Monday, 27 October 2008

Scuba Diving Magazine - Fiji In Living Color

At two passages in the soft-coral capital of the world, strong currents make for eye-popping reefs.
Photo by Michele Westmorland

In still waters, normally brilliant colonies of Dendronephthya soft coral retract into protective, knobby fists, and a reef that's a Jolly-Rancher-colored spectacle in normal conditions becomes a mundane rockscape. But when currents push fast-moving water over a soft-coral reef, these assemblages of tiny animals unfurl their jewel-toned branches to feed on the nutrients that ride those currents. Put your mask close to a soft coral tree to find each colony of Dendronephthya plumping itself up, taking on water to filter for food until its translucent membrane practically glows. Then, for a more expansive view, move two fin-kicks away from a soft-coral-covered wall when the current is running--the stronger the better--and you will find one of the most spectacular sights under the sea.

If you want to find soft corals, pack your gear for the 300-plus islands of Fiji. And if you want to find reefs washed by swift currents and everything that means--forests of soft corals, thriving hard corals, a mind-boggling diversity of species and tornadoes of schooling fish--look at a map of Fiji and find the places where water accelerates through narrow passages with every tidal change. In that fast water, divers sometimes have to kick hard just to stay in one place, and soft-coral sites literally come to life.

Where can you find a regularly occurring perfect storm of these conditions and some of the most visually engaging reefs in the world? Fiji's Somosomo Strait and Vatu-i-Ra Passage.

Scuba Diving Magazine - Fiji In Living Color

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