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March 2014    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 29, No. 3   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Sau Bay Fiji Retreat, Fiji

from the March, 2014 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Dear Fellow Diver:

Drifting across the face of the gently sloping reef known as The Fish Factory in the Somo Somo Straits between the Fijian islands of Taveuni and Vanua Levu, I noticed my dive buddy looking up at the surface. I followed her gaze and saw the unmistakable silhouette of an undulating krait -- a banded sea snake -- 50 feet away, resting on the surface to breathe. I haven't had many encounters with them in my 30 years of diving, but as I looked back at my buddy to check her position and then up again, the snake had disappeared. We continued our drift along the reef, as I marveled as always at the colorful abundance of fish and corals. Then minutes later, I caught sight of a four-foot-long krait not 10 feet from me, poking its head into crevices looking to corner and consume a hapless fish.

Kraits pack a lethal venomous punch, so I was startled when our dive guide, Sau Bay resort owner Nigel Douglas, reached down, clasped two fingers just behind its head and slowly lifted it up from the reef. He held it for about 10 seconds and then let go. I watched it casually swim off to resume its hunt. After the dive, I asked Nigel about the risk of handling kraits. Having been born in Fiji and dived there for decades, Nighel replied that he had no reservations about gently handling them, explaining that the kraits' venomous fangs are set well back in their small mouths, so they are unable to inject venom into people-size objects wearing wetsuits. Still, I kept my distance on the off chance that a krait might think one of my fingers looked edible....


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