Friday, 30 March 2018

The Fiji Islands: ‘crossroads Of The South Pacific’

“Bula! Bula!” exclaimed a group of eager young girls wrapped in bright smiles and sulus (Fijian sarongs) and adorned with a single frangipani flower behind their ear. “Welcome to Fiji” they chimed as one and offered up leis of red hibiscus flowers as we stood barefoot on the sand of a small island in the South Pacific. Feeling like we had just stepped into a James Michener tale, it seemed that Fiji’s reputation for friendliness was well-deserved. Now all that remained to be seen was whether the undersea realm could live up to its claim of being “the soft coral capital of the Pacific.”

Crossroads of the South Pacific

The Fijian nation is composed of more than 330 islands and thousands of islets strewn across the dreamy Southwestern Pacific. Straddling the international dateline (180th meridian), Fiji is surrounded by excellent company, being roughly centered between the island groups of Tonga, Vanuatu, Samoa and New Caledonia.
Most of Fiji’s island groups are of volcanic origin combined with raised coral limestone and virtually all are at least partially surrounded by fringing or barrier reef. These islands amazingly offer more than 6,900 square miles (17,250 sq km) of rare tropical island beauty for the ardent explorer. For comparison, this landmass is greater than all of Polynesia combined.
The two largest islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, sit to the south and north, respectively, and make up 87 percent of the total landmass. These islands have high central mountains rising more than 4,000 feet (1,211 m), deep tropical valleys, rushing rivers and palm-lined shores.
The smaller islands to the west of Viti Levu are the lower-lying Mamanutha and Yasawa groups that have consistently drier weather than the east. South of Viti Levu, the islands tend to be a bit lusher, including Beqa and Kadavu islands. East of Viti Levu lie the beautiful Lomaiviti and Lau groups, while east of Vanua Levu are found verdant Taveuni and more.
In general, the southeastern portions of the mountainous islands are the greenest and wettest and the northeast is drier and more cloud-free. Thanks to this variety, Fiji is home to more than 3,000 species of plants and 70 species of land birds — almost a third of them endemic.
Unusually situated, Fiji is blessed with a warm, tropical climate without extremes of heat or cold. It can get very mild in the dry season of winter (May to October), while November to April is the summer rainy season when it warms up a bit on both land and sea. Regardless of the season, breezes are ever-present and the conditions vary considerably on different coasts and different islands. Remember, this is the tropics and downpours, as well as sunshine, will occur regardless of season and schedule, so bring a light rain jacket and enjoy whatever happens.

A Blend of Ancient Cultures within the “Cannibal Isles”

The first people to inhabit Viti — the name that became Fiji — were probably those who would become known as Polynesians as early as 1700 B.C. About a thousand years later there are signs that the Melanesians arrived and it was the mingling of these two peoples that gave rise to the modern day Fijians. These early islanders lived by a Polynesian style hierarchy with a tribal turanga or chief and were known as fierce warriors. These warriors sometimes practiced seemingly extreme measures, such as cannibalism, which had an understandably intimidating effect on their foes. At the same time, the Fijians cultivated one of the most artistic and skilled cultures in the South Pacific — even crafting huge 100-foot (30-m) double-hulled oceangoing canoes.
The perilous nature of the reefs and the warlike reputation of the Fijians kept outside influences to a minimum until 1804. It was then that an unlikely visitor in the form of a shipwrecked American sailor brought back word that Vanua Levu was rich with sandalwood growth. Considering that $20,000 worth of sandalwood could be bartered from the Fijians for a few trinkets — it wasn’t long before something akin to a gold rush occurred in the islands until the sandalwood was depleted.
During the 19th century, the relationship between Europeans, Americans, Australians, prominent Tongans and various Fijian rulers, all made for tenuous politics and power struggles. At the same time, this eclectic mix formed marriages and partnerships as often as it created conflicts — adding to the complicated heritage of the Fijian people.
In 1874, Fiji became a British colony and soon afterward thousands of East Indians arrived to work on plantations under a system of indenture. The system was abolished in 1919, but most Indians chose to remain in Fiji and have become almost 50 percent of the population.
Since her independence from Britain in 1970, Fiji has had a few political hiccoughs, but has continued to become an ever more welcoming gateway to the South Pacific for both sailors and world travelers.

Dive and Go to Heaven

Fiji offers truly diverse tropical Pacific diving of such variety that it defies a nutshell description. Topography differs dramatically between sites, as do water conditions and marine life. There are spectacular areas where the currents are reliably gung-ho and the guides’ advice should be given due credence. Not far away there might be equally remarkable sites in “bathtublike” conditions — you will find it all in Fiji.
After your initial landing in Nadi on Viti Levu, the options spread out in every direction. Virtually any coast in Fiji offers something interesting beneath the waves, but most often the visiting diver will probably be looking at areas that might include the Mamanuccas, Rakiraki, Beqa Lagoon, Kadavu, Lomaitivi group, Savu Savu or Taveuni and its neighboring islands. Although several of these locations may require an additional short flight, most diving regions involve a similar amount of travel time to reach.
Renowned Rakiraki and Beqa (ben-ga) Lagoon are each about a three-hour transfer from the airport. Beqa Lagoon has one of the world’s largest barrier reefs and divers come from around the world to photograph little critters within the lagoons’ protected waters. On the outer reef, visibility is beautiful and even schools of pilot whales have been encountered.
Eastern Viti Levu is the gateway to Lomaiviti group. A short flight or drive north of Suva will get you to the exclusive Wakaya or engaging Naigani islands with their own combinations of walls and what we call “cylinder” bommies. These bommies rise from the sea floor with almost vertical walls, but are small enough to spiral for an entire dive. As you work your way gradually shallower, you are confronted by shifting layers of bio-diversity so dense that one feels compelled to start all over again and see what you missed the first time around.
Going just slightly farther afield means taking an extra flight of 20-75 minutes and possibly throwing in a short boat ride. Kadavu Island, which lies due south of Beqa, is a pretty big island, but is traditionally Fijian in nature and seriously laid back…that is until you dive underwater. Resorts are small here, but cater to personalized diving on world-famous Astrolabe reef as well as the incredible array closer to the island.
A short flight northeast of Viti Levu will bring the traveler to the charming small waterfront town of Savu Savu. There is plenty of diving right there, but a beautiful ride up the east coast will uncover a number of fantastic dive resorts ensconced in greenery. Here several operators explore protected sites along the amazing shoreline and weather permitting, make longer runs to more remote but rewarding sites.
The third largest island in Fiji is Taveuni with its stunning rain forests and waterfalls. Small dive operations are strung along the coast and cater to every type of diver and schedule. The focus of the diving on Taveuni is the swift flowing currents of Somo Somo Straits and the famed “Rainbow Reef.” Dives like “The Great White Wall” and many others have understandably taken on legendary status among traveling divers and this area continues to enchant and amaze first-timers.
A 20-minute boat ride off Taveuni’s northeast shore are the smaller islands of Matagi and Qamea, offering a range of diving that also deserves attention. In addition to access to the northern Somo Somo Straits, they have sites that spread far to the north. One of our favorites was the delectable “Yellow Wall” that is carpeted in soft coral as far as the eye can see in every direction.
For the dedicated dive fan, a live-aboard is often a great option in Fiji. There are several live-aboard itineraries to choose from. In addition, you will surely get to some sites rarely visited by land-based operators. A great example are sites called “High-8” and “E-6,” which are actually a huge region of wall that rises up in the center of the Vatu-I-Ra Passage. These are the kinds of dives that are quickly placed on any diver’s list of all-time most spectacular.

Becoming A Little Bit Fijian

By now it should be obvious that Fiji is a spectacularly beautiful destination that begs to be explored. There are countless stunning drives and hikes to be done and on the larger islands, rivers, rain forests and waterfalls are found aplenty. Rafting, seaplane journeys, sea kayak treks, beachcombing and some of the finest surfing in the world are all readily arranged. Even the handicrafts and artwork are unquestionably worth seeking out and making space for in your overstuffed luggage. But by the end of your visit there is really only one essential thing to accomplish — and that is to get to know the Fijians themselves.
If you talk to anyone who has ever visited Fiji, they will invariably describe the rare pleasure of meeting the people. Before you arrive, learn a few traditional words — for instance: Bula! (Hello!) and vanaka vaka levu (thank you very much). Fijians all speak reasonable English, but armed with just these two phrases, you will win over most of the population and receive friendly smiles.
The vast majority of the native population still lives in small villages and the Fijians are wonderfully open about sharing their culture. If you arrange to visit a village, you will be graciously welcomed and may get the opportunity to see traditional crafts in process or sample delicious fare cooked in a lovo (traditional cooking pit covered in banana leaves) or even attend a meke dance (traditional Fijian legends). For some reason, almost all Fijians have exceptional voices and never need an excuse to share a bowl of kava and play some music. Make yourself comfortable around one of these gatherings and you will surely be invited to participate in a kava ceremony. Just try to follow the other participants’ gestures and claps, and you will quickly become the guest of honor. For the more timid, request a “low tide” and you will be blessed with a small bowl — for the more bold, “high tide” will get you approving smiles and laughter all around if you swallow it all without grimacing. As you enjoy the slight numbness that will start to creep into your lips, revel in the fact that you have become a little more a part of this special place…and it has become a part of you.
When it comes time to leave Fiji, regardless of where you have chosen to stay, you may well receive a send-off unlike any you have known. Even as bags are made ready, a guitar will begin to strum while falsetto voices begin to swell. New friends will materialize out of nowhere to bid farewell by way of a song called Isa-lei. It is a song in Fijian that speaks to that wonderful truth — it says that after a visit to Fiji, the islands become a part of you and will draw you back again some day.
No matter how staunch an individual you might be, those heartfelt pacific voices will echo inside you long after the plane has left the ground. And like us, surely you are bound to return some day.

A Fijian Alternative

There are literally dozens of alternatives in choosing accommodations that cater to divers around the Fiji Islands, including every conceivable price range. Western-style lodging is certainly available, if that is preferred, but there are also numerous resorts offering variations on a traditional Fijian style bure. These are beautifully furnished huts or cottages that might include thatched roofs, wonderful natural woods and a dreamy island ambience that perfectly suits the South Pacific environment.
Story and photos by Tanya Burnett and Kevin Palmer

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Aqua Trek Beqa - Shark Diving Fiji on Vimeo

8 Species of Shark 1 dive!

Aqua Trek Beqa - Shark Diving Fiji from HD Expeditions Fiji on Vimeo.

Aqua Trek Beqa - Shark Diving Fiji on Vimeo: "8 Species of Shark 1 dive!"

Fiji: Diving’s Red Hot Chili Pepper on Vimeo

Fiji's diving offers something of everything - from Schooling Hammerhead Sharks, Mantas, Pygmy Seahorses, undiscovered species & spectacular Soft Coral laden reefs.

Filmed & edited by Sam Campbell from HD Expeditions Fiji.

Fiji: Diving's Red Hot Chili Pepper from HD Expeditions Fiji on Vimeo.

Fiji: Diving’s Red Hot Chili Pepper on Vimeo:

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Friday, 23 March 2018

MIT’s soft robotic fish is studying real ones in Fiji

1SoFi swimming close-up

MIT CSAIL just revealed footage of SoFi, the lab’s robotic fish, which looks right at home swimming amongst the coral reefs of Fiji. The project is an attempt to create an autonomous underwater vehicle that looks as close to a real fish as possible, in hopes of studying marine life without disturbing them in the process.
The system is built around a soft robotic muscle, designed to operate similarly to a real-life fish tail. “We developed a system that takes silicone elastomer and placed hollow cavities in such a way that can equally distribute pressure on the skin of the body,” the study’s lead author Robert Katzschmann told TechCrunch. “We have two balloon chambers and flow water back and forth. That change in pressure causes the tail to undulate back and forth.”
It’s a principle that works similarly to existing soft robotics, many of which utilize shifting pneumatics to create motion in their joints. Here, it allows for the fish to be in constant motion, emitting less sound as it travels through the water.
The team did, however, use sound in other ways. A diver, equipped with a waterproofed Super Nintendo employed a custom acoustic system to help guide SoFi from afar.
“One challenge is that radio signals are absorbed really quickly in water, so something like WiFi or Bluetooth would only work within a few feet,” explained grad student, Joseph DelPreto. “Sound travels really well underwater, so we used that instead. The remote control sends out sounds that are too high-pitched for humans to hear, but the robot can decode them. Using this, we can send high-level commands to the robot.”
For now, the system is a cool video, but the team hopes access provided by Sofi’s on-board camera and fisheye lens could ultimately give marine biologists unprecedented access to their subjects.
“The fish could potentially do extraordinary things for our understanding of whales,” expand CSAIL head Daniel Rus, adding that whale births have been an extremely difficult phenomenon to capture on video. “Imagine using our fish as a non-threatening observer that is able to capture images and scenes that have never been seen before. We can learn so much about marine life.”
MIT’s soft robotic fish is studying real ones in Fiji

Fiji - Diving the Rainbow Reef with Kona Honu Dive Travel Group

Warm And Friendly: Enjoying The Wonders Of The Fiji Islands

Scuba Diving | Diving with Sharks in Fiji
Located in the heart of the South Pacific, Fiji is blessed with 333 tropical islands. Fiji’s white-sand beaches and pristine ocean waters offer an ideal vacation destination for divers, honeymooners and families but perhaps Fiji’s greatest appeal comes from its people.
According to a 2014 WIN/Gallup International poll of countries, Fiji’s people are the happiest on Earth, and this is obvious from the moment one steps off the plane. I can’t help but smile when the plane door opens and a warm tropical breeze greets me, for I know that, from this point on, I will be greeted by warm, friendly smiles as well. Arriving in Fiji is the most welcomed I’ve ever felt entering a country. Everyone is genuinely happy as they extend their greetings; even the band members in the immigration area, singing Fijian welcoming songs, appear to be full of joy in their work.
“Bula” is the traditional Fijian greeting. Much like the Hawaiian “aloha,” bula has a variety of meanings, each of which depends on the situation. Pronounced boolah, it literally means “life.” When used as a greeting, it is to express wishes for good health. The full saying is “Ni sa bula vinaka,” pronounced nee-sahmbula-veenak-ah, meaning, “Wishing you happiness and good health.”
Fiji’s physical remoteness offered protection from European mariners well into the 19th century. As a result, Fijians have retained their land and the noncommercial, sharing attitude that comes from people with direct access to natural resources. Modern life in Fiji stills centers on an extended family unit and a chieftain with 87 percent of the country’s land owned by the community and administered by a land trust. Children are revered and are well-cared for by the community. These are among the reasons Fijians are so friendly and welcoming to visitors.

Monday, 5 March 2018

FHTA Dive Fiji EXPO 2018

Attention all Dive Operators!!
Registrations are now open for participants (Sellers) to the FHTA Dive Fiji EXPO 2018 which will be held on Friday, 09 March 2018 at the Sheraton Fiji Resort on Denarau.
The FHTA Dive Fiji EXPO 2018 is the highlight and culmination of the week-long 13th Tourism Fiji Dive Fiji Fiesta from 03rd – 10th March 2018 will showcase famous dive experience along the Sun Coast to Pacific Harbour/Beqa region.
The FHTA Dive Fiji EXPO 2018 is an event that creates an opportunity for the Fiji Dive Tourism industry to showcase itself and products to invited international Buyers.
This event is made possible through the collaboration of Fiji Airways, Tourism Fiji and the FHTA DiveComm.
Registration fees (VIP):
FHTA Members – $500
Non-FHTA Members – $900
Extra delegates – $250 per person
Don’t miss out! Register Now!
For full Seller information: FHTA Dive Fiji EXPO 2018_Seller Info Pack [699 kb PDF]
Updated Program: FHTA Dive Fiji EXPO 2018_Program [431kb PDF]
Accommodation is on a ‘pay own way’ basis and is at FJ$250 vip inclusive of breakfast. You can book directly with the resort through reservations by quoting the LOCALQ1 rate at the Sheraton Fiji Resort. This is based on availability only so book now.

For more queries, contact Cheryl Chow-Fong on 3302980 or email to

Tourism Fiji Dive Fiji Fiesta 2018 - Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association

On behalf of Tourism Fiji, the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association Dive Committee and Fiji Airways, it gives us immense pleasure in announcing that the 13th Fiji Dive Fiesta will be held from the 3rd – 10th March, 2018. The Fiji Dive Fiesta is established as the largest single dive event for Fiji and brings in pre-registered international dive agents from around the work on famils to some of Fiji’s wonderful dive spots. 2018 will showcase the famous Suncoast (Rakiraki) and Pacific Harbour/ Beqa regions which offer some of the best diving experiences Fiji has to offer.
After a three year absence the Fiji Dive community, through sustainable initiatives and popular demand from global dive partners, has placed the Fiji Dive Fiesta back into the annual calendar. Industry support has flourished within the niche experience, joint-venture’s to promote the importance of marine health in focus, and the opportunity once again, to open our doors in offering world-class diving, at it’s very best.
The Dive Fiesta will culminate on Friday, 9th March with the FHTA Dive Fiji EXPO 2018 at the Hilton Fiji Beach Resort & Spa where registered dive operators will meet with all agents. The Dive EXPO is only open to local dive operators around Fiji who wishes to meet with these international agents who market Fiji as an awesome dive destination. If you are a dive operator and wish to meet with these agents, visit our website here for more information on how you can register to participate at this years EXPO.

Tourism Fiji Dive Fiji Fiesta 2018 - Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association

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Friday, 2 March 2018

Know your Cephalopods

Art by Mark Belan Illustration — with Pablo Razdrokin.


Members of order Octopodae have eight arms. Evolutionary trend in Cephalopods has seen a decrease in shell size in , to which Octopodae has completely lost. 

Octopodae have eight arms lined with two rows of suckers. The suckers contain cavities (A) that create low pressure effects to ensure a tight grip on prey. 

Octopodae eat crustaceans with tough exoskeletons. As a result, their beaks contain shorter upper mandibles to better pierce their prey and inject digestive juices. 


Decapodiformes include species with ten limbs (8 arms and 2 tentacles). Squid are cephalopods of the order Teuthidae and are the most diverse order of cepha-lopods with 300+ species. 

Teuthidae have two tentacles that are longer than the rest of their eight arms. The clubbed ends are the location of unique stalked suckers that are used for hunting. The eight arms also lined (2-4 rows) of these suckers. Sucker cavities can be lined with a serrated ring (B) to allow better grip for feeding on prey. 

Teuthidae normally eat soft, fleshy prey like fish and shrimp. As a result, they have elongated and tapered upper mandibles ideal for tearing prey apart. 


Cuttlefish are decapodiformes that belong to order Sepiidae. They are unique to other cephalopods in that they contain an internal shell known as a cuttlebone.

Sepiidae also have two tentacles separate from their eight arms that are retractable. They tend to have large, stalked suckers that are more densely populated than the 4 rows on the arms. The arms tend to be denticulated and shorter, often with only 4 rows of stalked suckers. They often do not have serrated edges (C). 

Sepiidae, like Teuthidae, also have tapered mandibles for tearing apart soft prey. The lower mandibles may also be tapered to increase accuracy in picking at smaller prey. 


Nautilidae are unique cephalopods in that they contain external shells and are the only extant organisms of their order. They are the most closely related to extinct cephalopods. 

Nautilidae have 90+ tentacles that do not contain suckers. Instead, they have thin cirri that are retractable into a thicker portion called a sheath. Tiny ridges on the retractable cirrus (D) allow Nautilidae to grip their prey. 

Nautilidae beaks are similar to Octopodae in that they have a sharp, but short, upper mandi-ble ideal for piercing shielded prey.