6 Mar 2011

And you thought you'd got rid of me....

So, same old excuses, it's been a while, but I have been back in the UK for 6 weeks since christmas, having a wonderful time catching up with family and friends, who kept me busy even when they were fed up of me ;O) I've returned to Fiji, and am starting my second year at Fiji Hideaway - hurrah!! There are even a few people I have seen again - Lesley and Mike (well done Mike for completing your open water course, look after Lesley!) and David. All the staff at Diveaway Fiji and Fiji Hideaway are still enjoying telling me how fat and white I am - apparently it is a compliment in Fiji! I blame the cheese, so good...

My first week back I had several awesome dives on Stingray, I have my favourite rock where I regularly find scorpion leaf fish, durban dancing shrimps, cleaner shrimp, and snowflake and moray eels, which I am keeping a secret... I also found a robust ghost pipefish - one of those 'it would be really cool if that piece of algae was something more exciting - OH MY GOD IT IS' moments. My first time divers were suitably unimpressed that I made them spend 5 minutes looking at a small brown not much moving thing - little do they know they may never see one again! A few days later it was a snub nose pipefish, which was still there the next day - the fish book says its cryptic, so I'm super happy! And mantis shrimps galore, if you're willing to stay still long enough. Fantastic to be back :O)

I then spent a week at Waitabu, a village on Taveuni, doing fish, invertebrate and substrate surveys with the local villagers and other volunteers, under the guidance of Helen Sykes from Resort Support. Waitabu is a locally managed Marine Protected Area that has been in place for 13 years. The villagers recognised that their reef was degraded and the fish stocks were depleted, and requested help in setting up the reserve to ensure fish for their children's futures, initially funded by several organisations. Since then, the village run the project as an eco tourist venture, offering some fabulous snorkeling in the protected area - and it's working! Reef health and fish stocks are up in the protected area, meaning that the fishing grounds have a source of new life, keeping the villagers fed! You can stay in the village in a home stay (you'll be fat and full of kava by the time you leave, the ladies love to feed you!) or you can camp right on the beach front - it is beautiful! Three other villages in the same area of Taveuni also have similar eco tourism projects, and you can hike to the beautiful waterfalls in Tavora Bouma, walk along the coast at Lavena or disappear into the rainforest at Vidawa.

My last week has been spent back down at good old Mango Bay, enjoying the swell that has barely been breaking on the top of the reef. Great conditions and 30m viz on Snapcrackle and Mango Down. Had much fun with Frans and Marincka who had 3 great dives out on the reef, with hawkshead turtles and white tip reef sharks. Ashley, our latest Real Gap open water to divemaster candidate, has been working hard at his advanced and rescue courses, and will hopefully be a rescue diver by the end of tomorrow :O) We did his deep dive on Wonderwall - a vertical wall, covered in soft coral, sea whips and feather stars, and I managed to find a longnose hawkfish on one of the fans at the mouth of the giant trevally cave - another first for me! I must have got my critter spotting goggles back...

More soon, I have heard that there is a leopard shark on Bombay and my mission is to find it... I'll let you know!

Claire

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