Today is the day we find out if going local would pay off.... After a long drawn out process of trying to decide whether we should spend two expensive but very chilled out weeks on the island or take the Fiji bus round the main island then spend a week on the islands or do it ourselves? Well being harden travelers the option was clear DIY!!! We booked our shark diving with a backpackers option which gave us a free nights accommodation in a well known resort.
We left Mamas early Tuesday and grabbed the local bus into town. The bus was small and cramped as it was full of excited school children talking about their plans for the day and tired city workers who were psyching themselves up for a hard day at work. The bus trip was short and we were dropped off at the bus station an hour before our bus. As soon as we stepped of the bus we were scooped up by another bus company who had taken our money in exchange for a seat on their bus. As we had some time we quickly went to one of the hundred supermarkets they have in Fiji. In Bolivia you couldn't find a supermarket for love nor money, in Fiji you can't find anything else!
We boarded our bus and as we were still very early we manged to get good seats next to the locals air conditioning (broken windows in some way or another.) The journey was only supposed to take two and a half hours but three and a half hours later we arrived, its ok though it was Fiji time. We realised very quickly that Fiji time meant time was just a number, they would be ready when they were, not before and not after so why worry? This took a little time for me to adjust to but I am getting there. The journey was fabulous it gave us a good insight into what Fiji was all about and it was just stoned people chilling out on a beach.
The views from the bus were hilly and very green, there were lots of trees and a few river passing through small villages. In Fiji they still live in villages and each village has a chief who is in charge. We passed a million and one schools and church of the three main religions that exist in Fiji. 90% of Fijians are Christians (about 50% of the population) 35% are Indian so have Muslim schools and the rest are Hindu with a few European added to the mix. On the whole they all don't mix very well as the Indians have completely taken over Fiji. They own most of the big houses and businesses, and they let the Fijians know it! The bus stopped in a few of the villages and small towns letting people off and picking them up when after about the tenth time of asking we were dropped off at Uprising.
We looked at our new home and were very pleased. We carried our bags down a dirty road and headed towards reception. Super excited we handed over our voucher just to be told there was no booking and they were full :( After explaining what had happened we finally got to talk to the lady who made our booking and yup she had messed up! Luckily Uprising were really helpful and unfortunately the sharks were booked for the next day but they made us a booking for the following day. However they were still full and we couldn't afford an upgrade so they booked us into the other hostel down the road. We grabbed lunch there as we were waiting to talk to the lady who sold us the tour, I was really calm for once and it was Becki who was worked up so she handled the lady. After two conversations Becki had got her to agree to pay for tonights accommodation which we later found out was out of her own pocket! Man we are getting good at this sort of stuff!
We arrived to our new hostel and were shown to our room. The hostel was on an arts complex and had a few shops and restaurants around it so we weren't too worried. But the hostel was competently dead and no one else booked in and to be honest we were a little freaked. There was a security guard outside our room first off and when we walked to dinner we were told not to go off the premises. When deciding to do the trip ourselves security and safety didn't even cross our minds. We rushed dinner only sharing a bowl of fried rice and tried to head home. Another security guard said he would walk us back as it wasn't a good idea for us to be on our own but he took us a back way and neither of us liked it, so I demanded I needed a drink before I went to bed so we ran into the only open bar. We had a drink and the rain started to pour, we saw that the security guard was distracted and we slipped out. That night we just watched TV and went to bed a little worried. We woke up and we were fine, we got showered and ate our free breakfast and headed back to Uprising stopping off at the gas station to get some water and snacks.
We checked in all fine this time and dropped our bags of in the dorm, we were told that a number of things had gone missing the last few days so keep everything on you. We spent the day just chilling by the pool reading and playing cards sunning ourselves. We did however venture the 20 meters from the pool to the beach to watch Fiji's version of Wake boarding. The way they did it was a man was on a horse who had a line with a handle attached and another guy about 20meters back with a surfboard. As the horse ran along the beach the guy on the surfboard was pulled along. I am sad to say we didn't have a go but one guy we saw was amazing, we later found out that he was a pro wake boarder in England. That night we ate dinner played some more cards and had an early night as we had an early start for baby jaws tomorrow!
We slept well considering it was a 24 person dorm and ate almost our body weight in the free breakfast (so the sharks wouldn't be disappointed.) After a short drive down the road we were at the dive centre and we were all booked in, measured up weight, height, so they knew which order to feed us to the sharks... nah so we could be suited up and extra weights added as this would be no ordinary dive. We were split into two groups and hurried onto the boat, we had our safety talk about not smoking, standing and yes we were going to voluntarily get into water while known aggressive sharks are feeding! The boar ride was only about 10 minutes long, I am not sure if that was a good thing or bad as it meant the sharks were very close to land but then we didn't have long to think about what we were going to do. When we were anchored up our dive briefing started and for once I gave it my full attention. We would be doing two dives, the first one would be a straight 30 metre drop where we had to kneel down holding onto a dead coral wall. We would stay here for about 20 minutes and this is when we will see Bull sharks and possibly Tiger sharks. Once we heard one of the dive masters banging their tank we were to swim to 10 meters, where we had to hide behind another coral wall. Here we would see White, Black tips, Lemon and Nerve sharks. As the first dive was deep and the longest our final stop which included our safety was at 4 meters for 10 minutes and we would see the same but smaller sharks as we did at 10 meters.
I looked around the boat and everyone had this sort of white hazed look over their face but each had a cheeky little smile. We put our BCG's, checked our air and jumped in, there was no time for our buddy checks, the sharks wouldn't wait. All our training stayed with us as we both looked for each other and synced our decent. Before we knew it we were at 30 meters, huddling in a close line with the other people on the dive. We weren't allowed to put our arms out, as the sharks associate bubbles and arms with food.... Within seconds we saw our first shark. He was sliver, sleek, smooth and sexy. Everyone lost their fear and became in ore of what we were witnessing. It was nature at its best, there was no blood spilling everywhere, no mess, no fuss just another animal like ourselves having a snack. The Bull sharks were being fed with fish heads which with my extensive fish knowledge I would say they were tuna heads. I think the heads were hollowed out so the feeder can get a better grip, we were told that on You Tube there is a video of one feeder putting the fish head in his mouth and letting the shark take it out.... CRAZY MAN! The sharks were in constant flow and our smiles just got wider. We saw all different shapes and sizes, some were as small as two meters and some went to a solid, built like a brick sh** house 5+ meters. Sharks have two extra senses than us but their eye sight is very poor and a number of times a shark would grab the fish and swim directly towards us with its pearly white teeth and cheeky wide smile, then suddenly turn. The way the sharks turned was incredible, they were this bulky heavy muscle machine but they could move as quick as ice skaters on ice, just gliding through the water.
We Moved up to a shallower depth which I had to admit was a little worrying but we had our trusty shark tamers and their metal rods on hand. We manged to get a spot just under the shark feeder where we held onto some dead coral and waited. Within seconds thousand of Black, White Reef sharks and a number of Nurse Sharks surrounded us. The feeder this time just had fish parts and held them in front of him. The sharks either went crazy around him, took the bait and swam off or did what you would expect a typical shark attack to look like. From out of the blue at fast speeds would appear a shark swimming directly towards the feeder, they would grab the fish and be gone in a flash. The sharks swam just over our heads and on one occasion one almost swam directly into Becki and I and we were told to keep our heads down. The sharks this time were between 1-2.5 meters and didn't look as mean but they were equally as cool. The last stop which was our safety stop was with younger and smaller sharks we had just seen, they were so cute.
We surfaced from the dive absolutely buzzing and couldn't wait for our next dive. I was desperate for a wee and I held it as there was research done on why surfers get attacked and they found it was the ones that peed in their wetsuits who were most attacked. Knowing this I jumped off the boat into the ocean and did the quickest pee in my life. We all spoke excitedly about our dive and we all decided that if England was to choose an animal to sum up its people it would be a Bull Shark. They looked like skin head, tattooed football hooligans.
It was time for dive number two, we suited up and entered into the water and straight down to were we had to lay down. We found some coral to hold onto and waited to be amazed once again. This time it took a little longer for the sharks to come but when they did show their faces they came in mass. They were all Bull Sharks this time but I remember one time counting over 10 all surrounding us. The best bit was looking above us to see about five sharks circling 5 meters above us and all that was between us and them was water and the odd guy with a metal stick. The sharks were well train and if the approached from the left they got a fish head from the dust bins but if they came from the right all they got was a right hock from the feeder. Every 5 minutes of so they would changed feeders, I am not sure why they do this, maybe a concentration thing or a practice thing. Fijian see Sharks as God and they worship them and pray for protection. Some of our money we paid for the trip went to the village that owned the waters. In return they wouldn't fish or pollute the waters and the chief would ask the Gods to look after us. As a result only Fijians are allowed to feed the sharks but if I was allowed I would have given it a good go.
Unfortunately no Tigers came to play but we surfaced extremely happy. A guy on the boat had taken a camera and he was staying at our resort so we sweet talked him into letting us have a copy of the pictures so we didn't have to buy the DVD. That night we ate dinner with the Feejee Experience tour group and the new bus of people it brought with it. That night we had a few drinks and a beach bonfire.... very Fijian!!!!