“Fiji: You can’t get any further away before you start coming back.” I will never forget that line from The Truman Show.
Fiji is far. The distance always made it seem mysterious and I imagined that a trip there would be adventurous. The little island country was at the top of my bucket list.
Then, this past year, seemingly out of nowhere, I was offered an opportunity to travel there with a group from a local dive shop in Salt Lake City, Utah. I had just started to work as an amateur videographer and the owner of the shop asked if I could come along to document their dives and day excursions. The answer was a no-brainer. I got scuba-certified in two days and packed my bags for the trip of a lifetime.
After an 11.5 hour flight, our group landed on the island of Viti Levu. We then took a boat to the island of Beqa where we were greeted with flower leis and fresh coconut juice. We were shown to our “Bures,” private wood and straw huts that were located right on the beach and had perfect views of the crystal clear waters. Each Bure had a private pool, a hammock and a big lawn to relax on. It was paradise.
We started our dives right away and each experience was incredible and unique. We went wreck-diving with sunken Japanese ships and explored the reef all around the island. (Fiji is the soft coral capital of the world is home to hundreds of different types of reef fish.) We went diving at night and swam into a pitch-black abyss with only a tiny flashlight to illuminate a small path of light in front of us.
The most nerve-wracking was an open water shark dive. We followed a rope 85 feet under water and gathered along the base of the reef. After we all had lined up side-by-side, without any netting or caging to protect us from possible harm, we watched Fijian divers swim overhead with a huge garbage can full of dead fish. Then, right in front of us, they released the fish from the can.
At first, the waters remained pretty calm. Then, just a moment later, they were infested with sharks and other fish coming to feed. There were lemon sharks; white, black and silver tip sharks; nurse, bull and tiger sharks! They were coming toward us from every angle. I would be focused on one right in front of me and then two or three would shoot over my shoulders or skim just above my head. As a safety precaution, we were told to keep our hands to our sides and not make any sudden movements.
On our second shark-dive that same day, we went over 100 feet down. The sharks knew it was feeding time and there seemed to be even more of them around. Hundreds of fish came too, creating a thick, furious feeding frenzy. The Fijian divers were feeding the sharks right out of their hands and we were allowed to swim a bit closer to them. Though frightening, that was the highlight of the trip and one of the most invigorating experiences of my life. I loved being so close to the sharks without having a cage in the way.
I feel so fortunate to have been able to join the group on this adventure. As I had promised, when we returned to the United States, I made a video for the dive shop featuring highlights from the dives and excursions. Check it out, above! I watch it often as inspiration and motivation to keep wanderlust-ing, traveling and discovering. I hope it sparks similar feelings in you, too.
Words, photos and video: Zach Fackrell