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Three days on Viti Levu before home

Our 7 day adventure at the Paradise Resort on Taveuni ended on Saturday morning December 16 when we returned to Viti Levu for the final three days of the "Fiji Fanatics" diving trip. Our hosts and staff at Paradise Taveuni Resort made sure to send us on our way with a song and full bellies after breakfast. A five-star review of this resort does not do it justice for the staff hospitality, accommodations, dining facilities, quality of the meals, and scuba diving department. Everything was fabulous! We all agreed we got our monies worth and everything we hoped to experience.

We arrived in Nadi, Viti Levu in the early afternoon and took two taxis to the Aquarius Hotel near the airport. The Aquarius Hotel was an inexpensive, no frills accommodation where we stayed before leaving on December 19 to return back to the US. During these remaining three days in Fiji we scheduled an optional shark dive, botanical garden tour and a mud bath/hot springs session.

Diving with Bulls

Our dive team member, Patrick Sharp put this excursion together for Monday, December 18 which required we drive to Pacific Harbor, Viti Levu the day before. He had arranged for transportation and an AirBnB for us to use. So on Sunday, 6 of our group packed up our diving gear, drove the three hours to the Pacific Harbor five bedroom home on the south side of the main island. We arrived in the late afternoon and hung out around the pool before getting a taxi to a nearby restaurant for dinner.

The next morning the shuttle from Beqa Adventure Divers arrived at 8:30 AM to pick us up. Unfortunately the weather conditions were terrible with heavy rain squalls, thunder and lightening; I half expected the trip would be cancelled, but we arrived at the dock facility and started the process of checking in and getting geared up and on the boat. There were five divers from the "Fiji Fanatics": Patrick Sharp, Bill Bullard, Mike Grummell, Suzy Wheat and myself. The boat crew consisted of the boat captain and three shark guides or wranglers. While at the dock before leaving we did a comprehensive dive and safety briefing, then we were off to the dive sites.

In the protected waters of the Shark Reef Marine Reserve, we tied up to moorings and prepared to enter the water. The sea state was rough due to the weather but not unlike conditions off the California coastline and islands I have previously dove. We entered the water and held on the mooring line before descending as a group with our guides. We proceeded to the "Arena" at approximately 100 feet where we would spend 10-12 minutes observing. The Arena is where the Bull Sharks have celebrity status. Once we were all in our assigned spots, the guides released food from the suspended bait box. Normally the guide will hand-feed the sharks but not today. The visibility at the site was only twenty feet and there was a slight surge, so the guides had their hands full wrangling sharks and divers. I had added extra weight to facilitate staying on the bottom more easily so I could shoot digital still images and video with my underwater camera.

We got a real show with multiple 8-9 foot Bull Sharks and a variety of other species including Sicklefin and Silvertip Sharks, not to mention an assortment of reef fish looking for a free meal of leftovers. As we concluded at the first level, we swam up the sloping reef wall to 33 feet to spend 10-15 minutes with the Whitetip and Blacktip Reef Sharks.

Our final stop was at 13 feet to do our safety decompression stop while hanging our with the "Reef Shark Mafia". Apparently, the Whitetip Reef Sharks have no sense of personal space and enjoyed cruising around us as we waited. Advertised as the best safety stop you'll ever make, guaranteed!

Well, we all made it back onboard the boat bouncing on its moorings. What a wild and awesome experience! While on the surface, Captain Earl informed us that the conditions were deteriorating and the second dive would be cancelled so we headed back into port. We had no objection, what could possibly top the first dive! So we headed back in through the rain, thunder and occasional lighting.

We got back to the dive shop, showered and changed, while the crew washed down and hung up our gear. What happened next was frankly unbelievable. The owner of the dive shop informed us that the dive was "on the house" due to the terrible conditions. I thought our $200 dive may be discounted but not free; incredible! We made sure to contribute a generous tip the crew/staff and bought a bunch of souvenirs before we left. Following the dive we picked up Karen and drove to a local restaurant for lunch before heading back to Nadi.

Botanical Gardens and Mud

Our last day was December 18 but we still had plenty of time before our 10:35 PM flight leaving Nadi for SFO departed. We had one full day to explore the local area before heading to the airport, so Suzy Wheat coordinated a van tour and visit to a local orchid garden and mud bath/hot spring.

The gardens were beautiful but the highlight of the day was at the mud bath and hot springs. Oh boy, did we have a good time! The fun began by covering our bodies with mud from clay pots, Laughter and jokes filled the air as we proceeded in covering every inch of exposed skin. It was a bonding experience as we dried in the sun before entering the mud pond to wash off our dry mud layer. From the mud pond we moved to the first hot spring to soak and rinse then to the final hot spring pool before showering.

I don't think Karen and I would have ever done this on our own initiative, so thanks to Suzy and the rest of the gang for going along with the idea and being such good sports to even do it!


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