Diving off Pacific Harbour, Fiji

Beqa Fiji dive coral and fish

We went diving off Pacific Harbour, a tourist town on the south coast of Fiji. It’s about a 45-min. drive, without traffic, from the capital, Suva.

Aqua-Trek was the dive shop that took us out. It bills itself as the pioneer of shark diving in Fiji. The group on the boat was small, so there was plenty of room to gear up and relax between dives.

It was a 20-min. boat ride to the site, and the weather was ideal: sunny and calm surface water. There was a current, but it was manageable by gripping the anchor line to descend.

I was impressed with the beautiful corals and fish at the site. There was an abundance of sea life, made more attractive with the sun illuminating the reef. The coral heads were large, and plenty of small tropical fish were swimming around the reef.

There was a huge batfish hanging out beneath a tall coralhead, and I enjoyed watching it; it didn’t seem to be afraid of people.

My favorite fish in local waters is a tiny electric blue fish with orange fins; they have magnificent color, like a painting.

Beqa Fiji dive shark

We saw two turtles; one swam by, and we were able to get a good look at a larger one munching off coral.

A couple white-tip sharks were also around. One of them rested on the seafloor, and I could see it’s mouth opening and closing in a relaxed way.

Beqa Fiji dive coral

While the ecosystem seemed healthy, judging by the abundance, size and variety of the corals and the amount of fish, there were evident signs of thermal stress. Some of the coral has a light blue tinge to the tips; an indication of dying coral. The bright colors are like a sunscreen in reaction to warming temperatures (learn more from the excellent documentary “Chasing Coral”). There were also many instances of bleaching and broken/dead coral at the dive site.

Fiji remains a world-class destination for diving, but, as Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama publicized during Fiji’s COP23 leadership last year, rising temperatures and ocean acidity because of global warming are a threat to fragile ocean resources such as coral.

I wrote a story for The Thomson Reuters Foundation on how Fiji’s tourism industry is experiencing a shift toward land-based adventure activities, such as hiking and rafting, as a way to offset the pressure on ocean resources and promote more of the country’s natural beauty.

The dive industry will stay strong in Fiji because it still has rich and beautiful reefs, and there are efforts to protect and preserve them.

Time will tell how reefs will evolve as ocean temps and acidity continue to rise.