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The dichotomy of the Outer Islands

Written on: Thursday July 17th, 2008

What comes to mind when you think of Fiji?  Probably lush, tropical settings behind perfect, white sand beaches.  And if you're a diver, you might envision an underwater garden full of soft corals and large fish.  This is what I hoped to experience when I visited the outer islands.  Unfortuntalely, the time I had remaining in Fiji was limited, and was cerrtainly not enough to travel to the Yasawas to experience this heaven on earth.  Instead, I was limited to a day trip to the nearby South Sea Island.

The transport ship over was packed with an array of international tourists departing for one of dozens of settled tropical islands either in the Mamanuncas or the Yasawas.  The first stop on the journey was South Sea Island, where I disembarked with about 30 other tourists.  The island was small, but peaceful.  It certainly had a tourist feel, but nonetheless displayed plenty of its own beauty.

Shortly after arrival, I geared up and headed out for the first of two dives.  We were dropped off above a shipwreck and proceeded down the guideline.  Sadly, the weather over the last couple weeks hadn't been the best, which now resulted in visibility of only 5 meters, at best.  Not what I had imagined for diving in Fiji.  The dive itself was a dissappointment, as the corals were below average and the marine life minimal.  It was definitely a beginner's site.  Nonetheless, there were some highlights, including five rays and two tiny nudibranchs. 

Trying to keep an optimistic attitude, I heard the banging of the lunch drum.  After an excellent spread of fish, sausage, rice and fruit, I found a volleyball game starting up.  If anything could turn around a bad day for me, it was three hours of sand volleyball!  We played eight games, mixing fairly talented locals with not so athletic tourists.  When it was all said and over, a good time and good workout was had by all.

As I mounted up for the afternoon dive, I opted not to bring the underwater camera, based upon this morning's performance.  To my delight, I could not have been more wrong in that decision.  This dive started off with a bomme packed with anemones, and all the colorful anemone fish that resided within.  Several healthy sea fans jutted out from the other corals, and there were even a few ledges/caves to sneak beneath.  The kicker was a five foot green sea turtle, that at first I actually thought was another diver!  A seven foot white tip reef shark rounded out the afternoon's underwater delights.  Alas, some fun was had under the water after all!

The weary ride home provided a brilliant south pacific sunset, with a full moon to boot.  All in all this was a good day. :)