Fiji Shark Studies — Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Other-worldly Coral Dives

After an intense and moving viewing of the Sharkwater documentary the night before, the crew woke up eager to get back in the water and witness what proper conservation looks like. After a speedy gear-up and boat ride, we jumped into E.T., an other-worldly dive site unlike anything we've seen before. To put it blatantly, it was stunning. Arguably the most diverse dive spot to date, E.T. wowed all of us with overwhelmingly colorful and energetic swarms of fish, disrupted by the occasional coral grouper and trumpet-fish. As Simi, our dive leader, led us around massive coral heads, Ryan, Philip, and Jordan were the first to find the massive tunnels that ran all the way through the towering boulders of aquatic life. Forming a sort of discombobulated conga-line, we paraded carefully though the dark tubes, surrounded by wide-eyed squirrel-fish and sea-fans the size of ceiling fans.
Outside of these intriguing formations, we coasted with the current along more coral heads, still stunned by the dreamlike properties of a properly protected marine ecosystem. Interestingly, E.T. is not actually a part of the Shark Reef Marine Reserve. It is an adjacent location that benefits from the spillover from SRMR. The Spillover Effect is a phenomenon we have discussed in depth many times during our lessons and essentially outlines how the rapid bloom in population, average size, and biodiversity of fish within protected reserve areas spillover to adjacent locations. This concept was on full display during our dives and took our breaths away every second we were under the water. After seeing some great group photos, postcard views, and the hypnotic buzzing clouds of red, yellow, and blue fish, we finally hopped back onto the boat, ecstatic with what we had just witnessed.
Our next spot was Deadman's reef which, ironically enough, was anything but dead. While the dive started in a sandy area with sparse mounds of coral, we transitioned into much more dense communities of mounding coral, staghorn coral, and sea sponges and eventually ventured along a small shelf. Nicole and Charley were engaged in an underwater photoshoot as Ivy was lured towards a small group of white-tip reef sharks swimming by. The entire group clustered around a small blue-spotted stingray, spotted by Laura, which posed artfully for Maggie's camera. As we continued our journey, Morgan characteristically fell behind the group looking for nudibranchs. However, his persistence and attention to detail was rewarded when he showcased an impossibly small nudibranch to Ryan and Cedar. We kept swimming and before we knew it, our dive had concluded and we were back on the boat heading back home.
In typical Broadreach fashion, our ride home was accompanied by a karaoke performance led by Mia, Noah, and Maggie. Next up, we each gave detailed presentations of individual shark species to the rest of the group when we arrived home. These short speeches went well and, as Mugdha noted, many interesting facts were brought up that had never been heard before. Finally, we relaxed around a home cooked ramen feast and completed one of our last journals of the program. As we savored each moment with our diving/ shark-study family, we know how imminent the last day is. While the gloom has yet to sink in fully, morale is high and knowledge, curiosity, and appreciation of sharks is even higher. Soft coral dives, while not as flashy as shark dives, offer an important and equally-majestic experience of the underwater scene. The different species of small reef fish and coral can be either admired for there individuality or they can blend together into a blur of other-worldly color and raw beauty. At the end of the day, everyone knows when you're in Fiji, every dive is the dive of a lifetime.

Ryan McMullen
Leader of the Day