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The First  Snorkel

It’s easy to think that you know what you’re getting yourself in for when you sign up for Fiji Marine. You read the field brief, learn about this or that piece of preparation, look at the pretty pictures of Fiji and get all excited about your trip. Then you get there and you take part in a quick, 45-minute snorkel around Beqa bay and it all suddenly becomes a real trip.

Getting re-used to snorkelling takes some effort (something about the flippers for me, they never seem quite natural), walking down the hill can be a nuisance and deciding to go purely to escape the heat and humidity is a factor. It all means you don’t even think about what you’re going to see when you get beneath the waves.

So once you do, having not considered what you’re going to find, it wakes you up like a gust of cold air.

Some of the fish around the reefs of Beqa bay seemed to have invented the colour blue.

It didn’t even matter that I had no idea which fish was what, what genus they belonged to or whether they were juvenile or adults or where they stood in their ecosystem’s food chain. All that matters is looking and watching and then repeating the looking and watching.

There were probably upwards of 25 species in the space of a half hour snorkel once we had swum to the reef, including a blue star fish that was the size of your average dinner plate. The sheer range of what you can see and the peace and quiet of the environment quickly makes you forget about your lack of experience in snorkelling (don’t mock, it’s more difficult than it looks).

As you’re swimming along, the water is comfortably hot until you swim through the outlet of a small river and get that blast of cold we spoke of. This time though, the blast of cold is as refreshing as anything you can imagine and only serves to cool you down, reinvigorate you and spur you on to look for something else on the reef you haven’t seen yet. It’s intoxicating.

All the blubbering about the sheer beauty of these reefs aside, one other thing is of note about snorkelling. Once you’re there, seeing these creatures and habitats so up close, your mind strangely turns into uber-careful-conservation mode. You become extra careful with your flippers, extra controlled on your breathing in the worry of disturbing anything going about its day below the surface. It becomes clear that diving down and interacting with it all is massively out of the question unless you know exactly what you’re doing. Observing is enough and you are a cautious observer at that, hoping not to dislodge or disrupt anything below. The conservation part of you takes over and controls your fins from then on.

The summary here is kind of two-fold. Firstly acting as a proof that all the efforts people go to for travelling abroad and seeing the things they want to is worth every second of it. Fiji is just that spectacular to be in, it knows it is and it opens up and shows you all it has in jaw-dropping fashion.

Secondly, bit by bit it teaches you your place in everything. The reef, the currents, the fish, the temperature of the water and the corals let you know that you’re the visitor in their world. As soon as you realise that it becomes a more wholesome experience and begins paving the way for the more delicate work done to look after them.

The last take away is simple; make sure your flippers fit.

By Guy Bezant - Fiji Marine Operational Support Coordinator

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