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June 2017    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 32, No. 6   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Paradise Taveuni, Taveuni Island, Fiji

coral and cultural paradise

from the June, 2017 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Dear Fellow Diver:

I have a confession to make -- I've been late to the game in my appreciation for coral. But brothers and sisters, like Saul on the Biblical road to Damascus, I have seen the light, thanks to a recent pilgrimage to Fiji. There, in the Straits of Somosomo, off the island of Taveuni, in the nutrient-laden waters dispersed by hearty currents, the soft coral colors are so intense they appear to glow from within.

Ah yes, the words "Paradise Taveuni" took on a special meaning while I received a "welcome" foot massage from a demure Fijian woman named Beta after we arrived at the main building, which houses the bar, kitchen, open-air restaurant, and dive center. Beta's shy, friendly smile hinted nothing of Fiji's cannibal history (hand-carved souvenir brain forks and war clubs notwithstanding). The entire staff seemed to know all our first names from day one, greeting me with "bula" (hello) and always saying "thank you" (vinaka).

Paradise Princess dive boatOur vale at the beautifully manicured, flower-laden 16-unit Paradise Taveuni Resort sported a shady front porch looking out to Vanua Levu across the Straits. My air-conditioned main room, enclosed by screened opened windows and wooden jalousies, contained a firm king four-poster bed with mosquito netting, a couch, a coffee maker, a little refrigerator, and a separate bathroom. Tall walls of lava rock enclosed a large outdoor shower area with a small, lush garden, where I reveled in a hot shower while standing in a cool, pouring rain. The couch made do as my camera table, which I found more convenient than the five-station camera room in the dive center.

On the trip to our first dive on Rainbow Reef, dolphins played in our wake. The first day was not notable, except for occasional splashes of color here and there and a school of barracuda. On the second dive at Dolphin Bay, a bright-yellow fang blenny, a slender little fish with an erect dorsal, would come close to look me over, then retreat into a tiny hole. A juvenile yellowtail coris, red with white saddles outlined in black, stood out against the bottom. After a delicious lunch that included wahoo spicy coconut milk soup, our third dive was at Vuna Reef, just off a rocky shore. A disk-shaped dot and dash butterflyfish played hard-to-get. A brown-bodied geometric chromodoris crawled quickly across the bottom, its lumpy white tubercles and greenish gills and rhinophores standing out. A nudibranch ("Baba's phyllidia," named after renowned Japanese sea-slug researcher Kikutaro Baba), resembling a cross between a knobby dog's chew toy and a crazy yellow massager, was impossible to miss. At the end of the day, my only responsibility was to rinse my wetsuit, cameras and anything I wanted to keep handy. Otherwise, the crew took care of all my gear. ...

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