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Home arrow Stories arrow 2006 arrow Fiji’s Beqa Lagoon – The Ultimate Shark Dive
Fiji’s Beqa Lagoon – The Ultimate Shark Dive PDF Print E-mail
By Kevin Baldacchino

We finally arrived in Fiji for our family holiday and to maybe get in a dive or two. We didn’t get off to a good start being delayed in Sydney for 24hrs due to problems with the aircraft which was still in Nadi.
Our group which consisted of three families, Jason, Lisa, Amy & Brooke Hender, Dave, Rebecca, Gerry & Isabelle Calleja and us Kevin, Donna & Jared Baldacchino finally sat down for some dinner at our resort, The Naviti on Fiji’s Coral Coast at around 11pm and then it was of to bed for a well earned sleep as it had been a long day especially for the kids. The next few days were spent lazing by the pool, getting acquainted with the Fiji Bitter and enjoying some much needed R&R.

Before we left Jason had done some research on the dive operators in the area we were to be diving which was Beqa (Ben-guh) Lagoon, which is a quite famous diving destination. Our first dives were to be with a company called Dive Connections located at Pacific Harbour which was about an hours drive from our resort. Arriving at Pacific Harbour we met the people at Dive Connections and after the formalities of c-card checks and what not we were soon on the boat and cruising out of the river toward Yanuca (Yanooda) Island.

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Arriving at the island after a boat ride of about 45 minutes we offloaded some people who would be spending the day at the island snorkeling and then we quickly made our way back out to dive the wreck of the TASU 2. The wreck was a former Taiwanese fishing boat which was purposely sunk 10 years ago as an artificial reef, and it didn’t disappoint us with lots of soft and hard corals and a multitude of marine life.

After some lunch back on the island it was back out for our second dive in quite windy conditions at a site called the Three Nuns which are a series of three bommies rising up from about 20m to within 2m of the surface. The scenery here was quite spectacular with lots of huge Gorgonians hanging from the bommies and the marine life was very colorful. There were some huge Moray Eels which didn’t venture too far out of their holes, colorful Nudibranchs and a couple of inquisitive reef sharks. All too soon it was time to ascend to the boat and pick up the people from the island head back to Pacific Harbour.

Back at the resort and enjoying a few beers we decided that we would do a dive Beqa Adventure Divers called the “The Big Fish Encounter”, so Jason called them and booked us on.
We were picked up from the Naviti at 6.45am for our trip over to Pacific Harbour where Beqa Adventure Divers also operate from. We didn’t know too much about this dive until we arrived at their office and watched some of the video footage, no wonder it is claimed to be the best shark dive in the world by some fairly famous diving personalities.
The place called Shark reef is an official marine reserve so as to allow for studying and protection of its shark population. When you pay for your dive you also pay a daily entry fee which goes to the local villages who own the fishing rights to Shark Reef. This fee supplements the villagers which would otherwise fish the area to provide an income. All the food for the Big Fish Encounter is provided by a local fish processor and each week around 1000kg of fish scraps are provided to feed the fish and sharks of Shark Reef.

So now we had all the information about this dive and I must admit to getting quite excited at the prospect of diving cage free with Tiger sharks, Bull sharks and about six other species of sharks, but our main interest was in seeing a Tiger Shark. There was a fellow on the boat who was filming a documentary for the BBC and he asked us if we didn’t mind being filmed, which we didn’t as long as he let us know when it would be aired.

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With all the gear and divers on the boat we headed down the river and out to the dive site aboard Predator, which is a aluminum 10metre hydrofoil catamaran and a very comfortable dive boat. ‘Papa’ the dive master delivered a very funny and animated dive brief during the run out to Shark Reef. Arriving at the site some fish bits are thrown in the water to announce the arrival of lunch, which hopefully won’t be us.

Our first dive was down to the 30m feeding site, we only had one big Bull Shark come in for quick bite to eat and then it disappeared. But the masses of Giant Trevally, Rainbow Runners and the Napoleon Wrasse made up for the lack of sharks. With limited time at 30m we started our way up to the 10m feeding site where we continued to watch them continue the feed. This is where we had quite a few White Tips and Grey Reef sharks turn up competing for food with the multitudes of Trevally and other reef fish. Our second dive was to the 15m feeding site, which is said to be the one they mainly have the Tiger Shark visits. But after 40 minutes and lots of reef sharks and Giant Trevally we were disappointed not to have had a big shark show itself and even with the water temp at 25deg C we felt quite cold due to the fact that we were just sitting in one spot for the entire dive, I’m sure Jason and I could hear Dave’s teeth chattering. Even with the lack of a big shark, these were still excellent dives with the amount of big fish and reef shark action, which made it hard to decide which way to look as there was so much happening, and as Papa said, ‘watch out for the Trevally as they are a stupid fish’.

We got back to our resort, put the dive gear away and adjourned to the pool where our families were soaking up the sun. After a swim we grabbed some drinks and the conversation quickly centered on the mornings diving, how exciting it was and the disappointment that the big sharks didn’t turn up.
So it was decided that we would give it another go so I rang up Beqa Adventure Divers to book another double dive for Tuesday the day before we were to leave Fiji.

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So Tuesday came and we had another early morning pickup and within the hour we were walking through the doors of the dive shop. We were quite excited today with news that a Tiger Shark had appeared over the past two days. This was to be our last chance and as we arrived at the site some fish bits were thrown overboard to announce our arrival once again and the usual feeding frenzy ensues with all the fish competing vigorously for any little morsel. We had nine divers plus the divemasters today which made gearing up quite easy as there was just a bit more room to move about the boat. With all divers ready we entered the water and all made our way down to the 30m feeding site where we were met by the largest Groper I have ever seen and it was surrounded by its large entourage of small fish. Then the bins were opened and the food was let out creating a feeding frenzy, the big groper even got in on the act grabbing his share as it is very competitive down there. It was soon time to ascend up the reef to the 10m feeding area where the fish feed continued. It seems that the reef sharks prefer this area as they turn up in quite good numbers and soon it was time to ascend without any sign of a Tiger shark.

After a one hour surface interval it was time to enter the water for our last dive and final chance to see a true monster of the deep. We descended to the 15m site and within minutes we were engulfed by masses of fish. We were about 10 minutes into the dive when Jason grabbed me by the arm, nearly dislocating my shoulder in the process and pointed to a large silhouette. It then appeared out of the blue, larger than life, a 5-6m Tiger shark. Well I must admit, the adrenalin and the sphincter started pumping, this was a monster. All the sharks on this reef have names and the one in our presence was “Scarface”, which moved around the group of divers before moving for its first feed.

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Shark photos by Jason Hender

It put on quite a show for our group of divers who were awestruck by this big fish. It got quite interesting for a few moments as it approached a diver and decided to have a taste of his camera housing before being encouraged away by one of the divemasters to take some real food from the feeder. At one stage the shark was heading straight at Dave, Jason and I before veering away at arms length to get some more food, this was very close and made for some great video footage. The Tiger shark hung around for at least 35 minutes before disappearing into the depths which was and opportune time to ascend to the boat. As we made our ascent up the mooring line the Tiger shark reappeared and made its way towards a woman who was starting her ascent. The shark came right up to her and mouthed her camera housing before being pushed away, quite exciting stuff one would think. Later on the boat she gave a very detailed report on what thought of that incident. I was at a depth of 5m and feeling very vulnerable doing my safety stop when I thought to myself that 2 minutes would be enough as the shark was circling below.

Well Dave was already aboard the boat and Jason had beaten me to the ladder so I started pushing him up the ladder, I didn’t even take my fins off as I scampered up the ladder with both cameras still hanging off me and my fins still on, what a laugh! With all divers back on the boat and with all our limbs still where they should be, the conversation centered on the magnificent shark and what an adrenalin rush it was.

Apart from the Tiger shark we also had a few other species of sharks make an appearance, such as a couple of fairly big Bull sharks, a Grey Nurse, some Tawny Nurses and numerous reef sharks, making this the most adrenalin pumping experience of my life. Back at the resort with our families sitting around the pool, we relived the experience as we explained the morning’s dives and the encounter with the Tiger shark and you couldn’t wipe the smiles off our faces for the next few days.

Last Updated ( Dec 01, 2006 at 10:32 AM )
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