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FUN WITH SHARKS IN FIJI

By Nigel Marsh and Helen Rose

 

I love a feisty shark and this silvertip was one very feisty shark! The inquisitive shark kept circling me and was particularly attracted to my underwater camera housing and strobe, possibly detecting an electric signal. On its first few passes the silvertip simply zoomed around my head, but then it decided a closer inspection was required. The shark charged right at me, requiring me to push it away with my housing. It did this two more times in quick secession, receiving two more bangs to its snout. I wasn’t too concerned, in fact I was having a ball, as pushing away an over-friendly silvertip is all part of the fun of a Fiji shark dive.

 

Fiji is home to five fabulous shark feeding dives, making the island nation one of best shark diving destinations on the planet. However, the most famous and most popular of these shark feeds are found in Beqa Lagoon. We first experienced these amazing shark feeds a decade ago and have since been back several times, most recently in March when we enjoyed two days of shark feeding with the two local dive operators in Pacific Harbour, the gateway to Beqa Lagoon.

 

Our first day of shark dives was with Beqa Adventure Divers. With the paperwork quickly completed and the gear loaded on the boat we were soon underway and heading to Shark Reef. On the way dive guide Ben gave a briefing on the site and the dos and don’ts with the sharks.

 

We were soon tied up at the mooring and ready to dive. A wheelie-bin full of tuna heads had been drop at the site earlier that morning and jumping into the water we could see that it had attracted a bunch of hungry sharks and countless fish.

 

Descending to 30m we lined up behind a rock wall and waited for the action. Patrolling the wall were several grey reef sharks, but beyond the fish were half a dozen much larger bull sharks. Each time a fish head was produced the fish would swarm and a shark would pounce. The action was amazing to watch, but a challenge to photograph with so many fish about.

 

After twenty minutes we relocated to another wall in 10m to watch several dozen whitetip and grey reef sharks getting fed. This feed appeared to be complete chaos, with the sharks charging in from all directions and even squirming between the feeders legs, but the dive guides had it well under control.

 

The final stop was at 4m to watch the blacktip reef sharks getting fed. Too shy to join the action at 10m, these small sharks would zip in quickly to take a snack and just as quickly disappear. We surfaced after forty fun filled minutes.

 

The second shark feed at Shark Reef was a bit different to the last time we dived this site. Back then it was at 15m and we spent over thirty minutes watching a procession of bull sharks being fed. But this second dive is now at 25m, so only a 15 minute bottom time. It was still wonderful watching the large bull sharks devouring the baits, but over way too soon.

 

The next morning our Beqa Lagoon shark dives continued with Aqua Trek. Eager to dive, we quickly completed our paperwork, sorted the gear and sat through the dive brief with Jona. We then headed out to Lake Reef and descended to The Bistro.

 

Dropping down to 22m we could see dozens of sharks in the 20m visibility, and also thousands of fish. Kneeling behind a rock wall we surveyed the scene and could see three silvertip sharks, four sicklefin lemon sharks, a handful of whitetip and grey reef sharks and over thirty tawny nurse sharks. At first we didn’t see the bull sharks, but four of them were linger on the edge of the visibility, waiting for the banquet to commence.

 

Once the guides started to get the tuna heads out of the bait box, the silvertips and one sicklefin lemon went a bit nuts. Our guide later explained that some of the sharks get a bit frisky at the start of the feed until they have a few fish heads and settle down. The action was wonderful to watch and photograph, even with one silvertip showing me a little too much attention.

 

Once the extra hungry sharks had been fed and everyone settled down, the underwater photographers with larger housings were allowed in front of the wall to get closer to the action. This allowed for great images, but also meant we had some very close passes from the bold bull sharks. I may have had the box seat, but it meant I missed the small tiger shark that everyone else saw cruise the reef behind us. Tiger sharks are common at this feed, including a large one called Survivor, but this one was new and a little shy.

 

After forty fantastic minutes we ended the dive in the shallows, exploring one of the ships scuttled at the site and watching the sharks cruising around below.

 

The second dive was just as good, a repeat dose of mind-blowing shark action. The only difference was the departure of the hyperactive silvertip sharks and the arrival of more bull sharks. The second feed was a much more subdue affair and allowed more time to observe these wonderful and graceful creatures.

 

Our second forty minute bottom time ended all too quickly, but we lingered in the shallows for another twenty minutes simply watching the sharks patrolling the reef below.

 

In my recently released book DIVING WITH SHARKS, I rated The Bistro in the top ten shark dives in the world, and these two dives only served to reinforce my opinion of this fantastic dive.

 

These two wonderful shark dives in Beqa Lagoon are quite different from each other, and are both worth doing to experience different sharks and different shark behaviour. However, Beqa Lagoon now has a third shark feed that mainly attracts tiger sharks and we can’t wait to experience this new Fijian attraction.

 

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