Not so solo travels at Dolphin Bay

–more pictures coming later possibly… but I’m getting frustrated at how long they are taking to upload, meanwhile look at facebook-

In classic Megan fashion it took me a while to figure out what I would do while on Vanua Levu. Stay on Taveuni or just near it at a highly recommended resort? What day to leave and return? And sticking with a relaxed travel style I didn’t decide many of these things ’til after I left. All you have to do is decide the first place to stay and book the transport there.

There are a few ferrys that take travelers to the Taveuni Wharf. One is Grace Shipping which sells tickets at Country Kitchen (a random hole in the wall Indian restaurant) which is across from the market. There is also Bligh Shipping and the Princess and perhaps one other. Walk around town and you should see places to buy tickets. Just look for signs in shop windows.

On the bus from SavuSavu to the ferry. Very bumpy! But also quite scenic.

Anyways I was extra excited because of my new friend Ian, a Stanford grad passionate about conservation, diving, and photography. We decided to travel together. Good thing too, because we are the only two people at the resort. If he wasn’t around I would have been pretty lonely. Plus he’s just nice, light-hearted, and full of information.

We took a bus from SavuSavu to Natewa (I think that’s it) wharf. The bus was supposed to leave at 7 but true to Fiji Time left at 7:30. The ride took about 4 hours, the boat ride from Vanua Levu to Taveuni wharf about 1 hour. We had decided to go to Dolphin Bay Divers retreat and take advantage of my new diving certification by seeing why Fiji has a reputation for being the soft coral capital of the world.

Diving can be expensive, with a two tank dive costing anywhere from 180 with a student discount to 250 or more without, that’s in Fijian dollars mind you. But it is an amazing experience. It is beautiful and other worldly 60 to 90 feet or 18 to 25 meters under the surface of the ocean. So many fish, invertebrates, sharks, and so many wonders. Plus who knows how long the reefs will be around for with the damage we’re doing to our oceans. I think I have decided to not eat any fish unless I know it has been sustainably caught and as a general rule, especially with the amount of mis-labeling, just avoid fish. Because we are absolutely devastating our oceans driving so many species into ecological extinction by over-fishing both top predators but also herbivores that remove algae from corals. When we also have a large amount of nutrients flowing into the oceans, climate change killing huge swaths of corals through coral bleaching, and the destruction of coral mechanically it is just a disaster. Basically I am saying that with the amount of devastation happening to our reefs at an extremely high rate who knows how long there is left to be able to appreciate the beauty, and bounty, of the oceans. Researchers estimate within 50 years to give it a number.

On the boat in between dives. Gotta love Roland (the manager and divemaster) sun avoidance strategy.

So I decided to just go for it and do 4 dives out of Dolphin Bay and stay here the whole time. Hopefully, with the status of the waterfalls on Taveuni as a nature park they will still be here in several years. I think going up north has made me decide I am absolutely coming back to Fiji someday. It is too amazing not to return.

On the dives I saw a great many beautiful things. First of all most of them had moments of strong currents that carry you past a wall like a float trip underwater. We did Cherry’s Jelly, Coral Garden, White Wall, and Purple Wall. They were actually all fairly challenging dives with strong currents and were fairly deep. And there were times I had to fight the currents to wait for Ian to do some photography, though I didn’t mind. I got better at managing my BCD on the dives though I need to get better at using my flippers rather than my hands for movement. I look so awkward in most of the pictures.

Cherry’s Jelly was beautiful with sweeping currents and a ton of awesome hard and soft corals. The topography of the dive was awesome. We saw the rare blue ribbon eel, a bunch of garden eels which look like they are from outer space, parrot fish feeding, a white tip shark, among other things. Coral garden was similar but of course different as well. Here I think I saw a moray eel, trumpet fish and more
I still can’t get over how free you are deep underwater. You can be upside down, sideways, anyway with minimal effort, just gliding through the world.

The next two dives we did were White Wall and Purple Wall, some world class dive sites. I can see why too. White wall was quite deep. I got down to about 25 meters around 90 feet. It looks like it has snowed under water as the wall is covered with endemic white corals. It’s beautiful and immense. Purple Wall was like this as well with purple soft corals. There were also beautiful red fan corals and huge whip corals and dark green tubipora corals. In shallower parts of those dives we saw a clown trigger fish and a sea turtle. And just all of the dive sites had an abundance of fish. Beautiful places with a ton less algae than the damaged sites I have been to.

Other than the diving I went on two night snorkels and got to play with bioluminescence as well as see a huge! lobster, crinoids or feather-dusters, sleeping anemone fish of various species, really cool transparent fish,and crabs. It was really cool the turn over of the day shift to the night shift of fish. For example at night bannerfish come out and I think they look like butterfly fish channeling the dark side if the force. Overall it was super peaceful and as well as eerie to swim in the dark with just a bit of the ocean illuminated.

We did a few day snorkels as well in our attempt to spend as much time in the water as possible. We reaffirmed the wisdom of listening to the dive masters recommendations for snorkeling. He told us that the best snorkeling was out to the right of the resort and we did that the first day, but the other we tried going left. We felt a bit chastised to see that visibility was very poor and that indeed the right hand reef was better. On our snorkels I learned the value of wearing a wet suit, to help you to snorkel for longer without getting cold, and a weight or two which makes free diving immensely easier. I got a lot more comfortable with free diving as well which is cool.

Another morning we went on a short hike and were rewarded with a beautiful view of the bay, although it was a rather hot hike. We also just sat on the beach and relaxed a lot. Ian started teaching me guitar which was fun. Also practiced photography a bit as well.

We decided to splurge a bit and stay in a Bure while we were there. It was so incredibly nice. A shower with hot water (which is unnecessary except for after night dives in which case it is much appreciated) and our own bathroom were great selling points. We also ended up getting meal plans since there wasn’t much other option. The food was simple but yummy and it was a good portion.

I was incredibly sad for the trip to end. I have fallen in love a bit with the north. SavuSavu and Dolphin Bay I will return one day. Them and the Yasawas were my favorite parts of my trip to Fiji. Though if I had just stayed on the coral coast I’m sure beach house would have been awesome. A lot of people say they don’t know if they will come back to Fiji. But there is still so much I want to see here. I don’t know how I will stay away when the time comes.

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About Meg LaFollette

I studied abroad in Fiji for 5 months in 2012 and absolutely fell in love with traveling! I went to New Zealand right after and then Peru this summer. When not traveling (and sometimes during) I love healthy, environmentally conscious living. Animals, biology, horses, and behavior are other passions of mine.
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