Back to the main island!

Our time in the Yasawa Islands was drawing to an end and it was time for us to head back to the main island.  We hopped back on the transfer boat from Manta Ray and made our back to Viti Levu (the main island).   The transfer boat arrived a little late so we didn’t end up making it to the main island until 6 PM.   We had not arranged transportation to get to our next hotel on the main island and it was a 1.5 hour drive.  We were hoping it wouldn’t be an issue upon arrival since it was a long ways from the main part of Viti Levu where we docked.

We arrived at the port area and found our bags.  I walked up to a guy getting people situated on a tour bus and asked him if he could point us towards the taxi’s.  He asked where we were going and I told him.  He said he knows a guy who can come pick us up and take us out there for a reasonable price.  I figured if the Kava ceremony had worked out and since the people of Fiji had been so nice I’d take a chance and see what the guy looked like when he showed up.  We stood around waiting for about 10 minutes and then he said, “just hop on the bus and we’ll meet my friend as we go through town”.   He put our bags under the bus and we jumped on.  About 10 minutes later we pull off the side of the road.  All the passengers are confused about why we are stopping in the middle of no where.   He motions to us to get off and we hop off as the passengers around us are looking at us wondering what’s going on.

We jump in this guys car and we are pretty quickly comfortable that everything is fine.  He’s a perfectly normal guy just making a little extra cash driving us out there.  Along the way his wife is calling him repeatedly and he’s joking with us about how she keeps bothering him while he’s trying to work.  We have a nice chat during our 1.5 hour drive and check out more of the main island along our way down there.

DSC09141 (Large)DSC09191 (Large)DSC09178 (Large)

Generally speaking most things in Fiji are pretty run down.  We rarely saw nice houses or much development going on outside of the nicer hotels and resorts.   It’s nearing 9 pm by the time we finally make it to our hotel.  Ashley and I are both exhausted from being out on the islands and making it all the way there.  We’re happy to finally be at our hotel and start checking in.   As we are checking in Ashley gets a panicked look on her face and I know something is wrong instantly.  “I can’t find my phone!!!” she says.   She mentions that she knows she had it in the cab.  The check in process feels like it’s taking forever and we finally get done and head to our room.

Suddenly taking a ride in a random friend’s car doesn’t seem like such a good idea.  We can’t contact a cab company because it wasn’t really a cab.  He drove 1.5 hours away from his home so he’s no doubt headed all the way home now and 20 minutes has passed already.  We have no way at all to contact him.  I then remember that we both have sim cards and Find my Iphone should still be working with cell service.  We quickly pull out the laptop and login and see that Ashley’s phone is indeed moving on down the road back towards where we came from.  Just as we pull it up the phone seems to stop in the next biggest town we had passed through.     We start sending messages to the phone indicating that we lost it.  You can also tell the phone to play sound and we are hoping we can get the guy to hear the phone and realize it’s in the car before he drives all the way back home.   We try with no luck for about 15 minutes and the phone hasn’t moved.

We decide to head to dinner at the hotel because we are both starving and there’s not a lot we can do at this point.  I keep the tracking pulled up on my phone and we periodically ping the phone and send a message to it hoping he’ll hear it.   After we’re seated for dinner we noticed that the phone is on the move again.   GPS is never perfect so we aren’t initially sure which direction it’s going.   After a few jumps it finally starts making it’s way back to us!   We are both relieved and a short time later we see the cab drive pull back into the hotel entrance.  Ashley meets up with him and gives him a $50 tip for the trouble.   He was very happy with the extra cash and it worked out very nicely.   In addition to it being Ashley’s cell phone, it’s also her wallet and she had 2 credit cards in the phone as well so he saved us a lot of hassle by bringing it back!

IMG_0412 (Large)

We finally finish up dinner and make our way back to the room.  In the rush to get the phone situation figured out we completely overlooked our room.  Our room was HUGE!! We had been in Asia for a while before Fiji and all our rooms were extremely small.  Even in Fiji we had been on the islands so the rooms were very small there as well.  This was the first good size room we had been in for some time.  We were both really happy to be staying there over the next few days with lots of space to spread out.   Not only that, we actually had air conditioning!!!  Ballin!

DSC09233 (Large)DSC09215 (Large)DSC09212 (Large)DSC09210 (Large)

The Shark Dive

I’d already done a ton of diving out in the Yasawa Islands (about 7 dives), but I had been researching diving in Fiji for some time and there was still one left to do.  The Shark Dive on the south part of the main island is supposed to be one of the best shark dives in the world.   To get there from our hotel it required another 1.5 hour taxi ride.  I asked the hotel to set up the taxi for 6 a.m. as I had to be there by 8 a.m.   This was my first time setting an alarm in a very long time (#roughlife).  I got up excited the next morning despite the early rise.  With go pro , snorkel, mask and fins in hand, I met up with the cab driver and we made our way down to marina where we left from.

When I got there I had to fill out the typical form signing my life away.  I made my way out to get fitted for a wet suit and quickly realize that this isn’t your average dive trip.  There are about 25 divers there and these guys are all serious.  My go pro basically singled me out as an amateur.  Most people had serious under water camera’s including full on under water camera’s that people use to take professional photographs.    I strike up a few conversations with people and realize that I’m one of the least experienced people there.  I have probably 25 dives under my belt but these guys were all in the hundreds.  There were a few others who had about the same experience as me but on the whole this wasn’t anyone’s first rodeo.

Our group was so large they split us into two different boats.  We made our 30 to 40 minute drive out to the dive site and they briefed us on the way there.  The shark dive was very organized and they had specific instructions on exactly what we should be doing once we were down.   For the first dive we would be going down to the deepest part of the dive around 50 to 60 feet.  Once there we would all line up on a rock ledge that had been constructed.  We were instructed to sit on our knees and the dive crew would be out in front of us feeding the sharks.  The feeding would consist of a large trash can with fish heads inside.  Periodically the dive crew will release one and as it drops down the sharks will come in and eat it giving us a close up view of the sharks.   These were bull sharks so they were very large and we were given specific instruction not to stick anything out in front of us or move from the ledge.

Once we were done with that portion of the dive, we would move up to a shallower position.   Once again we were to position ourselves on the rock wall and keep our heads down as “the sharks have a tendency to get close”.   At the highest position there were only going to be smaller reef sharks.   This was a two tank dive and after the briefing was over we pulled up to the dive site and I was ready to go!

Dive #1

I hoped in the water and made my way down the ledge.  Looking back up I could see we were down pretty far and it was showing around 55 feet on the my gauge.  I did my best to relax and wait for the show to begin.   As soon as we made our way down there a huge amount of smaller fish appeared.  They knew it was feeding time and they were waiting for us.    There was no sign of any sharks just yet.

wall setup (Large)people on wall (Large)

wall fishy (Large)
Over our heads came the big trash can with fish heads in it.  The fish definitely knew this was the place to be and the smaller fish would all swarm the trash can waiting for their food.

fish bait (Large)

It didn’t take very long before the large bull sharks began to appear.   They slowly made their way in and you could tell they knew it was feeding time too.   As the crew would drop a fish head out, the smaller fish would go into a feeding frenzy and take bites out of it.   It was too large for any of the smaller fish so it would continue to sink to the bottom.  The bull sharks would slowly make their way in and take one big chomp for an easy meal.  The smaller fish just got out of the way as the bull shark got close.   The bull sharks didn’t at all seem interested in trying for the smaller fish all around them and just went for the fish head that was dropped.   It was near seeing all the bull sharks come in but they position I was in was off to the side.  They seemed to stay in one spot when they dropped the fish heads so I was a little ways from the action.  Even then, the large sharks were getting within about 20 to 25 feet of where I was and these were huge sharks!

shark to guy (Large)shark about to eat (Large)shark eating (Large)fish in face (Large)diving with shark (Large)

After about 15 minutes at the deepest spot, the crew started banging metal against their tanks to indicate this portion of the dive was over.  It was time for us to move up to the shallow location.  I quickly made my way up to the spot and realized that the closer to the feeding I was the better the action!  I got a spot pretty close to the crew member who was feeding the fish and it was basically pure chaos.   There were tons of small fish around which made it feel very chaotic.  Fish were swarming in all directions and it was definitely exciting.  The smaller sharks (white tip/reef sharks) were coming in for the small food and I had a front row seat to the action.  For around 10 minutes fish and sharks were darting all over the place as the crew feed them all.

upper area (Large)small shark (Large)white tip (Large)3 sharks (Large)close call (Large)lots of fish (Large)eating shark (Large)

Dive #2

I made my way back onto the boat after dive #1 and we had a short 20 minute break to relax and change out the air tanks.  My adrenaline was still in high gear from the first dive but I was eager to get down for dive #2.   Once we made our way back into the water, I quickly went down to the ledge and secured a spot right in front of the random metal box thing which is where they dropped fish heads before.   During this dive we would only be down for 10 minutes and then did a quick uneventful tour around the area before heading back to the boat.  I was fortunate that I got a front row seat for the second bull shark feeding since there wasn’t a lot of time on this second dive.

As the feeding began the bull sharks were noticeably closer this time.  The metal box was only about 15 feet in front of me and sharks were coming between the metal box and where I was.   At one point a fish head dropped down just in front of us.  I quickly noticed that a bull shark was swimming in a straight line at me with the fish head directly between us.  The fish head was about 6 feet away.  The bull shark was closing in but right as he did his stomach got caught on a rock.  You could hear the skin scraping against the rock as he hit it and he instantly jolted away seeming to not know where that contact came from.  The fish head landed just in front of us and none of the sharks ever attempted to make there way close to it.  After our dive we made our way back to the boat for our ride back to the marina.

straight on (Large)poke (Large)poked (Large)close (Large)big sharks (Large)big guy (Large)middle (Large)feeding (Large)back on board (Large)

Time to head home

After we made our way back to the marina I met back up with the same cab driver.  He had been waiting the whole day (poor guy) to pick me back up and take me back to the hotel.  We had a 1.5 hour drive and we struck up a conversation along the way.  He told me all about the military coup’s that had occurred in their country but that they were all very happy with their current prime minister.  He said the current prime minister was a man of the people and everyone there really respected him.

We got on the topic of the United States and he said that when the US president visited Australia recently, they landed a number of military planes in Fiji with lots of troops as backup for the visit in case they needed support quickly.   We got on the topic of guns and he said that guns were banned in Fiji except for hunting.  I asked if he had ever seen or shot a gun before and he said never.   He then proceeded to ask me how guns physically work which was really interesting.  I explained it to him and he was listening intently to every word.  This man was probably in his 50’s and I found it really interesting that he had no concept of how a gun even worked.

I finally made it back home eager to show Ashley all the video I had taken on the shark dive!  I was exhausted from the day but it was definitely an exciting experience and the best dive I had ever done.



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