I was around 12 or 13 years-old when I did my first scuba dive in Hawaii. That was one of the coolest experiences I had ever done at that point, discovering an underwater world that I can’t see every day. But it wasn’t until I visited Australia in 2011 and dove in the Great Barrier Reef did I truly fall in love with diving. It was so incredible to see the scale of these massive coral reef structures built over thousands of years that supported huge communities of marine life. It inspired to dive to discover more and since then, I’ve been able to get my PADI certification, dive in the reef systems in the Caribbeans, in the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, and even went diving with sharks. My goals next are to pursue my advanced certification, dive in southeast Asia, dive with tiger sharks, and do more dives in coral reef systems in general.
My most recent dive was at Tokoriki Island in Fiji with the resort dive shop. Mat doesn’t have her dive certification so we opted for the Discover Scuba Dive. Will was our instructor and he is one of the best dive instructors you could ever have if you’re looking for an introduction to scuba diving. He is very thorough with his lesson to scuba diving and is also very reassuring to anyone with having any apprehension. It is a terrific opportunity for anyone wanting to learn how to scuba dive!
During the dive, Will looked after Mat while I trailed them. He kept her very comfortable during the dive and she said it was the best dive that she’s been able to do and we can’t thank Will enough for that! We saw a healthy coral reef system with a variety of colorful coral, along with various species of fish, giant clams, sea cucumbers and a pair of sea turtles. It was a great dive and nice to see a healthy ecosystem around the island. I definitely recommend doing a dive with Will or anyone in the dive shop at the Tokoriki Island Resort. They’ll also take care of you for any other activities you may be interested in.
After the dive, we got back to the dive shop and met Alex who, along with Will, have been in Fiji the past 18 years. We struck up a conversation about the reef system and coral bleaching. I first heard about coral bleaching when an article of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef experienced significant bleaching on its system. I asked them how the reefs around the islands were doing and thankfully, they’ve said the reef systems there and around Fiji have remained largely unaffected. They’re also continuing to work with the preservation of the coral reef system near Tokoriki Island, as well as their giant clam restoration program and educating the locals about protecting sea turtles. It was a pleasure meeting the team and we thank them for the great dive!
Although this region avoided any major bleaching to the reef systems, other parts of the world were severely affected. My first exposure to coral bleaching was by Otres Beach in Sihanoukville, Cambodia in June of 2016. We went on a snorkel/fishing excursion by a nearby island. We couldn’t catch any fish so I decided to go into the water and snorkel a bit. However, as I came upon the reef system, the coral was completely bleached white while some looked already browned (though the water was murky) and there was very little marine life inhabiting the system. Back then, I knew it was really bad but I thought it was more of a local thing; Cambodia’s climate had dramatically changed over recent years with rising temperatures and had a lot of pollution. But I had no idea about the global scale of the coral bleaching.
It wasn’t until I saw the documentary, “Chasing Coral,” on Netflix did I really grasp the severity and destruction of the world’s coral reef systems. I was absolutely shell-shocked at the magnitude of the damage that the Great Barrier Reef sustained in the 2016 mass bleaching event. Even after watching the documentary multiple times, it’s hard to believe that 29% of the Great Barrier Reef died in a single event. The images of entire reef systems dead and rotting away were engraved into my mind because I love the ocean and all of the life it supports. And it wasn’t just the Great Barrier Reef that was affected but various reef systems all over the world were affected and some systems were also completely wiped out. It makes me think back on the bleached reefs in Cambodia; the water I snorkeled in was really hot and for some reason, I felt like it wasn’t right. Looking back on it now, it laments me to think that that system may have met its demise since all of the signs were there.
Check out the trailer and see the film on Netflix:
In May of 2016, I got to dive in the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, which is the second largest reef in the world after the Great Barrier Reef, spanning 620 miles long. That dive was also spectacular and it appeared that much of the reef systems appeared healthy. However, even they were not immune to the bleaching. In various areas, 20% of the reef systems experienced bleaching, and although they were able to recover pretty well, they still face numerous threats and will have to battle them every year. The Caribbean reef systems have also been hit pretty hard and it’s clear that this could become a frequent occurrence for many systems all over the world.
I don’t think people really realize how important the coral reef systems are to our planet. It is estimated that a quarter of all marine life is supported by the coral reefs. That marine life also supports up to 500 million people for food and sustenance and also brings in tens to hundreds of billions of dollars annually from tourism and fishing industries. Coral also provide treatments to a variety of ailments, including some cancer treatments. If the reef systems collapse, the impact it could have could be devastating.
Coral are very resilient creatures and, given time, they can recover from most disasters. However, this is a very different and challenging scenario for the world’s reefs. The coral reef systems are constantly under stress primarily from rising ocean temperatures due to global warming that is driven by human emissions but also faces pollution, uncontrolled tourism, overfishing, invasive species, and more. The toughest thing for the coral is that we do not see them every day so it is difficult for many people to grasp the severity of the issue.
However, there is finally something that is helping create awareness for our coral reef systems. And hopefully, we are able to buy the time that is needed to keep the coral reef systems surviving. The world of our oceans is truly an amazing and beautiful thing to see and we need to educate the public to show its importance. The future of coral remains uncertain but if we can continue to push the conversation to preserve the natural wonders of our world, then maybe we can still save what we have and keep building on that for our future generations.
After an exciting but somewhat exhausting week-long road trip with the great outdoors of New Zealand, we were looking forward to some rest and relaxation whilst visiting Fiji. I probably wouldn’t categorize shark diving as a relaxing activity but hotel resorts, plush beds, white beaches, turquoise ocean water, and pools with views? You betcha! In our search for the ultimate relaxation destination, we came upon one very highly rated retreat: Tokoriki Island Resort. Touted as one of the top, if not the top resort in Fiji, and also being our honeymoon, it was only fitting that we’d treat ourselves to a bit of luxury at the end of our trip.
Tokoriki Island can be reached by an hour boat ride west of Nadi, within a cluster of islands called the Mamanuca Islands. Tokoriki is a tiny island with a surface area of only .3 square miles. How small is that? It makes the island 4 times smaller than New York City’s Central Park and only slightly bigger than the smallest country in the world, the Vatican, at .2 square miles! However, unlike the crowds at those places, there are very few people on the island, making it a very isolated and private location.
Before getting into our review, we should note that we only stayed 3 days and 2 nights, so we did miss out on some things that we’ll go through. Ideally, to get the full experience and if your budget allows, 4 or 5 days+ may be the optimal amount of time.
So, was the Tokoriki Island Resort every bit the luxury destination that we hoped for? Let’s find out!
Room: Sunset Villa Pool – 5/5
There’s only three rooms types at the resort; the most basic Beachfront Bure, then Beachfront Pool Bure, and its most luxurious, the Sunset Pool Villa. Aaaand, being our honeymoon (Ok ok, won’t mention it again), we had to opt for the Sunset Pool Villa. The room normally costs around $900/night, which is pretty darn steep for us as we are more budget travelers, so I used some points to get it down to around $400/night. Not too shabby!
But even if you paid full price for the Sunset Villa Pool, it is totally worth it! The moment we walked into the room, our eyes were immediately fixated on the breathtaking view and the personal mini-pool. We almost could not pay attention to our porter explaining the important details of our room. I mean, just look at this view:
Believe it not, there is more to the room than this. The interior also had a separate living area and a bedroom, both featuring ocean views. The bedroom has an air-conditioner, which is a must-have during the hot and humid days, and the bed has thick plushy pillows and high-quality linens. There is also a spacious bathroom with dual vanities, an open standing shower, and set of robes.
For the exterior, we’ve already addressed the pool. In addition to that, the patio also features a pair of lounge chairs if you want to get your tan on, or you can opt for the cabana bed if you want something shady. Either way, you can’t really go wrong. There is also an outdoor shower, which we thought was a very nice touch. And from our patio, we had our own personal path down to the beach, so a quick 30-second walk and we were relaxing in the white sand and warm ocean water.
One detail to know is there is no TV or Wi-Fi in the room; in fact, none of the rooms have these and the only TV available that I know of is in the TV Lounge, which I don’t know where it is. I know, so not helpful! The only Wi-Fi available is in the lobby. The idea for this is to get you to completely relax and get away from any kind of media, a nice concept to fully enjoy your stay at the resort and shut out the outside world. We did get complimentary laundry service, which was an awesome feature to have compared to hand-washing everything.
There really isn’t anything I can even nitpick about this room. It’s just about perfect and is every bit the paradise we imagined the room to be.
Resort Layout and Amenities – 5/5
Our favorite feature of the resort was easily the infinity pool overlooking the ocean. The pool color matches the color of the ocean, so it looks like it blends together. It’s also surrounded by palm trees and lush green shrubbery, which definitely gives that island paradise feel. We loved just lounging in the pool, enjoying the sweeping views while sipping on a cocktail. It didn’t get much better than that!
Around the pool are plenty of day chairs, each one having a pool float that you can take into the pool or into the ocean. As if we needed something else to relax in the pool, I thought the pool float was an ingenious thing to have; instead of laying down on a chair outside of the pool, we could lay down on a chair in the pool! So so brilliant by Tokoriki.
The best thing is with few people at the resort, the pool was never crowded. There were times where it was just the two of us for up to an hour. Even with the pool available to all guests, we loved being able to have that level of privacy and enjoy ourselves.
With only 36 total rooms and villas, you may think the resort is small but it’s actually quite expansive. Of course, it’s situated right by the beach where you are only a few steps away.
Within the resort is plenty of open space to walk around and enjoy the lush green plants and tall palm trees gently swaying in the wind. There are a couple of things that you can find, including a church, flower garden, teppanyaki restaurant, and the spa center. We attended a service that was done in Fijian, a nice way to see some tradition in their worship. The flower garden is small but has a lovely collection of flowers. We also did get a complimentary 15-minute foot massage, which was probably the best foot massage we’ve ever had as we both almost fell asleep! We didn’t do anything else in the spa but other guests have told us that it is excellent. There is also a hiking trail that allows you to go to the top of the island for more ocean views. If you do need to use the Wi-Fi, the lobby is the only place that’ll have it, though we could get a connection by the pool too.
Activities – 4/5
Like we mentioned earlier, we were only on the island for a short period and it’s probably best to stay longer. Also, being isolated on an island may not lend a lot of options if you’re looking for something to do. Our score is based purely on our experience, but given that we didn’t get to try many things and other people had positive experiences, we could bump up the score a bit. There is also an activity list on the Tokoriki Island Resort website.
The reason it’s optimal to stay more days is that certain days of the week will have different activities; if you’re not at the resort for a particular day, then you will miss out on those activities. Unfortunately, it just so happened that our stay totally missed out on a couple activities, especially the most interesting ones like the island hopping tour and the Castaway Island tour, the site for the film “Cast Away.” So unlucky!
The dive shop there is where you can book tours and rent out kayaks or snorkel gear. However, there were only two kayaks available so each time we were interested in taking them out, they were being used. Not sure why there’s only two but it didn’t work out for us. All tours finish before or at 4:00 PM and the shop closes at 4:00 PM. Depending what combination of activities you do, you may be done really early and can’t do much until dinner time. We like to be out and about and, while we do like to relax on occasion, this is a bit too much time in between for us.
The only activities we decided to do was scuba diving and snorkeling. Mat didn’t have her PADI certification so we opted for the Discover Scuba Dive, which involved basic instruction, practice in a pool and one dive. Our instructor was Will, who was absolutely terrific in guiding Mat with the lessons and later in the dive. We’ll get more into the dive into a later post but it was definitely a great dive with lots of healthy colorful coral and marine life.
The snorkeling tour is available every day and usually with a larger group of people. The reef is decent and we did see a lot of fish but scuba diving was still the best way to see the marine life.
All-in-all, I think there is a good amount of activities to do but requires a bit of planning and timing so you don’t miss out on anything. If you’re looking mostly to relax and don’t need too many activities, then this area is not something that should deter you.
Food & Drink – 4/5
Tokoriki Island Resort offers several meal options but its basic option is their Meal Plan. This option starts at around $125/person and includes a buffet breakfast with wine, a two-course lunch, afternoon tea and a three-course dinner. This is your cheapest option unless you go a la carte and split one dish (some dishes are pretty sizeable for two people). Other than the breakfast wine, drinks are not included. If the price is a bit too steep, then I’d suggest bringing some food/snacks from Nadi.
If you are wanting a cold sweet cocktail or juice, then this is an area where they were on point! Each drink will cost around $8-10 but they were delicious and perfectly balanced, not too sweet or strong on alcohol (unless you want it that way) and using fresh fruit and ingredients. Top notch in this area and enjoying them by the pool is even better.
For the meal plan food, we had some mixed results. The menus do feature a decent selection of food choices ranging from a variety of seafood dishes with South Pacific and Asian influence to western dishes like pasta, burgers, or meat dishes. I think what was a little disappointing for us is we didn’t feel like there were many traditional Fijian options to try. Obviously, we are not culinary experts in traditional Fijian food but we were craving for more after our fantastic dinner at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva. They do have a Fijian style buffet once a week and, of course, we were not staying at the resort on the day they have it. Womp womp…
Overall, the food was pretty good and satisfying but can’t say we were blown away by the offering. Maybe we’re being a bit nitpicky but I guess we were really expecting a lot. Most of the desserts were quite good; the lime raspberry cheesecake was easily my favorite.
We did decide to try out the Oishii Teppanyaki restaurant that they had. Teppanyaki is Japanese style cuisine that uses a large iron griddle to cook food. Very often, you can find chefs performing while cooking the food and this is essentially what this experience was. The cost is actually quite expensive; on top of the meal plan, it’s an additional $60/person for this meal. It’s definitely not cheap but we wanted to try it out for the experience and hopefully some good food.
The restaurant is very small, only big enough for 8 people, a large iron griddle with a chef behind it, and the host. The host, affectionately named Mama, and the chef frequently interacted with the guests with playful mind games, some cool and skillful cooking maneuvers, and even trying to toss food into our mouths (I was a total failure…). They were truly the show of the dinner and it was awesome to have their company and personalities. It’s also nice to interact with the other guests and does make it a very intimate evening. At the end of the dinner, they do bring out a small band to sing some songs to add to the ambiance.
In terms of the cuisine, we felt Oishii does miss the mark, especially for the price add-on. And comparing it to eating in Japan and other stellar Japanese places, it is probably a difficult mark to match. We ordered some of the seafood/sushi dishes and some of the beef dishes. The sushi was more rice and thin slices of fish and there was not much flavor to the seafood. The beef was a little better but still pretty bland. The food was average at best and not particularly memorable so I wouldn’t recommend this if you’re expecting top notch Japanese food.
I’d also note that this experience does take a long time. Teppanyaki traditionally does last a while to savor the dishes. However, our dinner lasted over three hours, and sitting in the heat and humidity, we start feeling tired by the second hour. My clothes were pretty wet from my sweat and I felt really icky having to sit there for so many hours. The other guests looked perfectly fine for the whole meal, but we were really affected and I desperately needed a cold shower when the dinner ended. Though Oishii Teppanyaki does have its fiery moments quite literally, for the cost and quality of food, it may be better to stick to the meal plan or try another dinner option.
Staff and Service – 5/5
The Tokoriki Island Resort staff probably deserves a score higher than a 5/5. From the moment they greeted us and sang us a welcome song, all the way until we left with a farewell song, they always took care of us and got us whatever we requested. Wherever we went, everyone impressively memorized our names and greeted us with a smile and an enthusiastic “Bula!” By the pool side, the staff would always try to make sure you had a cocktail and relaxing live music created the perfect vibe.
On one of the days, we were going to be late for the lunch hour from a morning activity, so we asked the kitchen if they would be able to package our food and deliver it to our room. Not only did they say it wasn’t a problem, they kept the dishes on their original presentation and place it in the fridge with all the sauces and utensils. It was perfectly prepared for us and we were able to enjoy the food in the comforts of our room.
A special thank you to Will, Alex and the staff who manage the dive shop. Will was our dive instructor for Mat, who’s not comfortable with diving yet. He did everything to make sure that Mat was comfortable and safe, which resulted in a wonderful dive in the Tokoriki Island reef. If you’re looking to try out scuba, Will and Alex will make sure you have a safe and enjoyable experience. They were so kind and took the time to talk with us about the reef and marine life around the island. The rest of the staff also looked after Mat during snorkeling as she came down with some sea sickness.
There was never a dull moment with the resort staff. They always kept things lively and friendly and we truly thank them for making us feel like family. Vinaka!
Overall/Conclusion – 4.5/5
The island, resort, rooms, staff, and amenities are absolutely world-class and there are many other things the resort does that are impressive.What Tokoriki Island Resort does extremely well is forcing you to relax and unwind, which can be difficult in this day and age of media. With limited Internet access, no TVs, radio music, it gives people the opportunity to really enjoy their surroundings and appreciate the beauty of the resort and island. There are some things that could be improved on or were not to our preference, which some people will care while others won’t be bothered. It’s all in a matter of taste and travel needs.
Overall, Tokoriki Island Resort does live up to its reputation as a top island destination in Fiji. It’s as near perfect a place that you can get and a great destination for celebrating a honeymoon, anniversary or simply need rest & relaxation. It may have been perfect if we got to stay a bit longer and enjoy the full experience! Hopefully, we can return to the beauty of Fiji and Tokoriki Island Resort will welcome us back. Until then, Vinaka!
Let us know what you thought about our review and if this is a place you’d spend for a honeymoon or another special occasion. If this looks like the place to go, give us a Pin:
During our short stay at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva, Fiji, we didn’t get to do visit as much as the city as we’d have liked to but we were treated to a memorable evening with a personalized Fijian-style dinner from the hotel.
It started with one of the few places we did visit, the Suva Fish Market (also known as the Suva Municipal Market). Only 5 minutes driving distance and 15 minutes walking from the Grand Pacific Hotel, the market is the best place to find fresh, locally caught seafood. Though not as large as other famous fish markets around the world, there is a very diverse selection of seafood to choose from, many species we’ve never seen before and some interesting looking ones. Much of the seafood are caught by locals from villages on various parts of the island instead of large-scale fishing operations, making it a more sustainable market.
After browsing through the market, we purchased a bunch of shrimp wrapped in leaves, several crabs, and a sack of fish roe, a pretty significant amount for just the two of us! What we did not get was any lobster because everyone at the market was selling in bunches of 10…but now we totally regret just not getting any!! Even if we didn’t eat all of the food, we could’ve shared with the staff at the hotel. The cost was pretty cheap; for 7 crabs, a bunch of shrimp and fish roe, we paid around $75, a pretty good bargain for the amount of seafood we had.
We took our purchase back to the hotel, where we were met by the tourism operations manager, Sammy, a super friendly guy who we loved to converse with. Our plan was to ask the hotel if they would’ve been willing to cook for us but Sammy took great care of us and called in Chef Avikash Singh to help prepare our food. We asked how much it would cost but they said they would not charge us. Though it probably took up Chef Singh’s free time, he seemed very enthused and attentive to detail on preparing our meal. He asked how we wanted our food prepared, and we said we wanted to taste traditional Fijian-style cooking, so he told us how he would prepare all of the dishes and what ingredients he would use for each dish. Naturally, we got super excited and couldn’t wait to try out his cooking! Over the next couple hours, we patiently waited as Chef Singh said he would need some time to clean and prepare the seafood so we mostly relaxed in the outdoor restaurant chairs munching on appetizers, enjoying some beverages and watching the sun over the horizon.
After some time, the first course came out and consisted of the shrimp. It was cooked in a red sauce with coconut milk and other herbs and spices. Our first bites were met with a mildly spicy and tangy flavor of the sauce, then mixing with the subtle sweetness and softness of the shrimp. It was sooo freakin’ good! The only thing we probably regretted was not buying more since we only had about 8 or 9 shrimp. Luckily for us, there was more to come!
Our second course was the sack of roe, though we’re not sure of what fish species. Unlike roe you might find on sushi that can be individually eaten, this roe was tightly attached together, forming one big clump of roe. Chef Singh told us it was his first time cooking fish roe so he cooked it as if it were a piece of fish. Essentially, he grilled this large piece of roe with herbs and spices and topped it off with lime, onions, cucumbers and other garnishes. Much to my surprise, the roe did not fall apart at all; instead, you do have to cut it with a fork or knife like normal fish. When we took the first bite, we immediately thought that the roe tasted exactly like fresh fish and the texture was not so different either. Adding the lime (which I think makes anything taste good) also complimented the other flavors and created a very flavorful dish. Even though Singh had never prepared a dish like this, the result was masterful and impressive.
Finally, last but not least, we got to the main course, the crabs. When Chef Singh brought out two large plates of cooked crab, it looked breathtakingly delicious. It was prepared with a red curry-like base with coconut milk, butter and a variety of herbs and spices. He made the dish spicy to give it a nice kick to the dish and added limes for additional flavor. With his last dish complete, Chef Singh was going on his way, but not before taking a photo with him and giving him a substantial tip for all of his time and effort.
The first bite of that crab was heavenly; the meat was soft, tender and sweet, while the sauce provided a spicy richness that was full of flavor yet balanced with the dish as a whole. Adding the lime juices gives even tangier and satisfyingly sour flavor. Since we were digging through every part of the crab for the meat, it took us the next hour to savor all of the crabs that we got and it most certainly was worth the effort.
When it was all said and eaten, Mat and I thought it was one of the best seafood meals we’ve ever had. We were so thankful to Sammy, Chef Avikash Singh and the Grand Pacific Hotel staff for making this happen and giving us the ultimate Fiji seafood experience, and we hope to be back in Suva one day to do it all over again, maybe with some lobster!
If you think this Fijian-style meal looks tantalizing and mouth-watering, be sure to ask for Sammy at the Grand Pacific Hotel and give our post a pin below:
For our first nights in Fiji, we needed to stay in a place near the Pacific Harbour where I was doing my shark dive. Though there were several places closer to the harbor, we decided to stay at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva, which was about 40 minutes away from Nausori Airport and an hour away from Pacific Harbour. It’s also a very short distance away from downtown Suva. Though we didn’t get to stay too long, we definitely had a Grand Old time at the resort hotel.
When we first arrived at the hotel, we were greeted with “BULA!” (Hello!) by the very friendly staff, who gave us glasses of juice and coconut water. As we waited to check-in, we browsed around in the lobby/main area of the hotel to admire its lovely architectural design and the outside view before being taken to our room. We loved how bright and airy it looked with all of the natural light but also how the hotel kept much of its historic design and features. Affectionately nicknamed “The Grand Old Lady,” the hotel was built in 1914 and went through several ownership changes before being renovated and reopened in 2014. One of its most famous visitors was Queen Elizabeth II and the room that she stayed in was named in her honor. The staff was kind enough to give a tour of the Queen Elizabeth Suite and its biggest room, The Royal Suite 1.
Since it was our honeymoon, I did splurge a bit and used some credit card points to book us the Grand Pacific Club Suite, the largest room available that’s not in main building. With 54 sq m (or 580 sq ft), it was easily more than enough space for the two of us. We had a firm but very comfortable king size bed with soft linens and pillows; we definitely slept very well on this bed. There was a large workspace area if we needed to any work. The bathroom was very modern with sleek tiles and open shower. There was no tub, however, which seemed like a slight oversight with so much space not being utilized in the bathroom. The bathroom was all glass, and although not completely see-through, privacy could be an issue for some guests. The best part of the room was the large balcony where we could munch on the fresh fruit bowl given to us and enjoy the completely unobstructed views of the entire harbor.
There are a couple amenities available at the hotel. There’s a gym with pretty nice equipment, available to guests for free. There’s also the “Bliss Spa” for any treatment that you may need; we didn’t use any of the spa’s services but we really liked the bars of soap they had and bought a few (one of our highlight purchases in Fiji). The outdoor pool is free for anyone to use until the evening, though being a small pool, I’d imagine it could get crowded quickly.
There’s also a nice selection of bars and restaurants within the hotel to dine from, with some having happy hours. The only menu item we actually got to try was their fish and sticks from the Levuka Restaurant, where you can dine outside as well. Though it was the cheapest thing on the menu, it was pretty good. We would’ve loved to dine at the Prince Albert Restaurant with their renowned chef in the kitchen, but we cheapened out and went with some alternative dining options.
Booking the Grand Pacific Club Suite also allowed us to have free access to the Victoria Lounge from 5-7 pm, where we enjoyed unlimited canapés (or hors d’oeuvres) and unlimited cocktails and beverages. Not going to lie, but this may have been my favorite part during our stay, as we definitely went to town with the canapés for our dinner. I had a couple cold ones while Mat had some mostly alcohol-less cocktails and fresh juice. From the lounge, you can relax on the balcony and enjoy the beautiful view out towards the ocean.
Last but not least, we wouldn’t have had a great time without the its amazing Fijian hospitality of the staff! Everyone was very nice to us and extremely accommodating to our requests. There were a few times when we had to grab their attention but otherwise, they took good care of us. We also had a spectacular personalized dinner from one of their chefs, which we will write about in our next post. They really made us feel at home and they were a very fun group to have around. We hope to see them again if we’re ever back at the Grand Pacific Hotel!
Here is our rating breakdown of the hotel:
Food/drink (Limited experience): 4.5/5
So if you happen to be staying in Suva, take a look at the Grand Pacific Hotel. Even if you’re not staying there, you can still visit the hotel; many visitors during the day are locals who like to enjoy the amenities or dining there. If this is a place you’d consider staying in Suva, give us a Pin and let us know what your favorite feature of the hotel is.
Over the years, sharks have developed a reputation for being mindless, bloodthirsty killers that crave human flesh. So when we arrived in Fiji, we found that the BEQA Adventure Divers company in Pacific Harbour provided a diving excursion that would have you surrounded by full-grown bull sharks in the open water and without a cage!. I did the most sensible thing I could do in this situation: I took advantage of the opportunity and booked a dive to get up close and personal with these reputed fearsome creatures!
Some of you might be thinking that it sounds like a wee bit dangerous and truthfully, I think our group had a little angst about the dive. While there may always be some risk involving wild animals, our group was comforted by the fact that BEQA Diving Adventures has been operating for 19 years and they have never had a single incident. Whatever tension I may have had quickly into excitement as I was very eager to be the world of sharks!
Our group consisted of 11 divers: 6 BEQA divers and 5 regular divers. Normally, the company recommends having at least 50 dives since you will dive around 100 feet deep; however, as long as you’re comfortable with your diving skills, they will allow you to dive with supervision. I had never gone that deep prior and had only 12 dives under my belt but I had no issues during the dive.
For our first dive, we dove 100 feet to the seabed with some coral around us. Once we got to the bottom, we did not move from our spots and simply waited. At least 3 or 4 BEQA divers stayed near us with aluminum rods to push away any sharks that got too close, while the others set up or fed the bait with tuna heads. After 5 minutes, the first 2 or 3 sharks showed up, and they were massive thick-bodied sharks! Not long after that, more and more sharks started appearing, catching the scent of the bait and wanting to join in on the feeding. Before we knew it, we were surrounded by at least 30 adult sharks, each of them 8-10 feet long! You can see from the pictures how huge they look compared to the trash bin!
The sharks we observed during this part of the dive were bull sharks. These sharks are named for their broad, bulky bodies and for having unpredictable and aggressive behavior. They are one of the very few sharks that can survive in freshwater; because of this, baby bull sharks are born in freshwater environments which serve as natural protection from other saltwater predators. Like all shark species, bull sharks have amazing survival skills that have enabled them to survive for hundreds of millions of years.
Bull sharks are incredibly powerful too. Several times, a shark would swim above me and you could feel how much power they had when they propelled themselves through the water. Yet, they seemed to glide through the water without any effort, no doubt a quality of their perfectly designed bodies. I was in complete awe of seeing these creatures up close and being able to part of their environment.
Later in the dive, we moved up a reef wall and settled in a more shallow area around 30 feet deep and observed whitetip and blacktip reef sharks. Despite sharing similar names, they do differ in appearance; as their names suggest, you can figure out their species by looking at the tip of their fins to see what color they are. Whitetips also have more slender bodies and broad heads while blacktips have prototypical shark bodies. These sharks grow to only about 5 feet in length, so they’re generally harmless to humans, but proficient hunters in the reefs.
For our last dive, we went to a second spot that would again feature the bull sharks. This time, our area was a little more open and less reef around us. This meant that the sharks were more likely to swim really close in front and above us as they passed by and the BEQA divers would use their aluminum poles to push any away that got too close. 5 minutes after the bait was set up, the bull sharks appeared. (Depending on the season, tiger sharks will appear too, which grow up to 16 feet in length! We did not see any tiger sharks on these dives)
Once again, at least 30 bull sharks showed up and circled around us and the bait. I don’t know what the team’s definition of “too close” was but some of those sharks got REALLY close. In some cases, the sharks would approach 2 or 3 feet away from us and then swim directly above us, sometimes brushing our gear. One shark brushed against a diver’s face! However, I didn’t feel like I was in any danger during the dives, though I’m not sure if I can say the same for everyone else. In any case, it was simply spectacular to watch the sharks in their element.
Sharing the waters with these sharks reinforced several things I knew about sharks. These animals are not mindless or bloodthirsty killers but very intelligent creatures that only do what they do to survive. If you don’t bother them in their environment, then they’re very unlikely to bother you. (Sharks apparently also hate the sound of scuba gear.) And in instances where a shark does bite a human, they are due to curiosity or mistaken identity. This leads me to believe that as long as humans could appreciate and continue to understand these creatures, then they pose little threat to people and we can enjoy a co-existence.
Unfortunately, due to the bad reputation from bad press and little understanding of the species, sharks have become a public enemy and have paid a steep price. Last year, over 100 million sharks were killed with 73 million being used for shark fin soup in China and SE Asia. Many species of sharks are now facing endangerment due to severe overfishing, slow reproduction rates and loss of habitat. Sharks have existed for 450 million years but in only the last century, sharks now face the real possible threat of extinction. My hope is that, as we continue to learn and debunk the negative perceptions of the species, then we can save them so we can continue to enjoy them in their environment.
For more information about this dive if you’re visiting Fiji, visit the BEQA Adventure Divers website for more information. Be sure to check out our full video of our dive and if you think you might want to dive with sharks, be sure to also give us a Pin below! Happy shark diving!