The Redondo Beach Mermaid in Fiji: Swimming with Sharks

Published On August 10, 2015 » 501 Views» By Eddie Solt » Diving, News
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As one of the many perks of working for the best company in the world, Dive N’ Surf and Body Glove, recently I was able to check one of my bucket trips off my list when I was able to go to Fiji for 17 days. I went to Fiji to lead a group of 12 divers for a week at Beqa Lagoon Resort, a southern tiny island, and 9 divers at Sau Bay, a tiny resort off of the northeastern island Taveuni.

      For someone who hates to fly, I sure find myself traveling a lot. We left LAX on June 4 at 11:30 p.m. I took precautions for my severe anxiety of flying and was able to sleep for a fair amount of the 10.5 hour flight, thank God! Once we landed in Nadi, we took a 1.5 hour road transfer to get us to Pacific Harbor for our 1 hour boat transfer to Beqa Lagoon. The weather was a little glum and muggy, but we were in Fiji so we were stoked. A little bit of rain wasn’t going to bring us down.

As we got closer to the island, our breath was taken away, beholding the vast beauty of Beqa Lagoon. We had the staff greet us with beautiful flower necklaces and warm smiles and hugs. We were then brought into the main building which housed the tables, a sitting area and the bar. Dieter, the lagoon manager, introduced us to most of the staff and briefed us about the resort. While all of this was going on, our bags were brought to our “bulas” or rooms, which was incredible to not have to worry about. After all the introductions were done, and we’d finished our fresh fruit drinks, we were shown to our bulas and again my breath was taken away. All of us were given private bulas with beachfront views, plunge pools, hammocks, and lounge chairs. The inside of our bulas were beautiful as well with lots of small intricate details to bring smiles to our faces.

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      After we unpacked and got a little bit more settled, my roommate and I, as well as some of the other people, got complimentary foot massages after our 13 hours of travel. I’m not really into foot massages, but this one was perfection in a bucket. I reserved an end of the week “jet lag” massage with my masseuse that day. After our massages some of us went on beach dives, while Sam Collins and myself went for a kayak in the bay. After everyone was finished with their day activities we all met for dinner at our giant 12-person table set aside for us. It was so much fun to meet some of the other travelers that night and see where they were from. This was also the first day that I was introduced to one of my favorite things about Fiji, the FOOD! Words cannot begin to describe how incredible the food was that we ate all week. All of us fell in love with their cook right away. There wasn’t one day where we didn’t love the food and ask for seconds. After the second day, they already expected us to ask for more and always had it available.

      My other favorite part of the trip was the diving, of course. I’ve been lucky enough to travel to Barbados, and Cozumel before Fiji, but Fiji was definitely the best dives I’ve ever done. The visibility in Fiji on a bad day was 60 ft., but for the most part we had 90-120 ft. visibility. We technically went during their winter season, with surface temps of 84 degrees and bottom temps of 79 degrees at 110ft., so still pretty warm. I was usually in my 2 m.m. body glove shorty, and I only wore my full 3 m.m. when we did the shark feeding, which brings me to the next part of my story.

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      Beqa Lagoon is known specifically for its shark dives. I got to watch them feed a 14 ft. Tiger shark and a 10 ft. bull shark, as well as white tips, lemons and nurse sharks. No cage, just a man-built little 2-foot rock wall to sit behind. Besides cage/non-cage diving I did with Great Whites in Guadalupe, this was the gnarliest thing I’ve ever done. Having a 14 ft. tiger swim a foot above you, or having a 10 ft. bull shark five inches from your face is one of the coolest things I have ever done! When you go to Beqa Lagoon, you have to do the shark dive! HAVE TO! Our site was called Tiger Cathedral and we sat at about 80 ft. to watch the feeding frenzy.

    Our eight days in Beqa Lagoon were incredible and full of fantastic 2-3 dive days and the friendliest staff and crew, who played music for us the whole time. Dance parties on your surface intervals definitely make the time go by faster. I cried when it came time to say goodbye to everyone at Beqa Lagoon. The entire dive staff was so helpful to us in every aspect of the trip, and everyone that worked at the resort was just perfect.  I miss all of the people and the kids in the village so much, and can’t wait to see them again. I’m getting sad writing this, thinking about our last day as we rode away in our boat with the entire resort singing on the beach to us. According to Fijian custom, when you leave an island, you throw a flower back in the water. If the flowers flow back to shore, it means you’ll come back to the island. Thank God our flowers went back to shore when we left. I’m already planning my next trip to Beqa

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     Leaving Beqa Lagoon was definitely difficult, especially because four of our people flew home. The remaining nine of us had to do some inter-island flights to get to Taveuni. If I thought the first flight was bad, a 16-seater and 8-seater gave me a rude awakening. Panic attacks on tiny flights are not fun, but I made it somehow. Beer afterwards definitely helped calm my nerves. After our inter island flight and road transfers, we took another boat transfer to get to Sau Bay, a resort only in its third year of existence. It was incredible for a variety of reasons, but mainly because we had the entire resort to ourselves. Again, we had incredible food served to us as well as some superb diving. One of the many things we learned in Fiji is that the weather could literally change in a split second, sometimes not in your favor. But our time at Sau Bay was still incredibly beautiful.

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      After coming back from Fiji, I was definitely having some withdrawal from not being on “Fiji Time” anymore, but getting back into teaching helped with my withdrawal. I also found out shortly after returning to the states, that I had been crowned Scuba Queen USA! Yeah, I didn’t really know there was a scuba beauty contest either, but I was thrilled when I found out about it and applied. With my new title, I’m going to go represent Body Glove and the USA in Malaysia in November to compete for the Miss Scuba International title, which is what one of my good friends, Tabitha Lipkin won last year. I could not be more excited to get to go to Malaysia and spread my love of Body Glove and diving. I hope to get more women interested in diving as well as help with shark conservation. Look forward to a follow-up article from me when I return from Malaysia! And remember if you ever need help booking a local or tropical trip, please call Dive N’ Surf and ask for me. Thanks for your time guys! See you underwater!

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