Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Wananavu Beach Resort, Fiji - For the Well Pampered Diver

Location: Fiji
Date: 5/27/2008 1:23:00 PM

If you are looking for a destination that combines plush accommodations and world class diving, Wananavu is a great choice.
My wife and I recently returned from a one-week stay at Wananavu Beach Resort on the island of Viti Levu, Fiji. We are 40-something divers on an ongoing search for the perfect balance between plush accommodations and world class diving. (As you pampered divers know, you often must sacrifice one for the other.) Young Island Resort on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent previously held the top spot on our list. It now ranks second behind Wananavu.

This was our first trip to the South Pacific. We chose Fiji because of its reputation for great diving, and because of the relatively easy access from the States (10-hour non-stop flight on Air Pacific from LAX to the Nadi airport). We chose Wanavu because of the price (package price lower than comparable properties), its location on the main island (no need for an additional inter-island flight), and its access to diving on the "outer passage" in the Bligh Waters (otherwise accessible only by liveaboard).

The resort was wonderful. This is an authentic island resort, with true island character; not a place that was merely built to look like an island resort. Our beachfront bure was not extravagant. However, it was more than comfortable. I typically would not pay extra for a beachfront unit (it was included as part of our package). In this case, however, I believe the spectacular ocean views and serene setting justify the extra cost. The resort is built on the side of a relatively steep hill, with the beach and marina at the bottom and the front desk/bar/dining room at the top. The grounds are well maintained and beautiful, with a wide variety of flowering tropical plants and palm trees. The beach is not extensive compared to some "beach" resorts. However, there are plenty of lounge chairs and hammocks, both in and out of the sun. You will have no trouble getting your "tropical paradise" fix during your visit. Our package included all meals. Drinks were extra, though quite affordable (about $1.50 US a soda and $3.00 US a beer). The food was very good, if not spectacular. I would give it a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10 (1=White Castle, 10=Le Cirque). The staff was wonderful. We noticed a little bit of the "island time" phenomenon, but not as much as at other destinations. I highly recommend taking a village tour. Also be sure to drink lots of kava.

The diving made the trip. We dove five days with Kai Viti Divers, the operator based at Wananavu. We dove one day with Ra Divers, the operator at a nearby backpacker resort. We enjoyed both operators. However, we preferred Kai Viti. The staff was extremely attentive and really knew their stuff. They have larger, better equipped boats. This made the 60+-minutes-each-way trip to the outer passage quite bearable. They also seemed to cater to a more experienced group of divers. (On the other hand, Ra seemed to cater to a much more colorful and rowdy crowd. If you prefer to spend your surface intervals dancing and sunbathing with 20-something Aussie backpackers, go with Ra.)

The diving was spectacular. The sites we visited were grouped in two areas. One was approximately 30 minutes from the resort. The other, the outer passage sites, was more than 60 minutes from the resort. Kai Viti makes the trip to the outer passage when the divers request it, and when the weather permits. The outer passage trips are 3-tank trips. The outer passage sites were wonderful. That being said, the sites closer in are also spectacular (so much so that on our last day the divers on the boat agreed that it was not necessary to make the longer trip to the outer passage).

Kai Viti and Ra appear to be the only operators in the area. As such, none of the sites appear to get an overwhelming amount of use. There was enough small stuff to overwhelm a couple of dedicated critter divers like my wife and me (e.g., 5 to 10 different varieties of nudibranches each dive). There was also plenty of interesting big stuff. The diving was primarily wall and pinnacle diving, with breathtaking canyons of soft coral and plenty of nooks and crevices to explore. I only had two things on my official "wish to see" list for the trip: lionfish and ornate ghost pipefish. We saw both by the third day. I can't say enough good things about Kai Viti and the diving.

As noted, this was our first trip to the South Pacific, after a 10+ years of diving throughout the Caribbean. We loved it. It was well worth the extra expense and travel time. If you are thinking about Fiji, do it! If you are considering Wananavu, you will love it!

SDcubaDiving Magazine Trip Report: Wananavu Beach Resort, Fiji - For the Well Pampered Diver

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Scuba Diving Trip Report : Fiji and the Bula Bowls

Author: Richard Salkin
Location: Fiji
Date: 5/27/2008 1:23:00 PM

Some concepts just elude me. Like the International Date Line. Sure, I can grasp its significance at some levels but still cant quite wrap my brain around it completely. If you look at a map, one thing is clear: the people who decided where the IDL should go wanted to give the island nation of Fiji a break. If not for a deliberate shift to the east and back again, parts of Fiji would be in the future while other parts would be in the past. Which still just blows my circuitry.

On June 27, with this conundrum weighing on my mind, I boarded a 56-minute flight from Jacksonville to Atlanta, the first leg on a 20,000-mile journey to Fiji and back...
Our grand arrival at Makogai
Our grand arrival at Makogai
Along the way there would be whole operas to listen to, whole books to read, whole bowls of kava to drink and underwater colors I hadn't seen since my psychedelic college days. On June 30, on the other side of the planet, with one day unaccounted for, after crossing both the IDL and the equator, I joined 8 of my bestest dive buddies plus a new guy who would quickly take his place among a pantheon of cool dive friends. We met up at the Tradewinds hotel just outside the capital city of Suva.

Our group: Angie and Chuck, Judy and Dave, Jamie and Robbie, Wendy and Mary, Mike (the new guy) ....and me, your humble narrator. When a mere ten people charter a liveaboard it feels a little more intimate than usual, the opposite of a cattleboat. Taking meals together in the salon felt like we were at the kids table and the imaginary adults were in the main dining room. Ten is a good number.

Our boat, the Fiji Aggressor III, (formerly Sere-Ni-Wai) was built for 10 divers and 5 crew and was docked next to the much larger FA2 (formerly Tahiti Aggressor), a lavishly appointed dual-hull that holds 18 and was idle that week. Our crew: Captain Ned, Captain/Instructor James, DM Mosese, Chef Deo and Engineer/Hottie Clinton. I'm not sure how many liveaboards I've done--between one and two dozen--and this particular crew ranks at the top. Excellent at what they do, attitude-free, beyond helpful and, let's face it, easy on the eyes.

After some refreshments at the Tradewinds, we boarded in mid-afternoon and off we steamed out of Suva, near the Southeast corner of Fijis biggest island, Viti Levu. Suva is protected by a reef so big it took us 90 minutes to get past it into open water. The crossing to Wakaya lasted about 6 hours in heavy seas that left us feeling a little tentative despite meds. Deos delicious roasted chicken dinner with baked pumpkin went largely unconsumed. By 10, we were in calm water and woke to sunshine in a place called Vatu Vai.

With only a few exceptions, the diving in Fiji is mostly of a single pattern. The water is not gin-clear, with viz averaging 40 to 60 feet, due to an abundance of nutrients which in turn make the sea life so prolific. Its a fair trade-off. Most sites are pinnacle coral Canadians call them bommies which are shaped like, well, like columns rising out of the sand. (Work with me, I'm trying to avoid gratuitous references that only a hack would use.) A few pinnacles were on or near a wall but most were in 70-90 fsw.

So generally you start at the bottom, work a slow leisurely spiral upward until you get to the top at about 20 fsw. And then something magical happens. At the top of each of these plateaus is a coral garden so vividly colorful, dancing in the sunlight with such exuberance, that you think you must be tripping. It's like you're diving inside a forgotten scene from Disney's Fantasia. It's like the moment in Wizard of Oz when it goes from b&w to color. The bommie tops are loaded with soft and hard corals, with anthias everywhere, expanding and contracting like a mechanical ball, and tiny orange and bright purple who-knows-whats scattering and schooling in every direction. Each site is a color tableau gone wild, pulsating to its own rhythm.

We saw all the tiny critters that make photographers go gaga and use their macro lenses. Did we mention nudibranchs? And countless varieties of microscopic crabs and ittybitty blennies? Not that you don't encounter all this life further down toward the base. You do. But up top where there's all that sunlight plus minimal light refraction it is hypnotic. Sometimes there would be one pinnacle with cool rubble off to the side, sometimes 2 or 3 in a single site.

At Wakaya we dove Vatu Vai and Blue Ribbon Eel before heading to Namena Marine Park for dives at Black Forest, Canses (Kansas), Chimneys, Keenans and Ned's Head. Then Makogai, home to Christines Place, Half Pipe, PNO and Rick's Rock. One of my favorites was Jim's Alley, off the island of Gao (pronounced now) and named for the late photographer Jim Church. This was really a miniature mountain range of 4 sharp mounds, one with a swim-through, in about 75 fsw.

Chuck and I were the only ones looking more for the big guys, and we weren't disappointed either. At one point I looked up to see Angie abandoning all pretense of self-control, pointing at a pair of mantas overhead. OMG. Other notable sightings during our week included a whole field of red anemone, plus banded sea snakes, blue ribbon eel, pygmy seahorse, napoleon wrasse, grey reef sharks and one ornery potato cod named Leroy. A potato cod is basically a jewfish, I learned.

Which brings us to the FA3's signature dive. Two signature dives in one, actually. The site is called North Save-a-Tack Passage, and for our group it was both a shark-feeding and a high-voltage current ride. The passage is a break in the outer wall of a huge bowl thats miles across. The bowl at one time was a volcanic mountain that collapsed in on itself over time, leaving the surrounding reef as an almost-levee. Since the reef rises to near the surface, it constricts the tidal flow without preventing it. Except in this one narrow passage, which is like a break in the levee. So with each tide the water flows either inward or outward through the passage with some degree of force. To dive it, timing is everything. Ned, Mo and James did this dive with us. Each had a plastic container with a huge fish head in it.

First we backrolled off a panga and made negative entries into the stiff current. Someones tank hit me in the head. Great. I'm on a shark feed and there's probably a gash in my head. But no worries, it was fine. We dropped down and aimed for a pre-established area in the side of the channel. Then we settled into the sand behind a large rock at about 65 fsw and waited for Ned, Mo or James to tie his fish head to the rock. The place was suddenly swarming with grey reef sharks, red vampire fish (now there's a charming thought) and the aforementioned Leroy. I think there was also a smaller unnamed potato cod cousin with him.

For most shark dives I've been on, the actual feeding lasted about 30 seconds, and then you could spend the rest of your dive admiring the animals. For this one, the feeding lasted an incredible 25 minutes. Camera shutters were a-clickin fast and furious as our bubbles blew sideways in the current. The guests feasted right in front of our noses, oblivious to us (and the current) but very mindful of the fish heads.

Finally we ran out of goodies, and at a sign from one of the DMs we rose up out of our crouched positions behind the rock and let the current grab us. As you glide through the channel, the bottom slopes gradually upward, increasing the current. It was definitely an E-ticket ride, especially when we found ourselves hanging onto a rock waiting for the dive leader to catch up. Even with my mask strap placed under my hood, I thought the mask was gonna blow off. Then Mo or James flew by and we followed. Definitely a thrill ride. Suddenly, the current just stopped, and when we surfaced we were drifting directly toward FA3 at a leisurely pace.

Even *I* had no trouble navigating my way back to the boat that time. Despite this success, I am sorry to report that my navigation skills have not improved much. Usually the boat would be anchored just off the edge of a pinnacle. But with viz at about 50 feet and the boat swinging on the down line, the ladder was usually just out of visual range. You could hear the engine and if you swam even close to the right direction, you would see the ladder before long. Big if. If current was involved, as it occasionally was, the chances of being blown off the reef and taking the ride o shame increased. If all those conditions were present and you were me, well, you can see where this is going. One time James pointed me toward the boat and then watched me unwittingly swim in a wide arc as if one of my fins was longer than the other. Actually I took only two rides o shame all week, but I prefer to call them rides of privilege.

I was, after all, a tribal chief. Say what? On Wednesday, the Fourth of July (at least on our side of the IDL), we visited a tribal village at Makogai. In a briefing the day before, we were told that our group was expected to elect its own tribal chief who would participate in the upcoming kava ceremony on the island. Despite trying to blend in with the wall, I was elected. Not emperor or queen, I was the chief. And the next day my subjects and I came bearing gifts: a bundle of kava, plus school supplies for the little school they run in the village. (Quick aside: we'd known for months that bringing school supplies was appreciated. I brought stickies and glitter pens.)

In the briefing, Ned asked us to observe a few rules. 1. Please wear a sulu. (Judy brought me a hot pink number she had lying around.) 2. No touching anyone on the head. Thats a major insult punishable by death. 3. And no making a nasty face when you drink the kava. (Another aside: Kava is a root that is aged, then mashed up and strained through a cloth to make a muddy-tasting liquid. Its active ingredient is a beta-blocker chemically related to blood pressure meds like Tenormin which makes your tongue a little numb. In sufficient quantities it gives you a buzz. I had strange dreams that night but cannot be sure they were from the kava.)

On the panga, dressed in my hot pink sulu and carrying the kava bundle like a torch, I tried to look like either the Statue of Liberty or Washington crossing the Delaware. No one thought this was funny. On the beach we were greeted with fragrant leis, coconut milk and singing and dancing. While our dinner was slow-cooked in an open-pit fire, we toured the village with Sophie, who runs the school. The village, which does limited aquaculture, is on the site of a former leper colony that closed in the late 1960s.

At sunset we gathered with the villagers in a community hall for the traditional kava ceremony with lots of ritual dancing by the villages two dozen kids. By doing these dances, the kids learn and pass down the collective history of Fiji and the village.

Every few minutes we would take a kava break. When handed the bowl, which is basically half a coconut shell, heres the ritual: 1. Clap your hands hollowly. 2. Shout Bula. 3. Drink the bowl dry. 4. Hand the bowl back. 5. Clap your hands again 3 times. After the first bowl, you can accept or decline more. If you want just a little, you ask for low tide. If you want a bigger portion, you ask for high tide, and if you want it full to the rim, you ask for a tsunami. I love being able to write this next sentence: I consumed several bowls that night.

The next night, after crossing to Gao, we were visited onboard by the chief of the village there, who brought his retinue and more kava with him. A few of us hung out on the back deck, doing bowls with the locals. One begins to notice certain parallels.

On Friday we did one more pinnacle dive at a site called Anthias and steamed back to Suva, where we spent the afternoon. While the countryside in Fiji is magnificent, Suva and Nadi, the two main cities, are not really very touristy. Still, the country serves as a playground for Australians and New Zealanders in the same way the Bahamas does for east-coast Americans. Fijis tourist-dependent economy is hurting after the latest in a series of political coups. As a result, salespeople in shops, more desperate than ever, are annoyingly pushy. Maybe if they did a few more bowls they might relax. Just before our trip, Fiji and New Zealand expelled each others ambassadors. Maybe they should do a few bowls, too, and settle their differences.

While the trip was one of the best I've ever done, I have to say FA3 could use an overhaul. The cabins were spacious but often lacked hot water. Some divers noticed a foul taste in their breathing gas nothing harmful but still unpleasant. The dive deck doubled as the dive platform, so it got a little crowded. Some things I especially liked: Tank fills were plentiful, averaging about 3000 psi, with mixtures reliably at about 31%. The cabins had individual climate controls. Food was good and fresh without attempting to be froufrou. Before your first dive you could pre-order a hot breakfast choice which would be waiting for you when you came back. This was after the toast, coffee, juice, cereal and fruit available before the first dive. The wines and beers were good.

The coffee onboard warrants a whole paragraph. It was simply outstanding and never ever ran out. Unlike the coffee machines built mostly for volume and convenience, FA3 uses a simple French press, and Deo managed to keep it filled 24/7. The franchisee also owns a coffee business, which probably accounts for the bricks of Fijian coffee waiting for each of us on our bunks. I haven't tasted mine yet but will be using my French press when I do.

The trip home took longer than the trip out because of scheduling problems with Air New Zealand. It took 37 hours from the time we left Suva to the time I walked in my front door. Thank goodness for my new monster iPod, those dumb-looking neck pillows and Halcyon. Still, it takes awhile to reset your internal clock after a trip like this. Maybe a few bowls would help.

Thanks and acknowledgements: First, to Angie for organizing the whole trip and keeping the dastardly airlines reservations people from running roughshod over us. Thats no easy feat. Some of their antics had us baffled and livid. Second, to the crew, who were a pleasure to dive with, hang with and have the hots for. Third to the gentle and genuine people of Fiji, who deserve a more stable government and a better economy. Last, to my cabin-mate, Mike, who despite being the last-minute addition, managed to endear himself to all of us immediately and effortlessly. I hope you'll be hearing a lot from him.


Monday, 29 December 2008

ScubaBoard - Find a Dive Buddy

Most divers want to dive with a dive buddy.’s new BuddyMatrix makes it easy for members to locate each other by either using their US Zip code, or Latitude/Longitude Coordinates (for non-US residents).

Not only does the BuddyMatrix allow search by distance, but it also lets the user specify several criteria if they choose.

Users can specify that they want to find Instructors, Dive Shops, Dive Operations, and more. What makes the buddymatrix even more fun and user friendly, is that the results are listed on a “Google Map”! This feature is free for everyone to use, but only members can be listed.

So if you’re not yet a member, head over to and register (for free) for ScubaBoard and the BuddyMatrix today.

ScubaBoard - Find a Dive Buddy

Dive Into Fitness! Incredible New Site - - A MUST for Divers Wanting to Stay in Dive Shape

Avid diver combines years of fitness training with a passion for scuba diving.

Meet Gretchen Ashton - a dive enthusiast and professional fitness trainer who has a passion for scuba divers. For many years, Gretchen has trained fitness competitors and athletes and now she's taking aim at the scuba industry! Instructors and novice divers alike will benefit from her insights and methods outlined at Fit-Diver Workouts. Dive fitness for women also makes it debut with The Mermaid Workout - both are highlighted on her website.

Ashton helps divers learn why physical fitness is important to diving performance and safety and what it means to be ScubaFit. Benefits divers will experience include weight loss, reduced blood pressure, heart and lung health, improved strength and endurance, and a side benefit, women will look great in your wetsuit or bikini, while men will also see significant health and appearance benefits.
Contact for online coaching and workout plans, private fitness training and group exercise instruction.

“Exercising to enhance recreational activity is a positive way to take responsibility for your health, bring focus and motivation to a fitness routine and improve overall scuba diving performance,” says Ashton, who hosts discussion and answers questions on the ScubaFit message board.

ScubaFit has been well received with invitations to speak at local dive clubs and publishing opportunities. Ashton is hosting the first in a series of monthly ScubaFit Workshops at Pure Fitness Sports Clubs throughout southern California and is currently expanding the program nationally. Training videos are in development and will be available online and in dive centers in mid-2009. The first annual ScubaFit Beach Walk 2009 will be held in San Diego, California at La Jolla Shores and includes tours of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography Pier and Birch Aquarium.

“New generations of divers are participating at an increasing rate, yet according to Divers Alert Network (DAN), the majority of the diver population appears to be aging. Bridging the underwater world of scuba diving and the topside world of fitness is the solution to developing comprehensive exercise programs for scuba divers,” says Ashton. Ashton recommends basic exercise protocols according to the American Heart Association and American College of Sports Medicine. Read the full report and access links to fitness and diving resources.

A review her credentials reveals Ashton is registered with the National Board of Fitness Examiners, is a fitness therapist trained in over 30 clinical conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, asthma and arthritis. All of which are top reported medical conditions by divers. As a biomechanics specialist, she is recognized for innovative workouts and exercise equipment adaptations to accommodate the individual regardless of their current fitness level or orthopedic challenges. Her background includes peak performance coaching for local eco-adventure teams, competitive strength athletes, female fitness competitors and fire fighters.
For more details, visit the website at - Ashton indicated that plans are being made for SCUBA FIT sessions in Southern California and perhaps in other cities around the country.


Web design and networking management company for new websites

Web Full Circle is a Charlotte SEO, web design and networking management company providing services both locally and globally. As an award winning technology firm, Web Full Circle specializes in providing enterprise-class web design, web marketing and network support and maintenance services customized for small to mid-sized businesses.

Web Full Circle was founded by a group of experienced network engineers and web marketing professionals dedicated to providing a comprehensive solution for information technology needs, both web and network based.

Among the range of services offered by Web Full Circle are:

Web Oriented Services:

Effective Web Site Design
Search Engine Optimization
Application Development
Intergration and Maintenance
Content Mangement Systems
E-commerce and Shopping Cart
Custom Web and Database Solutions
Internet Marketing
IT Consulting
Managed Services
Graphic Design and Web Hosting
Email Newsletter Creation
Multimedia Flash Presentations
Banner Ad Designs

So if you are in the market for a Web Design Charlotte company, these guys have great reviews.

See :

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Life beneath the waves - Fiji Times Online

Life beneath the waves

By Ana Niumataiwalu
Thursday, November 13, 2008
MEET Joseph Donne. The man whose life is defined by the treasures of the underwater world.
Having dived to the ocean bed for a couple of years he still looks forward to each day at work like it was his first.
The humble 25-year old dive instructor of Reef Safari out on the South Seas islands in the Mamanuca group says he just loves his job.
But he is quick to declare that his path has not been an easy one, both personally and professionally.
Joe, as he is prefers to be called by everyone, be it the house guests or day trippers on South Seas islands, is no stranger to the oceans.
Now based at South Sea islands in the Mamanucas, originally hails from Plymouth, England.
He grew up in a family who had a history line of sailors, boat builders and marines and everything else to do with the ocean in England.
But he said rather than being above the water he preferred working under water. He is the youngest of three siblings and was educated in Plymouth where the rest of his family currently resides.
"After completing my education in Plymouth I had undertaken some dive instruction courses in England before moving to Australia when I was 18 years old," he said.
"I had also worked at the east and west coast of Thailand.
"I spent about two years there before moving to Fiji. I worked at the Reef Safari Australia and Whitsunday island before moving to Fiji."
Joe moved to Fiji in September last year and has now made the island paradise as he calls it his home.
"I have been in and around the water all the time," he said.
"My family has a line of sailors and even marines but I preferred to be under the water then above it.
"I prefer the tropical reefs because they are much warmer compared to the ones back home."
As a dive instructor at the island Joe looks after the scuba diving, snorkelling, yellow submarine tours. He says it's an interesting job because on the one hand tourists not only come for the sun surf and sea or the friendly locals but also to be educated on the underwater world of Fiji's tourism.
"While they enjoy their stay they also get to learn about our marine life here in Fiji," he said.
"Many are interested to learn about it. Most of them don't realise that there's more to the trips then just the vacation you also get to learn things about the land and sea.
"Here at Reef Safari we do two trips in the morning and in the afternoon on the yellow submarine."

Life beneath the waves - Fiji Times Online

Friday, 26 December 2008

Rescue Devices For Saving Your Bacon; the role that flags, flashlights, etc. play if you’re lost at sea - Undercurrent, September 2008

Rescue Devices For Saving Your Bacon

the role that flags, flashlights, etc. play if you’re lost at sea
from the September, 2008 issue of Undercurrent
By now you have heard recent stories of divers accidentally separated from their boats and being left to drift helplessly at sea. I’m aware of nine such incidents involving 28 divers in the first half of 2008 alone. Many years ago, six Japanese divers were lost in the waters near Palau and their bodies were found too late, but not before one of them had written on her slate, “We can see you searching for us but you can’t see us.” That encapsulates the problem. You may surface to easily see your boat, but can the people in the boat see you?
I had my own uncomfortable experience as a dive guide in Sudanese waters back in 1992, when technical problems wit the boat meant that my group had to be abandoned for a few hours after surfacing from a dive. It certainly gives one time to think out a better strategy. Many sport divers dive without any form of surface signaling device. Some liveaboard operations hand out simple safety sausages that can be inflated at the surface. Provided the diver keeps the open end closed and under the water, one will stand upright, but how easily can it be seen?
Some Devices Are Dependent on the Time of Day
After a boatload of British divers were lost and left to drift until dark, when their dive lights could be spotted by searchers, it became a rule within Egypt’s marine parks in the Red Sea that all divers must carry a surface marker and a dive light for such eventuality. Another group of day-boat divers that got separated on the surface from their boat at the Elphinstone Reef (not part of the marine parks) were less lucky and only one survived after he made the long swim to the shore.
A reliable light held in reserve with fully charged batteries can be a life-saver once darkness falls. An emergency strobe beacon of the type that is rated to as much depth as you are ever likely to take it will give a piercing flash of light in all directions regularly and for many hours. But wouldn’t it be nicer to be found before nightfall?
In May this year, an American and British diver on the Great Barrier Reef were rescued after 19 hours at sea. Soon after that, another group of five divers made the news when they were ‘swept away on a strong current’ at Komodo Island in Indonesia. Strong currents are often a feature of the world’s most notable dive sites.
Surface marker buoys come in all shapes and sizes and vary in their ability to be seen. Standard ones are only good over a distance of, say, half a mile. Some divers carry an old CD with them that can be used to flash a reflection of the sun - - if there is sunlight. You don’t just flash at will. You must create a visible and consistent reflection of light toward the direction of your potential rescuer. Years ago it was possible to buy a heliograph mirror for divers. It was simple to aim it by means of a sighting device so at least you knew that it was doing its best to tell people you were there. It didn’t prove popular in the marketplace.
Very loud whistles like the Dive Alert siren (approximately $40; can be attached to the direct-feed inflator of your BCD or on a stand-alone hose and make use of compressed air from your tank. They emit an ear-piercing screech that can attract the attention of your pick-up boat driver if he is inattentive when you surface. Don’t expect anyone to hear that screech over the sound of a boat engine at full throttle, though. And if a boat crew does hear an unexpected whistle, it still leaves the problem of identifying where it comes from. Visual indicators are always important.
What About Flares and Beacons?
Flares come in numerous shapes and sizes. Some produce a colored smoke that will make a diver into a larger subject for a searching aircrew while an emergency plastic streamer does the same thing but for longer. A parachute flare gives boat crew an idea of the general direction they should be looking in for a lost diver but they represent a one-hit-wonder. It is not worth sending up a flare, unless you know that someone relevant can see it. That seems to be the crux of all attention-grabbing surface devices. Someone must know that you will need rescuing.
Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) were originally missold as Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs) until the Coast Guard rightly pointed out that they are not sufficiently powerful, nor do they use the now-current 404-Mhz frequency, so no Thunderbirds get launched. Neither are EPIRBs really suitable for the quick response needed by divers, because it can take up to 90 minutes for rescue services to be alerted this way. However, using a different radio wavelength (121.5-Mhz), PLB devices can be very effective over surface distances of three miles if the search vessel is equipped with a suitable tracking device, and longer when the beacon is sought from the air.
In the UK, lifeboats are also so equipped but there is little point in buying a lone transmitter for use anywhere else if there is no tracking device available. And you’re still left with the possible unreliability of batteries and electronics that have been taken underwater. Some PLBs now use both frequencies but usually need a waterproof case for diving. The Undersea Hunter boats at remote Cocos Island in the Pacific equip every diver with an emergency-only PLB transmitter, and crews are welltrained in the use of the tracking device. A good way to ensure a strong outgoing signal is to combine the unit’s flexible aerial with an inflated SMB. McMurdo makes PLBs with and without GPS (prices start at $300;
My Favorite Rescue Device
I prefer a low-tech answer because I always know if it is going to function properly. Since that fateful day in the Sudan, I have always carried a big fluorescent yellow flag on a long extending pole. I attach it to my tank by means of two elastic straps. The biggest problem seems to be getting your signal marker high above cresting waves. The flag can be raised on its extending pole above the swell and forms a horizontal shape with an attention grabbing flutter on a sea breeze.
On one occasion when I was using mine to signal my arrival at the surface to my cover boat after a dive with a closed-circuit rebreather, divers on another cover boat returning to the Sea Hunter noticed my flag from a distance of several miles. I have used my surface flag in earnest in the waters of the Mergui Islands, in the Maldives, in the Galapagos, after the quick drift dives of Aldabra, and almost every time after a high-voltage dive at Cocos or Malpelo.
Research done by Heriot-Watt University on behalf of the British government some years ago determined that a yellow flag was the most visible marker when it came to search by sea or from the air. It stated, “The folding flags were by far the most reliable and cost-effective location device we tested, particularly the day-glo yellow pennant, which was consistently spotted at more than one mile and up to two miles. Yellow was the most conspicuous color in all sea states, even with breaking wave crests, and could be located in deteriorating light when it was impossible to locate pennants of any other color.”
(Note: The only place we could find yellow diver flags easily for sale online was at Bowstone Diving in the United Kingdom at; $33, plus $27 shipping. But check with your local dive shop for options closer by.)
John Bantin is the technical editor of DIVER magazine in the United Kingdom. For 20 years, he has used and received virtually every piece of equipment available in the UK (and the U.S.) and makes about 300 dives for that purpose, and he is also a professional underwater photographer.

Rescue Devices For Saving Your Bacon; the role that flags, flashlights, etc. play if you’re lost at sea - Undercurrent, September 2008: "s"

Fish ID Cards - Australia & Fiji Area

Product Features

  • Can Easily attach a wrist lanyard to take with you underwater.
  • High color quality
  • 9" x 6"
  • Front & Back loaded with pictures of marine fish
  • Fish ID Cards - Australia & Fiji Area


Product Description

Product Description
Unsure of what your seeing while your snorkeling or scuba diving? We carry a variety of waterproof fish identification slates and cards that will help you know what your looking at. The slates hold information of differents type of fish in different regions of the world.

Students breed clams for future - Fiji Times Online

Students breed clams for future

Monday, September 29, 2008
STUDENTS of Vunisea Secondary School in Kadavu are playing an instrumental role in breeding clams.
Seven students, under the guidance of Kadavu Yaubula management support team coordinator Josaia Ravulo, went on a clam diving expedition on Friday and were given first-hand practical lessons about the breeding program.
The marine studies program at Vunisea Secondary School is sponsored by AusAID and is in its third module this term.

Mr Ravulo said the students would be involved in practical research aspects of marine life, particularly the breeding of clams.

He led the students on an early morning dive for young clams to be transferred to Cevai, Ravitaki, Galoa and Solovola villages.

The students snorkelled in a passage at Solovola Village for young clams that were bred in a cage and transferred to the Ravitaki, Cevai, Muani and the islands of Matanuku and Galoa.

The young clams were transferred into triangular cages for their relocation and the students were instructed to secure the cages against rocks to keep away predators.

The clams were kept in the water in a sack and transferred to Muani and Galoa on Saturday.

Vunisea Secondary School principal Serupepeli Udre said the program was introduced early this year where students were taught how to mould a fibreglass boat and maintain and repair outboard engines.

Students breed clams for future - Fiji Times Online

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Winning Eco Image Nets Diving Package

Underwater photographers contribute to conservation in unique photo contest

Rather than typical beauty shots, Project AWARE Foundation and SeaWeb’s Ocean in Focus Conservation Photography Contest attracted hundreds of images not seen in calendars or proudly placed in one’s living room. Rather, these shots delivered a more sobering message about the human impacts to our ocean. 

Grand prize winner Tom Campbell received highest honors for his shot, a California sea lion caught in a deep water drift net. Campbell believes that most images with visual impact are not taken by design. “When a photographer comes across such an unfortunate sight as I did, we have the opportunity to shoot and share a compelling, disturbing image to help show what’s happening beneath the surface of the sea,” said Campbell.

Campbell will receive a total Grand Prize package worth more than $2,000 including a seven-night stay at Plaza Resort Bonaire, $250 gift certificate to Backscatter Underwater Video and Photo, 16 tons of carbon offsets from NativeEnergy and a signed copy of the National Geographic book Wild Ocean by authors Dr. Sylvia Earle and Wolcott Henry. .

Contest categories were: Species of Concern/Ecosystem Decline and Humans and the Ocean: Impacts and Solutions. Photos were judged by Dr. Sylvia Earle – Oceanographer and National Geographic Explorer in Residence; Bob Talbot, world renowned photographer and filmmaker; Wolcott Henry, world renowned photographer and President of The Curtis and Edith Munson Foundation; and Ty Sawyer, Editor-in-Chief of Sport Diver magazine. Prizes were donated by Plaza Resort Bonaire; Backscatter Underwater Video and Light; NativeEnergy; and National Geographic. Winners Claire Fackler, Steve Spring, Marco Carè and Steve Whitford were also awarded prizes recognizing their photographic achievements.

“The impacts to our ocean environments go unseen by most of society,” said Earle. “This photo contest has illuminated those perils through imagery and engaged hundreds of photographers worldwide to point their cameras more towards the threats and challenges facing our ocean.”

The winning photos and other noteworthy submissions can be viewed at, a project of SeaWeb.

Photographers and conservationists of all experience levels are encouraged to contribute environmental images to SeaWeb’s Marine Photobank and show support for conservation through Project AWARE Foundation. These images help researchers, educators, non-governmental organizations and the media depict ocean issues.
Marine Photobank

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

ScubaBoard - View Single Post - Who's been to Fiji? Advice needed

ScubaBoard - View Single Post - Who's been to Fiji? Advice needed

One or two months ago, I asked a few questions down here, all related to diving or lodging in Fiji. As I'm now back from the islands, I wanted to input some feedback about my recent fijian dive experience for whomever it might interest.

Firstly I'm traveling with my wife end 14 yo. daughter, both non divers, I'm the only -quite experienced- diver of the bunch.
I had chosen Kadavu, the Yasawas (mostly as a counterpart for the two girls of my party) and Rakiraki area on a very tight schedule (only 12 days in the Fiji).

Full report: ScubaBoard - View Single Post - Who's been to Fiji? Advice needed

Isle see you there - Pacific Islands - World - Travel -

Hold my calls ... sun, sea and sand add up to island bliss.

Hold my calls ... sun, sea and sand add up to island bliss.

Destination: Pacific Islands This peaceful Fijian island has no traffic jams and little crime - but brace yourself for some early starts, writes Eleanor Learmonth.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that no one wants to be woken at 6.15 on a Sunday morning unless their house is on fire. Kadavu Island is an exception to this. Imagine being slowly roused from sleep by the soft beat of the village drum echoing through the jungle, answered by a distant echo as the next village picks up the rhythm.

"Where am I?" is the first, bleary thought. "On the set of some crazy Tarzan movie?" No, it's just the first wake-up call for church. And they're not just bunging it on for the tourists, either. The drum has always worked; telephones don't always work. So they use the drum. It's Fijian common sense.

A deeply traditional part of Fiji, Kadavu is 100 kilometres south of the main island and several generations off the well-trodden path of your average tourist. The usual problem with leaving that path is that it often necessitates a long, uncomfortable trip punctuated by motion sickness, a frightening disregard for personal safety and the risk of getting bird flu from the poultry sitting next to you.

Not so Kadavu. It's a mere 45-minute flight from Nadi, the gateway city to Fiji, and the only thing you'll need to contend with is a breathtaking view of Beqa Island and its coral lagoon as you fly over.

Another difference is size; Kadavu isn't that tiny speck of sand you see in every travel agent's window. It's a robust, mountain-covered island dominated by an extinct volcano the locals call King Kong Mountain. But it's also fringed by perfect, white beaches and extensive coral atolls and the size means it happily supports 72 villages and 12,000 Fijians.

And while we're talking statistics, here's my favourite: there are almost no roads and only 20 vehicles on the land so everyone gets around by boat or on foot. It's a safe bet you won't get into any traffic jams. Encountering my first truck after nearly a week, my mouth fell open and I waved wildly like the slack-jawed yokel I had evidently become.

A warning, though: if your idea of holiday bliss is a papaya-cucumber facial wrap followed by a few hours on a jet-ski, don't go to Kadavu. It's not that kind of place.

This doesn't mean you have to slum it or get food-poisoning. Our base camp for the week was Matana Resort, a small, friendly establishment built with creature comforts firmly in mind. It sits snugly behind the ubiquitous line of coconut trees with the beach in front and the jungle behind. We shared the beach with the tiny villages of Drue and Navauta. A stone line divided the villages, hinting at a distant feud, but we never got to the bottom of that one.

Full articel here:

Isle see you there - Pacific Islands - World - Travel -

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Drinking and Diving: How Much Alcohol Is Too Much? - Undercurrent, October 2008

from the October, 2008 issue of Undercurrent
You’re having so much fun on your dive trip that after cocktails, you decide to have more wine with dinner, and a brandy as a nightcap. Should you really go on the first morning dive? It’s one thing to have wine with dinner, it’s another to drink until 2 a.m., then wake four hours later for the early-morning dive. And if you’re the sober dive buddy, what is your responsibility?
Divers Alert Network (DAN) states that alcohol will impair your physical performance, concentration and judgment underwater, plus mask symptoms of decompression sickness for many hours until your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level reaches 0.0 percent. (The American Medical Association recommends the upper BAC limit for driving as 0.05 percent.) So the more partying you do, the higher your BAC goes, and the higher your risk for injury as a hungover diver.
Look at it another way: DAN estimates that alcohol metabolizes at an average of 0.3 ounces of pure alcohol per hour. So say you drink a 12-ounce can of Miller Lite. It contains 0.384 ounces of pure alcohol, so you’ll metabolize it in approximately 80 minutes. A domestic draft beer has 0.48 ounces, so it’ll take around 90 minutes. Drink four of those and it’ll take six hours for a respectable BAC. That’s okay if you stop before midnight, not so much if you’re drinking into the a.m. hours - - and if you drink more than that.
There’s scant research about alcohol’s impact on diving, but DAN won’t consider doing more, says senior research director Petar DeNoble. “First, excessive drinking is related to many health problems already, so conducting a separate study would make it look like DAN is trying to provide excuses for drinking and diving. Second, the effects of drinking on physiological functions are difficult to measure, especially because most effects may be dose dependent.”
Dive operators vary on their view of handling heavydrinking divers. We asked a few liveaboards for their take, and it ranged from crackdown to laissez-faire. Mike Ball Dive Expeditions in Australia is one of the strictest. Its procedures manual recommends lights-out at 11 p.m., requires parties to end at midnight and has a four-drink maximum over 24 hours. “Guests who wish to drink beyond that are advised they’ll need to skip the early-morning dive,” says operations manager Craig Stephen. Crew records the names and time of late-night drinkers in their log, and if those divers insist on doing the first dive, they must sign a “diver refusing advice” waiver.
On the other end is the Peter Hughes fleet, saying the “fit to dive” decision is entirely up to its guests. “We treat divers as responsible adults, capable of governing their own actions and diving within their limits,” says vice president Larry Speaker. “Our crews don’t have the expertise to diagnose or judge the ‘quality’ of each person’s decisions. But during our initial safety briefings, we do discuss responsible diving.”
The Aggressor Fleet is somewhere in between, with no written standards about heavy drinking, but president Wayne Hasson says, “Our on-board policy includes suspending diving for anyone who is in question of being a danger to themselves or another diver.” He says dive buddies should play a role in keeping hungover divers on deck. “They should inform the divemaster in such a case, but they should also advise the diver not to dive under those conditions.”

Drinking and Diving: How Much Alcohol Is Too Much? - Undercurrent, October 2008

Fiji's Resilient Coral Reefs

Healthy hard coral reef scene in Fiji - photo courtesy of Helen Sykes, Marine Ecology Fiji

When you see an article these days about the marine environment the news always seems to be bad. It would appear that coral reefs face an imminent Armageddon and there is seldom, if ever, any hope expressed.

While there is no doubt that global warming and other human actions do indeed threaten our environment both above and below water we think it is worth drawing attention to the findings of an ongoing reef survey in Fiji. These studies took place in one of the areas where El Niño caused bleaching that was said by many at the time to be devastating. The results might surprise you.

Fiji is known as being the 'soft coral capital of the world' and there are some dive sites in the Fijian islands where the reefs appear to be in an exceptionally healthy state with hard and soft corals, gorgonian fans and crinoids making the reef burst with colour. However it is one thing for a recreational diver to enjoy these beautiful dive sites but hard data is needed to arrive at any meaningful conclusion as to the health of Fiji's reefs.

In the study, data has been gathered since 1999 from a variety of dive sites around Fiji including Kadavu, Taveuni, Viti Levu, Bligh Water and the Koro Sea and includes such key indicators as temperature, coral coverage and coral type as well as fish species identification. Fiji's coral reefs have been impacted by events such as bleaching and cyclones, but far from sounding the death knell, the figures actually make quite surprising and very encouraging reading.

Graph showing hard coral and algal cover on reefs in the Fiji Islands

Take a look at the graph to the left. As you can see 2000 saw a startling decline in coral coverage, with coral loss between 40-80% nationwide. Since then there has been a rebound effect where hard coral coverage is well and truly back to pre-bleaching levels in Fiji.

What can also be seen is that there was a rise and then a fall in the quantity of algae present. Clearly this does not refer to the symbiotic unicellular algae whose disappearance following temperature change leaves the coral whitened or bleached. This refers to macroalgae, i.e. seaweeds that grow on top of dead corals, and on sand and rock in areas where there are plenty of nutrients and/or few algae-eating fish. The declining levels of macroalgae which swamped the bleached coral and the increasing hard coral coverage are both key indicators of complete regeneration.

Another interesting conclusion drawn by the study is apparent when you consider the graph below which details the specific coral coverage on one single dive site in the Fijian islands. From this it can be seen that coral cover on this one sample site has reached higher than pre-bleaching levels. Coral coverage has gone from a nadir in 2000 of 46% to a current 70% in 2007. Acropora levels have increased, particularly table corals, branching and digitate. Of the non-acropora corals, boulder corals now account for a much smaller proportion of the coverage (the large blue band in 1999 and 2000), with foliose, submassive and encrusting corals all growing significantly. The result has been an overall increase in coral coverage over the last few years as well as an increase in coral diversity at this one site.

Bar chart showing the prominence of different coral types at Mount Mutiny in the Fijian Islands

So after all the bad news it could be that corals are actually less fragile than we first thought. This should really be unsurprising since the oldest living coral is estimated to be about 4,200 years of age and corals have been around for hundreds of millions of years.

There is no doubt that human beings are damaging the earth and that much of this damage is being seen in the destruction of coral reefs. However studies like this one show that if left unmolested and in the right conditions, the reefs of Fiji and elsewhere may be able to recover much more quickly than was previously thought.

If anything, news like this should be more of a call to arms than a comforting reason to be blasé. What this tells us is that it is not too late for the world's coral reefs. They may be more robust than we had thought and with our assistance could flourish once again.

Fijian Islands Diving - Fiji Coral Reef Re-generation

Monday, 22 December 2008



While vacationing in Fiji, there are numerous activities in which to participate during your surface intervals. With more than 300 islands to explore, you probably won't be staying in one spot for very long. Fiji prides itself on being as active a destination as possible with adventures available by land, air and sea. If you'd rather kick-back during your topside time, however, activities like guided tours through national parks, museums and villages, or lavish cruises along the islands are available.

For more information on what to do in Fiji visit, and

Fiji offers a variety of natural wonders including volcanic mountains, rainforests and waterfalls; as well as a locally famous cave called Naihehe. There are also archaeological sites to visit as well as sugar cane and vegetable farms. The hiking in Fiji is fairly mild and low-impact.

Aerial Tours
The view of Fiji and her islands can only be appreciated fully when taken in from high above. There are many seaplane and helicopter options for touring the islands from a bird's-eye vantage point.

Sky Diving/ Parasailing
For the serious adrenaline junkies out there, Fiji's Nadi Airport offers the experience of a lifetime –jumping out of a plane at 10,000 feet above one of the world's most beautiful tropical locations. If you're not quite ready to take the plunge, try parasailing. Experience the thrill and sail high above this tropical paradise for up to 60 minutes, with options for a solo, tandem or even triple parasail.

Water Sports
Enjoy the warmth of the sun while staying cool on the water. In Fiji the options are endless with opportunities for surfing, kayaking, snorkeling, fishing and jet-skiing. For the adventurous, try a rollicking white-water raft trip down the Navua River's conservation area that passes through many traditional Fijian villages.

Enjoy the show as Fijian men and women perform traditional storytelling in song and dance. A good place to experience the cultural side of Fiji is the Arts Village located in Pacific Harbor.
Indulge in this traditional Fijian feast known for offering food wrapped in banana leaves and slow cooked in an earth oven. A whole pig is usually the main attraction of this feast.
Watch as local Fijians and Indians participate in this fascinating traditional performance.

Cruises/Charters and Sailing
Feel the ocean breeze, watch the sunset or simply feel the soothing rock of the ocean beneath you. There are opportunities to do it all, including a relaxing cruise around the islands to take in the beauty of the crystal-blue waters of the Pacific.


The ScubaBoardShow Podcast dives into the NEW MEDIA REVOLUTION with the ScubaBoard Show! The ScubaBoard show is an exciting new podcast series hosted by renowned explorer and diver Jill Heinerth and her favorite “open water” diving buddy Robert McClellan.

Jill Heinerth, an inaugural inductee to the Women Divers Hall of Fame, is best known as a pioneering technical diver, and award-winning film maker. Combining a mastery of underwater technology with a formal Fine Arts education, Jill produces artistic documentation of the natural environment above, below and inside our planet.

Robert McClellan, the show’s producer and co-host, has a diverse background in media, including broadcast radio, film production, live concerts, and a distinguished career as a combat photographer.

The ScubaBoard Show’s team provides light, enjoyable conversation, insightful interviews with outstanding divers, from weekend enthusiasts to the sport’s leading luminaries, wrapped in intelligent discourse on the Scuba diving lifestyle.

A podcast is a series of audio or video digital-media files which is distributed over the Internet by syndicated download, through Web feeds, to portable media players and personal computers. Though the same content may also be made available by direct download or streaming, a podcast is distinguished from other digital-media formats by its ability to be syndicated, subscribed to, and downloaded automatically when new content is added.

Subscription to the podcast is free for all, so point your browser to today, and subscribe to the newest most exciting podcast devoted to scuba diving! The ScubaBoard Show will be delivered directly to your iTunes, Zune, or your favorite RSS Feed reader.

If you’d like more information about ScubaBoard, its features and benefits contact Peter Murray netdoc “at”  or Howard Ehrenberg: ads “at”

ScubaBoard - The ScubaBoardShow Podcast

Sunday, 21 December 2008

1st trip to Fiji and Australia - a few questions.... - ScubaBoard

Hi Carol,

I was in Fiji in 06 and am going back next year for my wedding/honeymoon. It's absolutely beautiful. Here's what I can tell you:

First,'s Fiji. The culture is relaxed and casual. Don't expect the Waldorf Astoria and you'll be fine. Rooms were clean and food was good-don't get me wrong, but understand it's a more relaxed and may not be 5-star by American standards.

Weather: I did my trip in Nov, but a few years before was in Cains Australia in Aug and weather was fine / water was warm.

Fiji Resorts: Garden Island was the best, and we'd been planning our wedding there. However the resort was recently sold to a Japanese company, who has closed it for renovations until Spring 09. When I was there the staff was amazing-I still remember their names and they made me feel like a friend. I've heard stories that the new management is not treating the staff well, thus affecting the overall mood, etc, but I can't confirm that.

I can tell you that it was perfect for what you're looking for. Rooms were clean, great snorkelling right in front of the resort, or off a small island you can kayak to just off the resort. There's no beach at the resort, but plenty of lounge chairs, etc. Beach is on the island I mentioned. Plenty of land based fun-hikes, natural water slide and waterfalls 20 min walk away, lots of fun. Diving is first class and the staff is very professional. Nitrox available if desired.

Pacific Harb: On Viti Levu just across from Beqa island is Pacific Harbor. Aquatrek (who runs the dive outfit on Taveuni) has a set up there (Aqua-Trek). They have an office in San Francisco that can help w/all the bookings. Great staff. They're on site at a large hotel called The Pearl. It was nice, almost a little too fancy for me, and meals were over-priced. However just down the road is a great little resort called Uprising Beach Resort. Nice little bures right on the beach, etc. Diving is good. Aquatrek has a cool shark dive. Land based-hikes, kayaking, river rafting the upper navua gourge is a must ( on site by aquatrek).

Never been to Beqa Island, but heard good things. More secluded than Viti Levu I imagine.

Live Aboards: My personal aboards are best suited for hard-core divers who just want to dive. The ones I've been on didn't have much in the way of snorkeling or non-diving activities. I did one out of Cains Australia (Kangaroo Explorer) that was horrible. Food was nasty, dive masters weren't very safe, and I was stuck on that boat for 2 days. Many people swear by live, I like to get out, meet locals, explore, etc so I avoid them. If you wanted to, I would suggest more of a cruise ship

I do hope this helps. I have a lot of great memories from Fiji and would happy to share more if you have other questions...just let me know!


1st trip to Fiji and Australia - a few questions.... - ScubaBoard

DivePhotoGuide Receives International Recognition

DivePhotoGuide Awarded Best Website At Prestigious World Festival Of Underwater Images, Antibes.

Nov 3, 2008 (New York, NY) – Popular underwater photography & video portal DivePhotoGuide has been presented with the best website award at the 35th Annual World Festival of Underwater Images, one of the most prestigious underwater photo & film festival in the world, held annually in Antibes, France.

Founder and Publisher Jason Heller said: “We are honored to receive this recognition from such a prestigious competition and I want to take this opportunity to thank all of our readers from around the world as well as our exceptional team - Wendy Heller, Matt Weiss, Gyula Somogyi, Richard Morris, Andrea & Antonella Ferrari, Keri Wilk and Miguel Novey. I'm honored to have such an amazing bunch of people on our team who share an intense passion for underwater imagery and the ocean.”

DivePhotoGuide provides daily news, featured articles, product reviews, PRO and featured member photo galleries, competition calendars and amore. Although the emphasis in underwater photography and video, there is an additional focus on all issues scuba diving and ocean related and all the members of the DivePhotoGuide team are active supporters of the marine environment. The website has since undergone a couple of significant facelifts and overhauls and continues to evolve. launched in March 2005 and was founded by internet agency entrepreneur Jason Heller.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Scuba Diving in Fiji, including Beqa Lagoon/Pacific Harbor, Kadavu, Laucala, Nananu-I Ra, Taveuni and Matangi -- an Undercurrent Insider Report

Fiji Scuba Diving

Including Beqa Lagoon/Pacific Harbor, Kadavu,
Laucala, Nananu-I Ra, Taveuni and Matangi

An Undercurrent Insider Report on Fiji Diving
The Consumer Newsletter for Serious Divers Since 1975

Overview of Fiji

For left coasters, it takes about the same amount of time to get to Fiji as it does to the Caribbean: 10 hours nonstop from L.A. Prices are comparable and air packages can include New Zealand/Australia extensions at little extra cost. Fijians are polite, friendly, modest, and religious, so watch your language, and wear nonrevealing clothes to town. Wetsuits are staples yearround; currents add coolness and in some places they're vigorous, so carry surface signaling devices. The weather can be stormy June through September; short, heavy showers are possible any afternoon year-round, especially around Beqa Lagoon. The year-round average temperature is 80 or above; nights average 69 degrees in winter.

Fiji Seasonal Dive Planner

Fiji's weather presents a real mixed bag. The choice is often between good visibility and cool water or warm water and calmer seas with less visibility. June through October is the dry season when the water is the clearest, but it's also at its coldest and the winds kick up. Water temperatures can sink into the low 70s during this time of the year, making it necessary to drag out the full wetsuits. November brings a transition period. The water warms up, the winds die down, and the plankton blooms, lowering the visibility. By January and February, the water has warmed back up into the low 80s. The rains pick up and the hurricane season is on (December through March).

Counting Tonga and Samoa, the area gets about five cyclones a year. It's a risky time to try to catch good diving weather. Because the winds kick up so much in February and March, some resorts pick these months to close down for repairs. During April and May, the wind, and therefore the seas, become calmer and the water remains warm, but the plankton bloom cuts down on the underwater visibility.

Of course, this offers the best odds of seeing large plankton eaters. The best time to go depends on your preferences: warm, calmer, cloudy seas, or clear but cold water.

Scuba Diving in Fiji, including Beqa Lagoon/Pacific Harbor, Kadavu, Laucala, Nananu-I Ra, Taveuni and Matangi -- an Undercurrent Insider Report

Two Worlds of Fiji

Above and Below the Water, It's a Feast for the Senses
Text and Photography by Jack and Sue Drafahl

A beam of light stabbed through the darkness. It seemed to be meticulously searching for something as it moved across the ocean floor. A second light beam appeared just beyond the first, silhouetting the first diver. Its steady beam suddenly changed to short, frantic movements, indicating its holder had found something of interest to show his dive buddy. Both lights converged onto a single spot where two mating nudibranchs presented a photographic discovery in the exciting waters of Fiji.

More divers jumped into the water in search of undersea creatures. Topside, the dark waters were cut by the bright circular flash of light from a photographer's strobes. A second flash was closely followed by a third. This was a great night for underwater photography. Later, as the divers surfaced and recounted their experiences of night diving in Fiji, their excitement was highly contagious.

We are continually intrigued by the underwater experiences divers recount while relaxing at dinner or quietly sipping a drink in the bar. Over time, we have found the best way to really learn about specific dive sites is to listen to these yarns. We realize that often the fish aren't really as big as described and some aspects of a dive may be slightly exaggerated, but that makes for great dive stories. With more than 500 dives logged in Fiji, we never cease to be amazed by the marvelous creatures that abound in these azure waters. Sit back as we reminisce about some of our best dives!

Many of our favorite memories date to the time we spent in Fiji's northern region with Jean-Michel Cousteau, working on his educational CD entitled Cities Under the Sea. We had the pleasure of working with a fabulous marine biologist, Dr. Richard Murphy. He showed us how to locate and better understand Fijian marine animals; skills that have proved invaluable.

One of our first experiences was with clownfish. These are some of the most photographed critters by both professional and amateur photographers alike. Clownfish can be found throughout Fiji, both in the shallows and at various depths. Sometimes you can easily approach these colorful creatures while other times they attack. We found that when they swim toward you in a defensive mode, they usually have a nest of eggs under the edges of their anemones. If you look closely, you can see two small eyes peeking out from each of the eggs.

Once, for nine days we closely watched a nest of clownfish eggs turn from a silver-gray to orange-red. At 9:00 pm on the ninth day, each clownfish baby fired out of its egg like a rocket. We were able to capture this on film, but we realized that the experience was more valuable than any of the pictures we had taken.

Some of the most colorful animals in the world are nudibranchs. Fiji is loaded with these in every size, shape and color, but the trick is knowing where to look. The best time to find them feeding, mating and fighting is at night. Photographers with photo equipment set up for 1:2 close-ups will shoot a roll of film in no time.

The most unusual nudibranch we have ever seen was on a dive in Bligh Water between Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, Fiji's largest islands. The dive site, called E-6, is a pinnacle that rises 3,000 feet from the ocean floor to within inches of the surface. This ultimate wall dive attracts just about every marine species found in Fiji.

After surfacing from a dive, someone commented he had seen an animal that looked like a cross between a sea anemone and coral, with two horns on the front and a large tuft on the other end. When we asked how big it was, the reply was more than one foot! Minutes later, every diver on the boat was in the water headed back to E-6. This nudibranch was huge and measured 14 inches across. (Yes, we brought a ruler with us.) It was so big we had to use a 15mm lens to get the whole animal in the picture! It resembled the hard coral next to it, which made no sense because nudibranchs usually take on the color and texture of animals they intend to eat. When we returned to the boat, we checked all the identification books in vain. We eventually called it a Horta, after the Star Trek creature it resembled and, to this day, it still has not been identified.

One of the best ways to really get to know the animals on the reef is to watch a fish cleaning station. When a cleaner fish hangs out its shingle and dances on its tail, the other fish line up to get parasites removed from their mouths, gills and other body parts. On one dive in Savusavu Bay, we watched two cleaning fish set up shop. As time progressed, a large school of fish came to a screeching halt in front of this offshore bommie. The front edge of the school formed a circle around the cleaners and they worked quickly to service the hundreds of patients. As each fish was cleaned it would move to the other side of the station and wait. After about 30 minutes, the cleaners closed up shop and the school moved on.

If you are into larger animals, there are many locations in Fiji where you can swim with sharks, Mantas and turtles. You may encounter these animals on almost any dive in Fiji but several locations guarantee action. Western Fiji has a dive site called Supermarket, where you settle in a circle and sharks swim around you as they are fed in the middle of the circle. The sharks get so close the only excuse for not getting great pictures is that you forgot your camera.

Nigali Passage, in Central Fiji, is a deep, 90 foot trench where divers drift along with sharks, rays, groupers, turtles and who knows what else during the tidal exchange. On one of our dives through this opening, several divers saw a Sailfish making its way through the passage to deep ocean. One of the highlights at the end of the dive is a quick cruise through one of the largest patches of pristine Cabbage Coral in Fiji.

On one trip we had the pleasure of diving with Stan Waterman, who was shooting a film on Fiji. On one specific dive we discovered an unusual cleaning station run by Red and White Banded Shrimp. These critters were not going to clean fish, but divers. Stan was first in line to try this new experience underwater. He opened his mouth and the shrimp moved in and started to pick at his teeth and gums. We all formed a line to have our fingernails manicured and laughed so hard we kept losing our regulators.

On another scientific photo expedition we were in search of Fiji's fluorescent animals. Sea anemones and certain hard coals give off their own bright light in red, pink, green and blue. Many of these creatures are found in Fiji's northern area, in the Somosomo Strait off Taveuni, Laucala, Qamea and Matagi. On a recent trip we dived a site with yards and yards of "carpet" consisting of small glowing anemones. Photographing these animals requires high speed film, flash and a steady hand, but the results are unique photos of animals glowing yellow, green and red.

We have photographed Blue Ribbon Eels and Leaffish in just about every part of Fiji. The problem is that you really have to slow your dive down in order to experience these animals. We have discovered Blue Ribbon Eels along deep walls, in sand flats and at the base of coral bommies. Leaffish are almost always found on the tops or sides of the bommies. At the end of one dive near Kadavu in southern Fiji, we had saved a single shot at the end of the roll for that killer shot but were getting low on air. Just as we were about to surface, we ran across two Blue Ribbon Eels in the same hole. Sometimes patience pays off.

When we first started diving in Fiji, we heard stories of an extremely rare pipefish found in the north off Namenalala Island. There are several unofficial names, but we know it as the Rufus Pipefish. This master of camouflage is covered with reddish looking "hair" and hides in an algae of the same consistency and color. Until our most recent trip to Fiji, we had only seen a few pictures taken by luckier photographers. At the end of a dive on Mount Mutiny, in the Bligh Waters everyone was out of film when Russi, our divemaster, found this pipefish along a wall at about 90 feet. We were scheduled to dive another location the next day, but everyone threatened to mutiny if we didn't get a repeat dive. The next morning, this shy little creature with a hairy face became known as the Russi Pipefish!

Many resorts in Fiji do most of their diving in the morning as the trade winds kick up in the afternoon. Afternoon and night dives are usually optional, except on the live-aboards. You will find calmer waters inside the bays, but the straits and outside walls offer the ultimate in current diving. Fiji's underwater world has something for everyone.

Some of our best experiences happened in Fiji's other world, above water. When visiting a local village, Fijians welcome you unconditionally into their simple homes to share song and grog. Fijians take great pleasure in sharing their enjoyment of life.

If you are lucky you will be invited to a Fijian meke. This traditional event involves villagers of all ages reenacting Fiji's historical past with song and dance. During the village visit, you might even drink a cup of kava. Ground from the yangona tree root, this muddy water concoction is not to be missed! If your timing is right, you may be able to experience a trraditional Fijian meal called a lovo, where the food is wrapped in plant leaves and cooked in deep pits.

In addition to the culture, Fiji offers majestic waterfalls to explore, hiking trails where rare birds abound, fragrant flower gardens, romantic island hideaways and every type of watersport you can imagine. A trip to Fiji is more than just a dive vacation. It's an experience of a lifetime. Grab your camera and come experience the two worlds of Fiji.

Two Worlds of Fiji

Scuba Diving Magazine - Fiji


Brilliant soft corals may be Fiji's signature dive attraction, but there's much more to the underwater story here. With more than 320 islands to choose from, divers never run out of options. The largest island of Viti Levu offers easy access to the widest range of sites (including the world-famous Beqa Lagoon and the shark encounters off Pacific Harbour) and has the most extensive diving infrastructure. Vanua Levu and Taveuni, to the north, feature otherworldly walls of snowy soft coral. And the smaller islands of the Yasawas, the Lau Group, the Mamanucas, the Lomaivitis and Kadavu each have a distinct underwater appeal. Acres of plate and staghorn corals have colonized the Yasawas and Mamanucas, considered to have some of the best vis in all Fiji. The bommies off the outer Lomaivitis are known for pelagics drawn to their shoals of baitfish, and the Great Astrolabe Reef of Kadavu is a top spot for big animal encounters.

Dive In

Weather: Temps stay in the low 80s most of the year and dip to about 75 degrees from May to October. The best conditions occur from March to December.

Average Water Temp: Anywhere from the mid-70s in cool months (May to October) to the mid-80s in January and February.

Average Visibility: Excellent--in the triple digits most of the year, although plankton blooms and rainfall can lower the vis during the rainy season.

Currency: Fijian dollar (F$).

Time: Fiji is 20 hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time.

Direct Dial Code: 011-679.

Language: Fijian, though English is widely spoken and understood.

Electricity: 240 volts, 50 cycles. Larger hotels also have 110-volt razor sockets.

Entry Documents: U.S. citizens need a passport and a return ticket.

Departure Tax: F$30.

For More Info: Fiji Visitors Bureau,
Scuba Diving Magazine - Fiji

Fiji Is The Soft Coral Capital of the World

Fiji scuba diving will surely be a great surprise for anyone that tries it as they will meet a great diversity of species in those fantastic waters. Fiji's waters offer one of the most exciting marine lives that scuba diving fans can see. Fiji is an archipelago surrounded by a giant reef. Fiji's waters are very good for snorkeling therefore you can find there thousands of dive sites.

Water sports in Fiji it is also very popular because the sites are very easy to be accessed and the water's temperatures are very warm. During winter, the temperatures don't usually get lower than 25C. The visibility in Fiji's waters is also very good for all underwater activities except for the summer days when it rains. You can find the best conditions for your vacation in Fiji early in the morning because the wind doesn't start to blow.

Whole article here: Fiji Is The Soft Coral Capital of the World

Grant Graves Named Best International Free Diving Judge

Old diving friend of mine wins international award. Well done and congratulations Grant!



US Freediving President Awarded Highest Honor as International Freediving Judge

The United States Apnea Association (USAA) is pleased to announce that Grant W. Graves, President of the USAA, has been awarded the Best International Freediving Judge for 2008 by the International Center for Apnea Recognition and Education, ICARE. This is the highest honor a freediving judge can receive from the international community.

There are over 200 freediving judges with the International Association for the Development of Apnea, AIDA. Grant is one of the highest level judges within the organization as a Judge Instructor. He recently was one of six judges to officiate the 2008 AIDA Team World Championships that took place in Sharm El Sheik, Egypt this past September. That competition completed over fourteen weeks of judging duties for Grant this year. As a judge, Grant officiates local, national and international competitions, national and world records, and conducts judge courses. This was Grant’s third nomination for this award; he was nominated in 2004 and 2006.

Grant said, “I am honored to be recognized for all my work with freediving as a judge. It was an honor to have been nominated in the past and to win this time. I am very thankful to be able to help grow freediving. It is amazing to me what this sport allows people to do and what it proves we are capable of.”

ICARE is a direct affiliate of the International Association for the Development of Freediving, AIDA. As such, ICARE awards the top performers in international freediving each year. Awards are given to the best male and female freediver, the best new male and female freediver, the best international judge, the best national institution, the best national captain or coach, and special service awards. Results are based on nominations and voting from the entire international freediving community.

The USAA is a nonprofit association founded on the democratic representation of freediving within the United States and internationally. Founded in 2003, the USAA consists of an active membership dedicated to furthering freediving in the United States and abroad. For more information about the USAA, the U.S. National Freediving Team, and membership please visit

The International Association for the Development of Freediving, AIDA, is the international sanctioning body for freediving, individual and team competition, and freediving world record attempts. For more information about AIDA please visit

United States Apnea Association (USAA)