Ultimate Shark Dive Fiji
By Rebecca Davis
Descending silently through the blue water of Fiji’s Beqa Lagoon, I can’t help but wonder how many pairs of hungry eyes are watching and waiting. After all, this is said to be one of the best shark dives in the world, so I know they can’t be too far away.
Once we settle into our viewing positions, intently observed by a rather large and overly friendly moray eel, the cameras are raised and lunch is served at “The Bistro”.
I have never seen anything like this. The water is swarming with remora and giant trevally in numbers that defy belief. The fish diversity and abundance is strikingly evident, the activity is intense, overwhelming the senses.
The smaller fish dart about erratically, desperately grabbing every floating morsel they can find. The sharks are calmer and swim with purpose. The guides hand-feed the enormous bull sharks; it’s a civilised affair amongst a sea of chaos. They glide effortlessly towards an outstretched arm and with a gentle grasp, they take a piece of fish and continue on their way.
Casually cruising into “The Bistro” for a bite to eat are around 20 bull sharks. None of them could be described as ‘small’ or ‘average’ – these are enormous sharks. Also strewn around the feeding arena, coming and going with all the nonchalance of a top predator, are countless sicklefin lemon sharks whose size is impressive. Radiating confidence, they are fantastic specimens.
As my gaze drifts down to the ground level dining area, it becomes apparent that the “Labradors of the ocean” have joined us. Writhing, rolling scores of tawny nurse sharks, clambering over each other to find food.
All the while, flitting around behind us, a little too timid to venture closer, are the sleek silhouettes of grey reef sharks, blacktip reef sharks and further off, whitetip reef sharks patrolling the upper levels.
I search the madness for the telling stripes of a tiger, but sadly no tigers this time. But I’ll be back here again and I’ll have my fingers crossed for Galeocerdo cuvier next time.
Back to the action, the intensity of movement defies comprehension! Where to look, when to snap, what is about to transpire?
The feeding stops. The guides converge on a single tawny nurse. Amidst the confusion of feeding animals, floating fish debris and seven divers wrapped around a shark, it soon becomes clear that they are trying desperately to control this animal. The wriggling shark is restrained and the divers manoeuvre around its head. It clearly needs help as a hook and 2.5 metres of thick trace line are embedded inside its mouth.
After several long minutes of careful extraction, the hook and line are removed and the shark is released.
It really is quite difficult to smile and keep breathing with a regulator in your mouth, but after seeing such a deliberate and heartfelt display of shark conservation, it’s harder to not smile! We are witness to the compassion and obligation the Fijians have towards their shark friends.
We swim around a wreck dotted with remora and upwards over a large coral bommie to reach the surface.
The water is too enticing to stay on the boat for the surface interval, so we grab the snorkels and mingle with the wary grey reef sharks beneath us. The bulls are somewhere below waiting for their second course!
The second dive is just as exhilarating. Now accustomed to the frenzied feeding of fish we sit back and immerse ourselves in the experience that is diving with Fiji’s sharks. Even more bull sharks join us this time; it seems they have worked up the courage to swim with Fiji’s tourists!
As we ascend to the surface, I take one last look below and take in a scene of beautiful corals, slinking whitetip reef sharks and in the distance, just a haze now, one last lemon shark fading away.
I have never found it so hard to drag myself out of the water back onto the boat.