulator, tanks and much anticipated excitement, we were all set to brace for more rain and choppy waves as we departed the BAD base jetty for the Shark Reef Marine Reserve which was about a 40mins boat ride on the MV Hunter. There were two boats that went out that day and on the MV Hunter, our crew was made up of a German couple, an American couple, a solo European traveler, Una and I, and the BAD crew made up of 5 master divers and the boat captain.
I made it a point to inform the BAD dive crew that I had been out of practice for a while and that I would require some supervision. Dive master, Wase who is from Galoa village and the traditional fishing ground owners of Shark Reef was my dive buddy for the day. Despite some choppy waves and a slow descend mainly because I was trying to calm my excitement and nervousness at the same time, I enjoyed a beautiful panoramic view as we went down to 30meters and I was positioned alongside the rest of my group just in front of a reef wall.
Visibility was not particularly good that day but this did not affect the experience one bit, as the sharks and other fish species came up quite close. There were about 6 adult bull sharks at 6-8 feet long, swimming and feeding just at arm’s reach of the dive masters. It was an exhilarating experience and I was literally screaming with elation through my regulator (the equipment that links many pieces of my gear – from my scuba tank to my BCD (vest), submersible pressure gauge (SPG), alternate air source and me). There were more reef sharks than bulls, mainly the 4 species of tawn nurses, greys, white and black tips and an even more wonderful display of other fish species – groupers, trevallies, parrotfishes, triggerfishes and many more.
The bull sharks were extremely big and looked really heavy, apparently as some were expectant mothers. I was informed by the dive masters that it was birthing season and most bulls travel up river to give birth to their young then travel back to sea whilst their babies stay upriver until they are big enough to come back to the big ocean. This was also part of the reason that there weren’t many bull sharks on the day and it is said that during the bull shark season and on a given dive, you could see up to 20- 30 and even more. I would certainly have to come back, that’s for sure!.
The dive lasted about 40 minutes and the experience itself was worth walking up early and trudging through wet weather and roads to make it all happen and reignite my passion for exploring the underwater world and this great recreation of scuba diving.
As a Fijian, hailing from the province of Cakaudrove where the shark is sacred and has high cultural significance to our people, its protection is paramount not to just the survival of its specie but to safeguarding the health and sustainability of the marine ecosystem and food chain – for which our people rely on for daily sustenance.
As a tourism professional, our industry is interlinked and dependent on the ocean and the shark is top of the food chain, the king of the ocean, the top predator that helps to keep the balance in our oceans, and so it is crucial that as an industry we are more aware of the impacts of development and ensure we support conservation efforts towards the survival of our Fijian sharks.
Support the Adopt a Shark Initiative
If you want to be a part of saving and protecting our Fijian Sharks, this initiative is a great start. Adopters can range from parents wanting to give a very special gift to their children to people interested in marine conservation to our avid divers and volunteers all the way to people who simply find it a cool thing to do!. Go to www.myfijishark.com/our-sharks to find out how you can ADOPT A SHARK today.