3 Activities in Milford Sound That’ll Take Your Breath Away!

In 2010, I made my first visit to New Zealand after my parents told me how amazing it is there. A favorite place they visited was Milford Sound, which is part of Fjordland National Park. Touted as one of the most beautiful landscapes not just in New Zealand, but in the world, I absolutely had to make a visit there. I was greeted, however, with some gloomy weather for almost my entire trip. Despite overcast clouds, some rain, and fog, I still loved everything about Milford Sound and hoped to make a return trip. The next time, however, I wanted to see what it would look like with better weather.

This time, we made it to Milford Sound with perfect weather, gifting us mostly clear skies and moderate temperatures. We were lucky because it was overcast and raining for several days prior! And here are 3 activities that you will love during your visit here:

1. A Scenic Flight

For our visit, we were taking an overnight cruise through the fjord of Milford Sound but we had arrived a lot earlier than the departure time. There was one activity that was available to us during the downtime: a scenic flight through Milford Sound that was being offered at the Discover Milford Sound Information Centre & Cafe. However, the flight had to fill all four seats, otherwise, we would’ve had to pay for all of the seats at the cost of $200 USD per person. Fortunately, we were able to find a couple that also wanted to do the flight, so the cost ended up being only $100 USD per person. This seems to be a bargain price, as most scenic flights can cost up to $400 USD per person, although usually from another location like Queenstown or Te Anau with a much longer flight duration.

 

 

This 25-30 minute flight starts and ends at the Milford Sound Airport, which is right next to the visitor center. A charter plane is not quite like your average commercial plane ride; due to its small body and lighter weight, it is more prone to more turbulence. While we weren’t particularly nervous, those with a fear of flying may want to pass on this activity. One of the other passengers was very close to backing out of the flight before ultimately deciding to board the plane. The flight was a little bumpier than we’ve ever experienced, but it wasn’t anything that should really deter you from doing it.

If you are able to board the plane, you’ll be treated to a truly majestic flight of Milford Sound! Much of New Zealand is unexplorable due to impassable landscapes, therefore flying is a terrific way to see these hidden treasures. The flight takes you through the entire fjord of Milford Sound towards the ocean, then fly over various mountain ranges. From bare rock mountains to those covered in forests or from colorful mountains to pristine snow cover peaks, it’s an incredible variety that you can see in the air that you may not ordinarily see on the ground.

One of the coolest sights that you can see on this flight is Quill Lake and Sutherland Falls. The lake is nestled in the mountains in a basin that overflows and cascades into Sutherland Falls, which measures 580 meters (1,904 feet), making it the second tallest waterfall in New Zealand. While you can hike to the base of the falls, the only way to see Quill Lake is in the air by plane or helicopter.

This flight at Milford Sound is easily the best value for your buck to see the beautiful aerial scenery. It’s an activity worth doing, especially if you are not looking to pay hundreds of dollars.

2. The Overnight Cruise

Next up on the agenda, our overnight cruise. Our parents had done the cruise previously too so they booked us the cruise as a wedding gift to us. We went go through a company called “Real Journeys” and boarded the boat named the “Milford Wanderer.” You can find several photos of what the boat looks like on their website here. However, the boat no longer had the private rooms left so we had to share in a 4-person bunk room. It all worked out though, as we met some fellow travelers and made some new friends!

Pricing varies depending on accommodation and departure location but it was about $240 USD per person for our quad-share accommodation departing from Milford Sound. Bathrooms are shared but there is only a maximum of 36 persons on any cruise. While I wouldn’t classify the boat as a luxury liner, the amenities and staff made everything very comfortable and it really was a highlight of our visit.

Our boat departed from the port at 4:30 PM and we had around 45 minutes to an hour to get settled in. During that time, the boat will find a spot to anchor overnight, while we were served some tasty soup and bread. The soup really warmed up the body and got us ready for the afternoon activities.

For the activities, you had the choice of taking a short hike on the Milford Track or take a small boat that will explore the fjord more closely. We chose to do the hike since the Milford Track is dubbed “the finest walk in the world.” For us, we were doing only a round-trip hike of 1.5 hours, which is just a glimpse of the whole track. For serious hikers, however, you would need to hike 33 miles and take 5 days to finish the entire hike!

We took a smaller boat to Sandfly Point, which marks the end/start point of the track. (Also, true to its name, there are A LOT of sandflies here so fair warning.) A guide walked a group of us into a lush, dense forest thick with towering trees while pointing out varieties of ferns and moss. There were also some cute and curious birds that would come to investigate our group, some hovering by nearby branches but wary enough not to get too close. This part of the track is flat, well-maintained and the temperature was cool and comfortable, so it felt like a relaxed walk than any kind of hike.

Our midway stopping point was a foresty area with a stream flowing through. In certain parts of the stream, however, the flow of water was so calm and clear that the forests above it would reflect almost perfectly in the water. It’s also amazing to see just how many different trees and plants occupy the banks in just a single photograph, the testament of an ecosystem that has thrived since ancient times.

From here, we turned back around and headed back to the boat. By this time, it’s very late afternoon and the sun is starting to set. It’s a nice time to enjoy the sunset of Milford Sound or you can just relax inside where there are some board games, complimentary hot drinks, and a licensed bar. Meanwhile, the crew is preparing a 3-course dinner that included salad, roasted vegetables and meat (vegetarian options available), and topping it off with dessert.

I’m not going to lie but I did not have the highest of expectations for the food. Most other boat excursions I’ve been on, food was premade and usually bland, so I was already pleasantly surprised that everything looked like it was cooked from scratch. When we tried the food that came out to us, I think we were almost shocked at how delicious it was! The ingredients looked pretty simple but they were fresh and it truly was a restaurant-class dinner. It was one of our best dining experiences in New Zealand! Maybe that’s speaking with some hyperbole but I really was impressed with the food. And with that, we could take our happy tummies into bed and doze peacefully off into the night.

After a comfortable night of sleep, we awoke early in the morning for the cruise and enjoyed a nice, hearty breakfast. After that, the boat started to head out towards the Tasman Sea. It was still pretty early and dark within the fjord, which made the morning temperatures a little chilly. We waited inside the boat until we exited the fjord and were out on the ocean. By this time, the sun was up a bit and the temperatures were a bit warmer. It was still a little windy but the was really lovely and so serene being out on the open ocean.

Shortly after making it out into the ocean, the boat turned around and headed straight back into the fjord. While sailing in, the captain would talk through the boat’s speakers to point out key sights and wildlife. A few albatross (sorry, no pictures!) flew around our boat and they are pretty amazing creatures. They live on the ocean for 85% of their lives, only going on land during the breeding seasons! They also have a lifespan of up to at least 40 years, which is very impressive for a bird! We also checked out to Seal Rock which, as its name implies, you can find fur seals lying on this big rock. There were only two seals lounging this time but often you can see up to a dozen seals lying here.

Seal Rock

The boat also sailed close to the insanely tall rock faces, some of them shooting out of the water up to 1,200 meters! Of course, no Milford Sound visit is completed without visiting one of its famous waterfalls, Stirling Falls, and at 151 meters, it is the second tallest waterfall after Lady Elizabeth Bowen Falls in Milford Sound. What’s cool about this waterfall is the boat is able to sail pretty close to the falls, which allows you to feel the intense force of the colliding water through the strong winds and spray. I was told you can even kayak to the base of the waterfall. When it rains, you are able to see a lot more waterfalls but you can’t see them due to lack of rainfall from good weather. Some other famous parts you’ll see include Harrison Cove and the aforementioned Bowen Falls.

When you pass Bowen Falls, that essentially marks the end of the overnight cruise and brings you back to port. Though it was sad having to leave the boat, it was a truly perfect experience for our Milford Sound visit.

3. Walking on the Milford Sound Lookout Track

We can keep this one short and sweet. Before leaving Milford Sound, there was still one area we had to check out. From the visitor center, you can find marked signs for the Milford Sound Lookout Track. It’s a short walk that will take you to the edge of the water and offer stunning views of the landscape. With the sun still rising, you are able to see distinct sunbeams streaming between mountain peaks. If you can find calm water, you can get a beautiful reflection of the landscape, which is one of the most photographed shots at Milford Sound. The best experience here I think, however, is simply enjoying the peace and serenity of this majestic landscape. Just sitting there makes you think that you can stay there forever, which I wouldn’t object to that!

Here is also a video of our scenic flight, overnight cruise, and the view from the lookout track:

Below is some information on these activities:

Scenic Flight: We cannot find this information online or on the visitor center website. You should be able to find more information when you visit in-person at the Discover Milford Sound Information Centre & Cafe, where they also have a slew of other activities to offer. But expect the pricing to range from about $100-200 USD per person. This activity is also only available with permitting weather.

Overnight Cruise:
Price: Ranging from $349-700+ NZD, depending on accommodation and season
Departure: Milford Sound. Options are also available to depart from Queenstown or Te Anau
Getting there: From Queenstown, it is a 4-hour drive to Milford Sound; from Te Anau, 1 hour and 40 minutes. You can also take buses or planes for transport.
Website: https://www.realjourneys.co.nz/en/experiences/cruises/milford-wanderer-overnight-cruises/
Other tips: Best to book this activity in advance, as this boat only holds 36 people at a time

Lookout Track:
Price: FREE! And who doesn’t like free??
Getting there: From the visitor center, there are marked signs pointing towards the track
Other tips: The track is only about 400 meters and open during park hours

So, there you have it, 3 amazing activities that you can enjoy for your Milford Sound visit! Hope you enjoyed reading this and we’d love to hear from you if you’ve done any of these activities or other activities that you would recommend. If these activities inspire you to visit Milford Sound, be sure to save the pins below for your future visit:

 

 

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Skyline Queenstown, Stratosfare Restaurant & Bar, New Zealand

When I first visited Queenstown in New Zealand back in 2011, it was peaceful, not very crowded, and very easy to get around. There was no such thing as traffic, I had a thousand parking spots to choose from, it was practically barren! With sparse crowds in the streets and shopping alleys, it was a very relaxed, simple and leisurely visit that I fully enjoyed.

Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown, NZ circa 2011

Fast forward to 2017 and that visit became a distant memory, though not necessarily in a bad way, although there was actual traffic and there were more people in one restaurant than an entire street compared to my last visit. But New Zealand’s tourism has exploded in the past few years and with the influx of tourists also meant needing to add a variety of new activities. Believe me, Queenstown has done that and more; whether you’re looking for a relaxing activity to the most thrilling, this town will have more than enough options to choose from.

We kept it pretty mellow for our first couple of activities. Our first attraction we went to check out was the Skyline Queenstown, which is pretty much a must-do activity within the city. You take a gondola up 450 meters with panoramic views of the surrounding landscape up to the top of Bob’s Peak. Tickets for just the gondola will run you around $27 USD for adults and $15 for children. There are also packages available that will drive down the overall cost.

Riding the gondola with panoramic views!

Once at the top, you are greeted with spectacular views of Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and all the way out towards the Remarkables mountain range and the surrounding landscapes. There’s also a surprisingly good variety of activities to do, including bungee jumping, paragliding, riding a luge, mountain biking, Kiwi Haka, and hiking. You just have to check the hours for certain activities on the Queenstown Skyline website and make reservations ahead of time. I will admit, watching people paragliding and getting a bird’s-eye view of Queenstown looked really cool.

However, we did not do any of those activities! So fun, right? Actually, we were coming off our wedding planning and wedding day so we were just wanting to relax a bit. Instead, we chose to have lunch at the Stratosfare Restaurant & Bar, which is a really nice place to dine. The restaurant has nice modern touches and very clean and organized. And wherever you are in the restaurant, with its floor-to-ceiling glass enclosure, there’s a view of the entire landscape.

When making the reservation, we noted that it was our honeymoon in hopes of getting a window seat and did they come through! We got seated in the corner of the restaurant, which gave us a high degree of panoramic views. Even if we weren’t eating here, we could enjoy this spot just for these views of Queenstown.

The Stratosfare Restaurant & Bar is a buffet-style dining experience. It cost us about $50 USD each for lunch, which includes the ride of the gondola, so it’s really only $23. It’s more expensive for the dinner, presumably because there’s a wider selection to choose from and probably for the evening ambiance. There’s still a good selection of food for lunch, including a salad bar, Asian-inspired dishes, sushi and seafood, a plethora of dessert options to choose from, and a complimentary beverage.

The food was not bad but could’ve been better. The Asian-inspired foods were clearly to cater towards Asian tourists but they weren’t anything like the traditional cooking of Asian foods and were fairly disappointing. The other options like the pasta, rotisserie, salad bar were far better options. The dessert bar was clearly the best of all and will easily satisfy the sweetest of sweet tooths. For the price and the experience, it is still pretty worth it, especially for the views that you can get that’s unlike many other places.

Regardless of what activity you’re looking for, Skyline Queenstown is a good place to start. You can easily spend a good half-day there with the numerous activities that they offer or enjoy a romantic dinner at the restaurants. At the very least, it’s probably the best place in Queenstown to soak in views of the stunning landscape.

Give us a pin if you liked this post and let us know what restaurants had your favorite views: 

 

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Tokoriki Island Scuba Diving & A Plea to Save Our Coral Reefs

Our Coral Reefs are Dying:

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.

Great Barrier Reef, Australia

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!

Left to Right: Will, Alex, us two, Del. Thanks 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.

To find out more about the plight about corals, go to www.chasingcoral.com for more about the documentary and visit http://coralreef.noaa.gov/ to learn more about ways to help with the conservation process of our coral reefs.

 

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Grand Pacific Hotel, Suva, Fiji – A Review of the “Grand Old Lady”

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.

Rear View of Grand Pacific 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:

Design: 5/5

Location: 5/5

Cleanliness: 5/5

Food/drink (Limited experience): 4.5/5

Room: 4.5/5

Amenities: 4.5/5

Staff: 4.5/5

Overall: 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.

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Fiji Shark Diving with BEQA Adventure Divers, Pacific Harbour

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!

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