Prolog: Well I have to start by thanking Dr. Sharon Laughlin our Diving “Doc” who helped me on my travels before I even left. She had contacted me to help her with some pictures the Saturday before we were to leave. She noticed I was not feeling to well and I told her I felt like I was coming down with the Flu! She called the pharmacy and got me an anti-viral that I had to take for seven days that helped me kick a full on Flu in only a week or so instead of the usual two to three weeks! This was my first Flu in 17 years and what a time to get it! I only lost one dive on the first dive day of the trip the second dive in the morning was too much for my head and junk in my Sinuses. The Sea helped me get the rest out my head and put me on the road to recovery. Thursday 23rd of November: After a fine Turkey Dinner with the family it was off to the Airport and a 10hr 45min. flight to Nadi Fiji from LAX. The flight, Air Pacific FJ 811 on a 747-400, was great and without incident except my coughing during the long night that saw us land a little after 5:00am Saturday 25th of November. Here we boarded the buss for the three-hour trip to Pacific Harbor and 40min. ride to Beqa Lagoon Resort (Formally Marlin Bay Resort) one of the finest dive resorts in the world located on beautiful Beqa Island in Beqa Lagoon Fiji. This was my fifth trip to this Island and Resort and the same high standards still apply that made it the number one dive resort in the world in 2001. The first day gets you there for lunch and your dive briefing and enough time to set up your gear and get in a shore dive if you feel like it. I used the time to set up my cameras and relax to gather my strength although getting stronger and feeling better by the day I was still not on my full game. That night saw the locals entertaining at the resort with a Bula Band and some good times at the bar and another great meal. I made arrangements with the management to have my HD camera brought down to the boat in the morning by a couple of the dive boys. Their new Australian Manager Markus was easy to work with and very accommodating in every request that we had. We had eleven divers including Mike, Glen, Dave, Nancy, Steve, Peggy, Mike, George, Laurie, Tony Wiley, and myself. Sunday the 26th of November. Morning light comes early in Fiji about 5:00am and I am up with the sun setting up my camera with freshly charged batteries and servicing my “O”-Rings for a morning out on the lagoon. It is a big Lagoon and though we leave at 8:00am their were times that we didn’t get back until 2:00pm. So I checked everything twice and set up my dry bag with extras that might be needed. We used the “Fire Walker” this trip and it is time for her to see a good over hauler she has lost a lot of speed over the years and needs her bottom cleaned. The first dive was at Three Sisters and with the rain they had the week before we had to deal with about five feet of fresh water with run-off silt on top of the seawater. Once you dropped below the layer the visibility increased to over 60ft. with a light wind chop and very low current. It was a nice first dive for all and I got in for my first dive with the Flu. The clearing part went fine and the dive itself was no problem although tiring. Used my still camera just to get in an easy dive to find out what was going to be the result. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be facing a reverse squeeze, vertigo, or who knew what? Well as it turned out the worst sinus headache I have ever had, even though while underwater I felt fine, until on the boat where it just wasn’t working for me! The second dive was at Shark Reef and I laid it out on deck with my head in my hands and feeling like deck debris. We returned back to the resort for lunch and a trip to Ravi-Ravi to visit old friends and introduce new ones to the local Fijians. Glen being a professor of Education was interested in the School Village and their education system. Tony did his magic tricks for the kids and adults as well. We got the tour of the school and an invitation to have Kava at the Minister house and of course more magic from Tony. I was feeling better by the hour as the pressure in my head eased as time passed. It was back to the resort for entertainment in the main Bure where the Bar is located and we have dinner. We were there with a bunch from Tennessee and before too long feeling like a part of our rowdy bunch. I showed the bartender how to make a Reedarita and the bar ran out of glasses in no time at all. These have become famous worldwide or at least wherever I have been, but will someday make it worldwide! Long days account for early bed times, after checking all the chargers and reviewing a few pictures it was time to try to get through the night without coughing a lung up, I was determined to get the HD fired up and in the water the next day, Flu or no Flu it was full speed ahead. Monday the 27th of November. Up with the sun again getting the cameras ready and shacking off the cobwebs from a night of dealing with the congestion in my head. The weather was a little windy with a light chop and clearing waters we headed for another great breakfast and the gathering of dive gear for the small boat ride out to the dive boats. The tide was on an out cycle and the dive boys were great about getting all my camera gear on the boats. For everyone else all you have to touch is your Skin, Camera, and any personal items you want to bring. The boats have Juice, Cookies, and lots of Water to keep you hydrated during the dive day. Today we headed for John’s Hole and a great Japanese Fishing Trawler that has collected great growth over the years. The visibility was better today and I had the HD in the water on its Lanyard ready to go on its first Fijian adventure. Once in the 80-degree water I headed south toward the sunken ship as the rest of the group gathered below the dive boat. The bow was the first thing that came into view, as I got closer, at a depth of about 70ft. where the visibility was about the same. I was there with just the Beast and all the beautiful coral growth gliding over the deck and a long the Gunnels with the wide-angle lens capturing all the beauty of this wreck for HD display at a date in the future. In no time at all the rest of the divers were filtering in with their eyes glued to the decks and all the living creatures that now call it home. A Red Lionfish with a friend floated behind the Wheel House a Mid-Ship as divers flashed away with their cameras capturing their graceful movements as the swam just inches above the decks. The DM found a perch on the mast on the Forecastle where he could keep a watchful eye on his charges below. After about 25min. on the wreck it was time to head for John’s Hole, a beautifully decorated swim through, with Soft Corals and Sea Fans lining the edges and sides of the 40ft long swim through. A few years ago a got a still photo in this Hole of a Golden Murex on the wall.I was busy with all the beauty around me that I forgot about my head and was feeling fine as rain. After a 50 plus minute dive it was time to hang the Beast on its Lanyard and climb out. We had picked up a little more wind and chop while in the water and required us to hand up our equipment and climb aboard. Once on board with the beast hauled in, I was off to the top deck, where my head reminded me it was still there in all its glory of a Flu. With head in hand it was off to the next dive site and I was hopping it would be a two tank day for me. The next site was Turtlehead Reef with a set of beautiful Boomies full of live and color. After a surface interval of an hour plus my head was feeling better and I readied the still camera for the next dive. I actually had a small smile on my face as I geared up for the dive. A Giant Stride later and I was enveloped by the warm water and heading down the side of one of the Boomies at the site. It was one cool picture after another as I tried to remember my mental checklist to get the pictures I needed and wanted. With the Flu on my mind it was an effort to even remember I had a list let alone what was on it. I was still very happy that I was making the second dive of the day without a pounding headache. A note about my HD camera, I have to remark how well built the Sony FX-1 is. I pound this camera around water and have dropped it a couple times with no effect until this trip. I dropped it a broke the LCD display when the glass shattered, but the camera it’s self didn’t let me down and I am very pleased with its performance. It is a proven performer that should have a operator that pays better attrition to it, but it gets used in real life situations and I like that. The only issue is weight including the L & M housing that cost me extra every time I fly. I took both my systems out on the boat everyday so that I could cover both aspects of beautiful Beqa Lagoon. On smaller boats without camera tables it is a challenge to keep both safe and in good condition. I use the rinse tanks for rinse only and store the cameras some place safe from shock and bumps from other systems. Back to the action at Turtlehead Reef as the wind and seas picked up above us the conditions below stayed about the same, a little murky but not too bad, you just had to get as close as possible to cut out the back scatter. This reef system has a lot going on the top of the reefs with more fish and corals than you think possible.We climbed back aboard and headed the boat towards lunch and another afternoon on Beqa Island with friends. After a bumpy ride back across the Lagoon we unloaded and headed for another fine meal and a dip in the new pool. It was a great addition to a well-appointed resort that now gets used by a number of the guests. The old pool was too small and was always cold while the new pool was warm and inviting as well as relaxing. It was easy to nap on afternoons like these with the Flu waning and the cameras taken care of a power nap was perfect. Then off to the Big Bure for Popcorn that we brought and a Reedarita before dinner. Again we were entertained by the Bula Band and exchanged dive stories between both groups. This is one of the best parts of diving with such a diversity of people we all have diving in common that breaks the ice and allows for good times by all.By the way the Fijian word for Ice is Ice, because until the Europeans showed up there was no such word or ice in Fiji. Tuesday 28th of November. Dawn brought a beautiful day of light winds and calm seas. I was feeling better buy the day and was up and setting up the cameras for a day in the Blue World of Beqa Lagoon. We had another great breakfast and loaded up the skiff for our short trip to the mooring line where the Fire Walker awaited us loaded with our dive gear and set up just the way we liked it. The weather was holding and we headed for a dive site called “Fantasy” in Beqa Lagoon that consists of a couple of large Boomies full of soft corals and a multitude of fish. There were a number of Red Lionfish on the main Boomie and Anemone Fish on the tops of all of them. This is a beautiful site and had to chose between stills and HD, but I know at this site it didn’t matter. After a dive that lasted over an hour with no current at all and no wind or chop we headed out side the reef to find a new site on the outside of the reef. I was the first one in at this new site and the Dive Boys named it Reed’s Hard Coral Garden. Being on the outside of the reef and pounded every day the hard corals were in great shape, but not good conditions for soft corals or too many little fish. It had a great wall and some fun swim throughs for the HD. After this dive I climbed out and had to heave with all my Flu residuals left over from the week. You would have thought I was sea sick watching me, but it was the Flu’s last fling at trying to make miserable and it almost worked. We cruised back the same direction that had brought us a pod of Spinner Dolphins on the way out, but not one to be seen this time and no magical Bow Dance to the cheers of diver and crew a like. With memories like these how could I let a thing like the Flu get me down. A smooth ride back and it was time to clean the gear have lunch and go to Rouka Village to see Ratu Tqacolla and his wife. He became Ratu when his brother Ratu Kinney passed away last November. Ratu Kinney was a great friend and will be missed by all that had the pleasure of meeting him and taking his famous Village and Church tour. We brought gifts for the kids and eyeglasses for the Ratu’s wife to pass out as needed. The Village now has it’s own little tourist store that Tony and I suggested to Ratu Kinney a few years ago and to see it open was another smile on our faces. Over the years we have brought a ton of School Supplies, Cloths, Medical Supplies, Toys, and Eyeglasses. We love to help out where we can and these wonderful people can use our help and better yet they appreciate it without expecting it in any way. This puts a prospective on life and warms your heart to see the true gratitude in the eyes of the “Friendliest People on Earth” and makes you examine the priorities in your own life. We returned just in time for the Fire Walking. They build a fire and let it burn for about five hours with large stones in it. Then they remove the remaining wood and arrange the stones flat on the bottom of the pit. After they’re stabilized so they don’t tip as the Walkers walk across they line up to take turns walking across the pit and standing on the Hot Stones and shout Bula to the spectators with hands in the air. The Stones are hot enough to set bundles of grass on fire on contact as the Walkers toss them in to bless the stones and pit. At the end they cover the pit with green branches and squat to sing a Fire Walkers song. The complete Story of the Fire Walkers was best told by the late Ratu Kinney of Roukoa Village, it is said that it started in the Village of Daquibeqa on the south side of Beqa Island. We have been lucky enough to have visited this village a number of times and this time meet the new Ratu that has taken his place in the village after the old Ratu died a couple of years ago. After The Fire Walking the Walkers meet with the guest for pictures and hand shaking. We then all headed for the Bar and another great dinner and dessert. More Bula Band and visiting among the two groups and a few friendships developed and it was time to put head to pillow as soon as all the batteries were charging and the housings serviced for the next day. Wednesday the 29th on November. Another great day was downing and I was feeling better as time passed. I readied the housings and cameras and had been told if the weather held we would be going out to Frigates Pass for a wall dive and if luck enough a second outside the reef dive at My Best. We headed down the pathway past the Frog Pond Bures, just ask George about the frogs, and to the main Bure for breakfast, and grab our Skins from the Dive Locker. We loaded up as usual except a little earlier because of the long ride out. By 7:30AM we were heading for Frigates Pass on a smooth sea and fun chatty ride as the dive stories flowed. We pulled up to the mooring and had pretty good visibility 100ft plus from the surface. With a double overhead left hand break in the background we were at a site called Surf Zone. I splashed the Beast for this nice wall dive with swim throughs and cathedrals along a Swiss cheese reef. We were there with at least 5 White Tip Reef Sharks, Giant Clams, Hard Corals, and a verity of colorful fish. We headed down the wall to about ninety feet or so and headed out toward the outside of the reef until about half our air was depleted and turned around heading back along the top of the reef. Over an hour later I was hanging the Beast on the Lanyard to be hauled aboard. On this dive Tony Wiley used his communication mask so we could narrate the video and used all of his air on the last shot of the dive. From Surf Zone to My Best is a short hop, but the wind and seas had come up big time from the east, so being on the out side of the reef was an advantage. Some divers were worried about the conditions being outside the reef and thought about sitting this one out. After the dive they were all glade they didn’t as tucked in behind the reef we had wind but no surge or current. The Boomies that comprise this site have a number of swim throughs and cuts that harbor lots of fish and I have seen sharks here many times in the past. I took my still camera and got Flat Worms, fish of all colors, and some great Soft Coral. The Visibility was still pretty good and the hour long dive went by quick as there was so much to see and we worked our way around the Boomies getting higher on each pass and as we did it got more and more colorful the closer to the tops we got. We ended with all aboard with big smiles and a hunger for Beekajuice and cookies. We were now facing big seas and clouds that had rolled in on the wind. It was a slugfest heading back to Beqa Island and the spray was breaking over the bow as we headed east right into the wind. By 2:30pm we were pulling up to the mooring line and loading into the small skiff heading for lunch and a trip to Ravi-Ravi for Prize Giving Day at the school as it was their last school day before Summer break. Professor Glen was a Guest of Honor and wasn’t going to miss it come rain or high water! And it did and he didn’t! I was still feeling the Flu and took a small nap and then headed for the Pool for a dip. It felt so good in the warm water just relaxing and looking forward to a popcorn snack that the Chef Lalo made so great with butter and honey, man was that good with a cold drink and sweet fingers covered in butter. We bring popcorn with us each time and the Fijians love it and it helps get you through Happy Hour instead of the Parrot food they call a snack. We settled in for another night at the bar and a another great Meal and Dessert. More stories of diving and the day’s adventures at the school. Before you know it was after 10:00pm and time to head to the Plantation House and my room. A quick check on the chargers, some conversation with the Professor, and it was time to crawl on to my big Fore Poster Bed that was turned down with an Orchid on the Pillow, the Air Conditioner cranked up and humming, and the hope of a restful night in the back of my mind. It was getting better everyday and every night as well I was starting to fell human again. Thursday the 30th of November. Once more the sun was coming up over the hill behind us early on this late spring day with no time adjustment that we call “Day Light Savings Time” to coordinate the clock and the sun for better sleeping. With less coughing now sleeping a little longer was looking better every morning. The sky was light by 4:45am each morning and my brain kept saying get up and start moving. My watch gave up the ghost on the first dive of the week so guessing was my only hope of being on time. I laid in my bed trying not get up too early, but afraid to sleep past the time I needed to get breakfast and all my camera stuff ready for another full day. Well I guess over the years I have developed a good sense for the time and it worked out every morning. If I was wrong it wasn’t by much and I was usually early rather than late. I headed down the walkway again for the fifth time with an arm full of gear. The rest of the divers filtered in two by two and one by one until the next thing you know they were all setting around the big wooden tables with the day menus and order slips that we filled out each day. A good hardy breakfast with some fresh fruit and lots of fresh water and juice and it was time to load for our last regular day of diving. This time we headed to Soft Coral Flat Plateau with a little wind and chop in our face but not bad. We were faced with a cap of a couple of feet of fresh water runoff and silting from the storm that had blown in the day before as we were heading back. It rained all night off and on, but had hit the big island hard and we could see the effects for ourselves. You couldn’t see five feet down, but once you were under it we had 80ft visibility and no current at this beautiful site. I decided to do the still camera on this dive with low light and not sure of the conditions that we would find. We saw Banner Fish, Blue Ribbon Eels, Lion Fish, Mora Eel, Puffer Fish, and a bunch of Anemone Fish festooning the tops of the Boomies as seems typical in Beqa Lagoon. It is defiantly the standard for this large oval Lagoon with all its tall standing pinnacles known as Boomies. We climbed aboard at the hour mark to find the wind had picked up and the wave action was getting a little rougher in this part of the Lagoon. I suggested to the DM that we head back and do the “Reef Wreck” in front of the resort were we would be protected by the leeward side of the island and hopefully find little our no current at this site. We headed to the buoy that marked the site by the shallow reef markers with radar reflectors on them. We tied up by the stern and the DM thought that the current might be a little tough and warned that if carried away to use your signal device and we would be picked up by the boat down current after the dive was over. A couple of the divers decided it might be too tough a dive to tackle and decided to abandon ship for a early lunch back at the big Bure. We splashed down and grabbed the mooring line and went down hand over hand with the beast in tow. After about ten feet the current let up and was very mild, seems it was a surface current driven by wind and wave from the open side of the lagoon. On the way down I spotted a juvenile Leaf Fish, but it was gone before I could maneuver the Beast into position. The DM saw it as well and gave me a big okay with a smile as we dropped further down the reef and headed for the wreck lying next to it up current from the reef. At 60 to 70 ft the current was all but gone and the wreck has gotten a lot of new growth and critters on it. Around the wreck was Cushion Stars, Soft Corals, Hard Corals, Stone Fish, and the biggest Oyster I had ever seen. I cruised the wreck and surrounding reef and headed back so I could unload the camera from the housing in order to get the divers coming out of the water after the dive. We got some good reactions from some surprised divers about the Conditions, the Wreck, and the Reef. The early deserters were disappointed when they heard about the conditions and the cool stuff we found and the wreck that is becoming an artificial reef in quick order. We now only had a five-minute ride back for lunch and those that were doing the night dive had time to clean their equipment and let it dry before climbing back into it. They ended up with five night divers and good conditions once the sun went down. I decided to do a shore dive just before sunset in the Lagoon a few steps away. I have always enjoyed this dive in the past and have gotten some great shots including a Sea Horse in this area. No takers for tag a longs so I went solo on this one with the still camera. In the past I had a search party out for me with a two-hour dive and lost in my camera. The max depth is about 35ft way out at the end of the reef. This time I went out along the edge of the shore reef finding cool stuff to play with and photograph. About 35 minutes in I could hear the night dive group go by in the skiff above me and realized I should have either started earlier or brought a light with me as the sun was sinking pretty fast and my dive was turning into a transition dive. At forty-five minute I decided it would be best to turn around and not linger on the way home. I ended up with an hour ten dive coming up just off shore at dark with the resort lights on and the moon coming up and 1500psi in my tank, I know how the woman feel bring back all that air. The good thing was it was my third dive of the day and my head was feeling great and I was over the hump with the Flu. I walked back up to the dive lockers washed my gear and headed for a warm shower before dinner. Being so late I almost missed happy hour but showed up in the nick of time. A great Dinner and Dessert again and some more Bula Band music and I was able to reflect on a good day of diving and a week that went pretty well and very fast. George, Glen, a couple from the Tennessee group, and myself signed up for the Big Fish Encounter, done from the big island, so George was trying to recruit a few more for the dive at dinner. We were hopping for a Tiger Shark and maybe some Bull Sharks, we were told that the prior week had three Tiger Sharks showing up so we were talking about possibilities and hopes until bed time after ten again. We all discussed how fast the time had gone by and were starting to get melancholy as the night wore on. The feelings of accomplishment, friendships, and new adventures is what makes these trips and adventures so memorable and satisfying in a larger life sense. The memories warm my heart on a cold December night as I reminisce about each dive, each friend, and each adventure. I can’t think of anything else I rather be doing at this point in my life. I have never felt so fulfilled with this much clothing on! Off to bed as we had to be off early for the trip to the Big Fish Dive site and had to make sure that all my batteries were charged and the camera was ready to dive. Friday the 1st of December. Morning came and I was up as usual putting the cameras together for the last time this week. I headed for an early breakfast so we could get an early start for the “Big Fish Encounter” in order to meet the boat from the main island. We were put in the Fishing Boat with all of our gear and one of our DMs went with the five of us Glen, George, Bill, Tina, and myself. The dive operation from Pacific Harbor does the feed at their sight with mooring and lines set up. On the bottom they have two “Theaters” that they have set up for two dives and two feedings. Complete with stepping stone blocks set on the bottom with ropes around the area and supports holding the ropes off the bottom. The first thing I noticed was the amount of fish and chum aboard the Aluminum dive boat that was tying up just ahead of us as our boat captain timed it perfectly to the dive site. There were four big trashcans and plastic bags of fish parts stacked on the back deck of the dive boat. They sent over their DM Joe to brief us about the dives. We set up our gear, reassured Tina that she would not be eaten and watched as really big fish and some small sharks came in to feed on the chum. A conflagration of fish swam in every direction around the diver with the big green trash bin at the deep site at about 85ft next to a large coral head. He was taking fish out of the bin and distributing large pieces to the fish that were in a feeding frenzy. I notice the size and types of Fish; the first thing I noticed was theses were ocean sports fish for the most part. Wahoo, Jacks, Yellow Fin Tuna, Giant Queensland Grouper, Trivally, and a ton of other of the usual suspects. The action was fast and furious, but no sharks to speak off, just a couple small Grays, one Silver Tip, and a Nurse Shark. At this depth we ran out of bottom time and had to head up the line for our safety stop. The beast rolled for most of the dive with fish after fish swimming by with the visibility cut by all the activity created by the feeding. It was almost too much going on. It will make for good video I think with all the action and just shear numbers. The DM waved me over the rope and found a close to the action spot for me to settle in and catch all the action from just a couple feet away from the Bin. There were a lot of cameras and videos, but none as close to the action as the Beast. I was hopping for the freight train of fish the Tiger Shark to come by or a big Bull Shark. Two weeks before they had three Tigers come in for a short time, but like the old surf days “You should have been here yesterday!” The one thing I have learned is the sea picks the time you don’t! The beast footage maybe of the gigantic Moray Eel and his friend on the way back up on the coral head at about 50ft. they knew a good thing when they saw it and got some great handouts. The surface interval was longer than normal sense we had to go back to 65ft. for the second dive. After a tank change and some cookies and juice we talked to Joe the Fijian Dive Master from Beqa Island and specifically Ravi-Ravi Village. He paid me a very nice complement as to my reputation on the island, he said “He knew my name” and “He had heard good things about me from his friends on Beqa”. I thanked him for the kind words and introduced him to Professor Glen so they could talk education while we killed so much time on the boat. This is a place were the old meets the new and in recent time the Cell phone has made its inroads. This trip the Fijians were taking pictures of Dolphins with their phone cameras and making cell phone calls from the boats even when they had to change position on the boat to get a better signal. The Drums have been silenced by the Cell Phone for all time! The Beast was ready as I was to make another dive and the hope of a big Shark. We dropped into the blue one more time and again the DM gave me a place of honor on the inside of the rope in the arena near the Food Bin as the feeding was as it never stopped. The fish were in abundance as on the prior dive and a glimpse of the occasional shark on the outside of the fish ball, but with all the fish you couldn’t see what they were at all. The second dive went the same as the first dive in everyway except the depth. So we got to stay and watch about the same amount of time, about 40min. or so, until bottom time was reached. I then started back up slowly watching below as the feeding was tailing off I spotted a larger shark coming in to pick for leftovers I could see it was a Bull Shark who was just too shy to come in with us all there. So with no bottom time I headed back down, but he was too shy and swam away from me before I could get the Beast focused on him. So with my computer screaming at me I reluctantly headed for my safety stop and the boat. After some good byes we headed back for another great lunch and more planned activities on the other side of Beqa Island and the Village of Dakuimbeqa. After another fine lunch we packed up the last of the school supplies, Glasses, Cloths, and Miscellaneous Stuff loaded up the larger dive boat and headed out to visit this rarely visited village on the south side of Beqa Island. Missi one of the DMs and a Firewalker by birth went with us to his village to give us a tour and introduce us to the New Ratu and his Grandparents and Parents. We got the whole tour and a formal welcome by the Village Spokesman and the Ratu. After giving the school supplies and the rest of the gifts we sat down for some Kava and small talk at the Community House. We all had a bowel or two then excused ourselves for the trip back to the resort. On the way back we saw double rainbows and one of them stopped at the gravesite of Ratu Kinni in front of the resort. It was a Beautiful sight fitting the end of our adventure to this Idyllic Paradise of Fiji. We returned for our last dinner and to pack or stuff, break down our gear, and tell our final stories, while we were being entertained by the locals with traditional farewell songs and dances, after another world-class dinner. What a way to end a great week with new friends and old ones as well. This is one of the hardest places to leave on earth. The next morning the Dive Boys came by at 7:00am to pick up our luggage for the trip back to the mainland. They loaded everything as we had our last breakfast on Beqa, at least until next time. We sat around timing our departure for the bus that brings the next group from the airport so we didn’t have to sit around waiting for it. There is not a dry eye in the house when the Fijians start singing a goodbye song as we board the boat with the last of our belongings and our hearts on our sleeves! The island of Beqa (Pronounced Bang-ah) sits to the right of Beqa Lagoon witch is about 27 miles in circumference just 7 miles south of the big island of Viti Levu and Pacific Harbor. It is the 14th largest Island of the Fijian Archipelago at 178.5* Longitude and 17.5* Latitude below the Equator. So traveling from LAX you lose 20hrs by crossing the International Dateline. Also the Seasons are reversed from the northern Hemisphere. Beqa is a Beautiful Tropical Paradise with no Roads, Power, (Other than the Resorts), no TV, some Cell service, and the greatest People I have met on the planet. There are nine villages around the island that is roughly Eighteen square miles in size of green rough hills and beautiful beaches. Now we were pulling into Pacific Harbor were we started from to catch the bus back to the Airport for some and Jack’s in Sigatoka for us. Tony, Laurie, George, and myself had a mission that would take us into the steaming Jungles of Fiji in search of a place where no one had gone before. It was a follow up to Tony’s exploration from a previous year. This adventure had the earmarks of an exciting time all over it. We were asked by a production company to see if this project might go somewhere in the future. We were to be the spearhead of exploration before more time and money is spent on a project that could end up like Al Capons Hidden Vault. So we had very little information about this cave in the jungle that a fellow from England in the early eighties was supposed to have ventured into with a rope tied to his waist. Now with modern cave gear and a HD camera we hoped to find something special that no one has ever seen. Because of the sensitive nature of this project I cannot give the location of the Village or Cave, but I can say it is a long way from the coast and off the beaten path. We had to get special permission from the Ratu in order to proceed as planned. Even though Tony had gotten it before, he thought, it turned out he didn’t have permission from the Ratu and we had to start from scratch. But I am getting ahead of myself and need to start where the other story ends. The 2nd of December 2006 Afternoon. We said goodbye to those on the bus at Jack’s (A famous sell everything Tourist chain of stores in Fiji) and got a cab and arranged to be taken back the way we came a few Kilometers to a beautiful little resort called The “New” Crows Nest. This would be our base of operations on the Coral Coast of Viti Levu. Tony gave George and I the task of locating tanks and weights for the dive we hoped to make later in the week. We called for a cab and were picked up by Baboo a Indian Fijian who retired after serving as a Policeman for 25 years. We told him we needed dive operations and he took us to our first stop late in the day on a Saturday. We couldn’t say much about our task and yet had to convince a dive operator to give us tanks and weights for our project without knowing what it was. Well as you might guess this was going to be a lot harder than we might have thought. A little background as to what was happing in Fiji while we were there, a Coup, that’s right a coup. This one was Fijian on Fijian and seemed to be supported by the vast majority of the population. One of the things that had been passed was a law that said you have to have a Fijian DM on every dive! This was just one issue on a long list of things people were not happy about. The feeling was they were passed by corrupt politicians and were anti tourist and economy. The Coup scared off many people from New Zeeland and Australia and generally killed the economy as a whole. The good news for us is nothing was crowded or busy. The resort had 34 rooms and only 4 were rented out and we had two of them. No rush at the restaurant that was for sure and with the surprise ordering food is in Fiji it was a relief. Ordering is an adventure in itself, for example on the first day I ordered lunch, so I went with something simple like a Cheese Burger and Fries. So it went something like this, “I will have the Burger with Cheese and Fries” to which the waitress asked “do you want Ham on that as well” I was all smiles. It sounded like a Chicken Cur’ den Blue to me so I said, “sure sounds good”, but I read the menu and added “I do not want the fried Egg” That’s right it comes with a fried egg on it! So in about an hour it showed up as ordered and with fries and it was pretty good stuff and hit the spot. The next day I shortened the order to “Cheese Burger and Fries with no Egg”. Well it came as the day before and I picked it up and it seemed different some how, on inspection I noticed it was a ball of cheese with no meat! I called the waitress over and said “where is the beef” she looked at me funny and I again said, “my burger does not have any meat, did you forget something?” She disappeared into the kitchen and the Chef came out to see what was wrong. He looked at it and me and said, “you wanted a Cheese Burger didn’t you?” to which I answered “why yes”! He looked puzzled and said, “Did you want Ham on it” “you have the Burger Bun and Cheese so it is a Cheese Burger!” You didn’t ask for the Ham!” Then the light went on and I ask for a Hamburger with Cheese and he understood and 30 minutes later I was eating lunch! We came back and reported to Tony that the task would be tougher than we thought. We decided to set everything up first before we worried about the gear and let Baboo know we needed him to take us to our mystery Village this comingMonday morning bright and early! We had decided that dropping in on the Village on Sunday without an invitation would not be proper in a world of formal customs and traditions. We had the resort to ourselves that evening and taught another Bartender how to make a Reedarita until they ran out of Grand Marnier and we were sunk! Dinner like lunch was a surprise and an adventure, but no one went hungry. The resort provided entertainment using local villagers singing and doing the Fijian Two-step. In the mean time Tony decided to impress the staff with his slight of hand. He soon had the entire Bar and Kitchen staff watching his impromptu performance until the Chef had a Blue Light pulled from his ear, then all hell broke loss and he was last seen running out the backdoor screaming and waving his hands! Lucky for us they had two Chefs that night and we all eat sense the guests were limited to only three tables. Tony was chuckling through the entire dinner and the staff kept an eye on him at all times that evening. When it slowed down he would be asked to do some more without fear of driving more staff away. The 3rd of December 2006.
Sunday Morning was a slow relaxing time for us. We had been at it non-stop for 10 days and now it was time to relax sleep in a little and recharge our batteries for the rest of the adventure. I got up and took a stroll on the beautiful sand beach in front of the resort behind the barrier reef off in the distance. The surf was small and gentle by the time it rolled up on the beach although there was a strong long shore current heading west.
I thought about doing some Kayaking, but decided it was too much like work with the long shore current and today was not a day for work. We used the Resorts Pool and lazed around the grounds until it was time for George to hunt down the Grand Marnier on a Sunday afternoon. Baboo know where to try and find it, but after three tries we were about to call it, but Baboo wanted to find it for us to prove his worth in some small way. Sure enough he struck pay dirt in a market where he convinced the manager to sell it to the tourists on a Sunday, but with the Coup going on I don’t think we were any ones problem at this point. George was on a mission to find a Boars Tooth Necklace and Laurie was trying to find ear medicine for Tony’s infected ear. He was pretty funny yelling at everyone because he couldn’t hear and asking “what” all the time. Of course my concern was the big dive was coming if all our plans came together and if his ear was bad it might be a solo dive. He would have blown his ear before he passed this one up I know that for a fact. With our prize in George’s hand we headed back to the resort and hopes of Reedarita for the evening. I will say this was a poorly stocked bar at best unless you wanted Fiji Beer. We were told, but who knows, that Muslims owned the resort and weren’t happy about having a bar. My feeling is “if it’s worth doing it’s worth doing right or don’t do it at all!” So that was our Sunday just kick back and give Tony, who ended up at the Doctors that night, time to heal his ear. We enjoyed another night of entertainment and headed off to bed and an early morning pickup by our cabdriver.
The 4th of December 2006.
We got up with the sun and I didn’t have a clue when I woke up what time it was with my watch down for the count, but assumed within 15 minutes what time it was sense the sun comes up so early. We had enough time for a quick breakfast and were the only ones in the restaurant we gathered our thoughts and plans for the day and Baboo was right on time again. We loaded ourselves in the cab and headed to our secret location and a meeting with the Ratu. A couple hours of bouncing down a dirt road to a village that at first Baboo didn’t want to go until we said another cab was willing to take us there. We dodged Oxen, a Road grader, Horses, and Work crews as Baboo was telling us about a horse that hit his cab and it had reared up putting a hoof through the passenger side windshield killing the passenger. By the way this was where I was setting during our adventure around blind corners and by a number of horses! The scenery was beautiful with all the green hills and tropical coverage along the route in contrast to the bright blue sky made for great vistas and many picture opportunities. We know the name of the Ratu we needed to find and Baboo went about asking everyone on the road if they had seen him. We found the village and inquired at the house Tony had visited last year. It was the house of the spokesman and his brother. Laurie remembered his wife and she recognized Tony and Laurie as well. Her husband was not in the village, but her Brother-in-law was home and was also the village Spokesman and was going to take us to meet with the Ratu. It turned out that Tony had only talked to the spokesman the year before and didn’t have permission from the Ratu to dive the cave. So this is why we were here to firm things up and get the permission we needed. We brought the traditional Kava root gift for the Ratu and were ready to parley with him and see what we could work out. We headed for the Ratu’s House and the spokesman let them know we were here. As it turned out the Ratu’s Wife needed some time to straighten up her house for company. Some things are universal around the world and the real boss of the house is one of them. While she cleaned the Spokesman guided us to the church, the church is always the social center of the Village and is held as a point of pride for the Village. We looked over the valley below and the mountains that held the cave from our vantage point above the Village. We waited a respectable time and headed back down to the Ratu’s House where we were invited in to meet with the Ratu of this and eight other Villages that surrounded this one.
Once in the house we took are place to the side of the Ratu Qiro and presented our Kava Gift to the Spokesman. Who in turn presented it to the Ratu with all the proper ceremony required. With a lot of clapping and Fijian prayer blessings cited by both the Ratu and the Spokesman the gift was excepted and we were asked about our qualifications to dive their cave and our intent. Tony would tell him about us and our dive plan and that we would respect the sanctity of the cave. He asked us not to harm it or take anything from the cave. We assured him we would only take pictures and do our best not to disturb and part of the cave. He was doing his best to see if we could come back next week and we had to explain that we only had a few days left and must do the dive tomorrow or the next day before we ran out of time and had to return home. That is if the planes were flying during the Coup and we weren’t forced to extend trip. He decided that Wednesday would be a good day to do the diving and gave us permission to dive the cave on Wednesday and he wanted us at the village at 9:00am to start our adventure. During all of this we were fed the best Pineapple we have ever had and chatted about a number of subjects. The only problem was that Tony’s ear was still infected and he couldn’t hear a thing and I had to be his Spokesman to yell at him what the Ratu and Spokesman had said. When we got permission Tony had not heardand was going on about our plan, I had to stop him and yell at him “We have permission to dive the Cave”! The Ratu and Spokesman thought that was very funny and got a good laugh at Tony having a Spokesman. It was perfect Tony being Ratu PapaKini, you will have to look up for yourself what that means in Fijian.
With the Ratu’s permission we headed back to find and secure our equipment and hope that Tony’s earwould get better. We headed back and stopped at another village for a visit that Baboo knew about and had friends in. We were given the grand tour and a welcome ceremony complete with Kava and dancing. When they found out about Tony’s ear the call went out through the village for the herbs for his ear. They had him lay down and put a couple drops in and rest a few minutes and then repeated the process once more before we left. We headed back to our base camp to give Tony time to get some more rest and let the herbs and meds work. He had less than two days to heal his ears.
We dropped Tony off at the Resort and headed for the Big Hotel down the road that had a dive shop. We were told that the shop had just closed and would be open tomorrow at 8:00am. So George and I headed back letting Baboo know to be back at 7:30am so we could see if we could make arrangements for gear. George and I thought we would get in a couple dives with the operation and gain their trust, so that our request wouldn’t be so far off base. Other wise we had permission and no equipment to dive the cave and all would be for not. The tension was mounting, but in Fiji you have to say Sanga nelanga (No Problem) and some how things will work out and if they don’t there is nothing you can do about it anyway. So back at the resort George burned of some energy by walking along the beach I caught thirty winks and got up in time to meet Tony, Laurie, and George at the pool for some more relax time and find out that the bar had run out of more ingredients for Reedaritas. We did dinner and entertainment and Tony did more magic without driving out any staff. George and I stayed up until about ten our so and then headed for bed and the task at hand to secure Tanks and Weights for the big dive.
The 5th of December 2006.
Baboo picked George and I up at 7:30am and we headed for the Big Hotel and the dive shop. We ended up having to take a detour or two and walk from the Lobby to the Building that housed the dive shop that was the furthest from the Lobby of course. We waited and about 10 minutes past opening time the Dive Guy showed up and we told him we wanted to dive. He in his finest Fijian style asked us “You want to dive today?” We answered that yes, today would be great and he then told us that this was just a satellite office and that we would have to drive about a half hour up the coast to Mikes Dive. He called ahead and arranged for us to be there for a morning dive our two. We showed up and signed the releases and met a couple that was diving with us from Eastern Europe. We met the owner and she seemed very nice so I figured I would break the ice and give her something to think about while we were diving. She wasn’t sure with the new law and guide requirement. Luckily Baboo was there to vouch that we had the Ratu’s permission to dive, while being vague as to where we would be diving. She said she would give it some thought and we headed out to the boat a small pong type boat. The DM set up all our gear and carried it down to the boat lying it in the bottom. We had some starter rope problems and the mechanic fixed it on the spot while we had Tea. Wiley the DM was friendly and a jokester as well as very helpful.
With the little outboard purring we headed for the split in the reef and as the large swell crashed on the reef we timed our departure just right to get behind the waves before the closed into a torrent of white froth. The surf had been running large the last couple of days and the low was just now moving out of the area. These were the leftovers that reminded me of one of those pull in surf videos you see on sports channels. I was happy we had an experienced boat operator who know right where to go.
Once we were behind the reef we headed north behind the big rollers to a spot where the DM yelled “Get ready” we rolled in and headed down and north on our drift dive into the current and with a pretty good surge. I had my still camera and dropped down right on a couple Red Lionfish compensated for the surge and took a couple of good stills. We then headed north again along the wall that made up the backside of the reef. This was the hardest working drift dive I have ever done drifting against the current! This was called Morgan’s Wall and was very beautiful despite the surge and hard work to dive it. The next part was the fun part, getting back in the boat with no ladder and in the swell. Lucky for me I had a number of hands helping me climb the Gunnels including our European friend who was built like California’s Governor in his younger days. One good push and I was cascading over the side and into the bottom of the boat.We cut our way by the crashing waves and back into the safety of the lagoon created by the reef that protects the Coral Coast of Fiji. We off gassed and talked with the owner and staff while enjoying Cookies and Tea. The tanks were changed and we reloaded the boat for the second trip through the reef and behind the big rollers.
On the second dive we repeated the same scenario with a shoulder roll and the camera handed down to me and we started down as soon as we hit the water. This time the current wasn’t as bad even though we were still “drifting” into it. This was an equally as beautiful wall with all the Fijian regulars and a couple of turtles cruising off the wall with the current. George saw an Operculum down at ninety feet and headed for it, while I cruised the wall at about 60 plus feet. I heard a noise behind me that sounded very much like George and it was, he had blown an O-ring on his tank and was loosing air fast, lucky for him the DM saw all the bubbles and headed for him as he was making his way to the surface. The DM shut of his air and gave him his back up regulator. There was George finishing his dive attached by a regulator to the DM as he was showing us leather corals and how they react to touch. George in the mean time was trying to snap pictures as he was being dragged by the mouth along the wall by the DM whom hardly noticed George was there. The dive ended up a little short with the air sharing. But we were running out of reef anyway as we got closer to the split in the outer reef.
We returned to the dive shop and unloaded or gear and washed it in the fresh water rinse. I asked the owner if we were “a go” for the weights and tanks and with a big smile she said yes. I had to sign a release basically saying we stole the gear if things went bad and it was theirs if thing went good. It was fine with us and she had checked our web site while we were gone and knew we were well prepared for our adventure. Baboo helped load all the gear including the tanks and we were off to the resort for a shower and dinner at Baboo’s house.
He had become fond of use and enjoyed having a few days of work sense the Coup had killed the tourist business. We headed back and dropped off our gear and headed for lunch and to report to our leader.
He in the mean time had gone into town and stopped by the other dive shop to cover our selves in case George and I struck out. He was quit persuasive and we now had a fall back plan as well. Tony was now in the Central Market Place in town doing Magic for the locals and drawing big crowds. We meet him back at the resort and we filled each other in on the days adventures.When we got back to the resort our friend Kitti who had come over from Beqa to meet us for the day and dinner was waiting for us. So he and George headed for the bar at the big hotel down the beach and I headed back to the rooms for forty winks and to get ready for our dinner with Kitti in town. We asked Baboo to pick all of us up at 7:00 pm and take us to the restaurant of his choice. He took us to one he felt we would like and we all embarked on a dining adventure where some things were limited to first ordered first served. I came up on two dinners that they had run out of and George had a similar experience as well. We tried to show them how to make a Reedarita and it turned out to be something that no one could recognize as ant kind of drink we have ever had, but we politely drank the concoction with as little a grim us as we could muster.
We finished our dinner and called for Baboo to pick us up. We said good-by to Kitti who caught a ride back to Pacific Harbor on a truck going that way. I couldn’t figure out if Kitti know the guy in the truck or if he just got a ride. Although it ended up that the security guard at the restaurant was Kitti’s cousin. Fiji is one of those places that once you know some one, you know some one, who knows that some one! Also I have noticed that information travels fast, like there is telephone, telegraph, and tell a Fijian. Tony again was drawing a crowd in front of the restaurant with his Magic while we waited for Baboo to pick us up. People had already heard about Tony from his show in the market and were happy to stop and watch until Baboo showed up. We headed back to the resort so that we could get up in time for long trip to the Cave Village.
We hope to be your source of underwater adventure, Videos, Photos, Training, and a place of resources for both the entertainment industry and the public. We hope to attract the diving public to a site that will be interesting and educational as well as fun and informative.
We hope to be a forum for talent from the dive industry and the diving public. A place for talented production professional and amateur videograhers and photographers to display their best work and have an opportunity to be seen by a large audience.
We are open to suggestions as to the secondary direction this site might take. We are active divers who enjoy what we do and want to share it with the dry world. We hope that in doing so will promote SCUBA Diving, help preserve the worlds reefs, and introduce the underwater world and its beauty to the many that have not gone our will not go.
This site will be built slowly over the next couple years and will morph as needed to help as we can in furthering our mission.
Please feel free to use our message board to ask questions of your piers. Post important questions and hopefully get answers from the best in the industry. This is a great place to ask about your next location or adventure location. Where to stay and what to see, plus what are the inside scoops that will make your trip better!