Scuba Diving in Fiji: Coral Reefs
Dive to see the Beautiful Fiji Coral Reefs
During my recent trip to Fiji, I Iearned a lot about the beautiful coral reefs around the islands. No wonder Fiji is one of the top deep sea diving locations in the world. The temperature of the waters and their unpolluted, clear nature make a perfect place for coral to grow and thrive.
Both fringing coral reefs and barrier reefs are found in the island nation of Fiji, comprised of 333 islands in the South Pacific. In fact, the world's second largest coral reef is located just off the coral coast of the main island of Fiji, Viti Levu.
Off Kadavu, to the south of Viti Levu, is the Great Astrolabe Reef. It's a giant barrier reef that is teeming with life and beauty just beneath the ocean surface. The waters are "Scope" blue and green. Almost unbelievably colored. During my boat ride from the airport to Matava Fiji's Premier Eco Resort, I saw both spinner dolphins and flying fish leaping out the waters between the barrier reef and the island itself.
Seriously - how many people get to see that in their lifetime?
Come along and explore Fiji coral reefs - if you ask me, they are one of the natural wonders of the world.
Unless otherwise specified, all photos in this hub are the property of Stephanie Hicks. Please contact me for permission to use.
Enjoying Fiji Coral Reefs
When you travel to the South Pacific, there are many ways to enjoy the warm, tropical waters. Swimming, sailing, fishing and other outdoor recreational pursuits are all available.
But for fully enjoying Fiji coral reefs, you will want to get up close and personal, either through deep sea diving or snorkeling. You can also try a guided coral reef walk at some locations in Fiji.
Although I am not not a diver (yet), I have heard that once you start, its addicting. After all, can you imagine the lovely silence of being underwater and marveling at the gorgeous colors of the coral, tropical fish, and watching manta rays, sharks and dolphins swimming all around?
Delicate coral reefs are not only beautiful, but also important when it comes to marine habitat. As coral reefs worldwide are threatened by global climate change, pesticides, storms and more, we need to worry about how to protect the reefs to preserve wildlife habitat.
Fringing Coral Reefs in Fiji
There are several main types of coral reefs recognized by biologists. Fringing reefs often grow directly from the shoreline, or there is only a shallow backreef zone between the land mass and the reef. They are the most common type of reefs, and are usually found in the tropics.
Charles Darwin believed that fringing reefs are the first type of reefs that are formed, and may eventually become barrier reefs as they grow over time. Fringing reefs are usually found off the shorelines of newer or developing islands. The youngest fringing reefs that are still in development are often called apron reefs.
The reef flat - closest to the land - sustains the most damage from runoff, sedimentation and storms. However, coral grows well on the reef slope, which descends away from the land into slightly deeper waters. Fed by wave action, the life in this area of the reef is usually abundant and thriving. At the crest of the reef slope is generally the healthiest, fastest growing, part of the coral reef. An optimal balance of sunlight and nutrients are found here.
Off the coral coast of Fiji is the second largest reef in the world, which happens to be a fringing reef. The reef is accessible to divers, snorklers and coral reef walkers. Just make sure to go with a guide to minimize any impact on the delicate reefs.
Swimming Among Fiji Coral Reefs
Barrier Reefs in Fiji
In the life of a coral reef, barrier reefs are older and more mature than fringing reefs. The most significant difference between the two is that barrier reefs are further from land than fringing reefs.
Some marine biologists describe barrier reefs as the second stage in coral reef development. They occur when the island from which they originally formed has begun sinking. According to Charles Darwin, there are three stages in reef formation: first, a fringing reef forms around an extinct volcanic island, as the ocean floor subsides, the fringing reef becomes a barrier reef over time. Ultimately, the reef may become an atoll reef, after the land sinks under the water, leaving the reef to enclose a remaining lagoon.
You know a barrier reef when you see it - they are parallel to shore, but separated from it by a lagoon or larger body of water.
The Hideaway Fiji Resort is Working to Protect and Preserve Coral Reefs
During my stay at the Hideaway Fiji Resort along the coral coast of the main island, I learned about steps the resort is taking to protect and preserve coral reefs. Other than hosting tourists and other travelers at the property, preservation of coral reefs is of major importance for the Hideaway.
Consider these facts:
· Conservation: The Hideaway Fiji Resort engages in the world ecotourism award-winning coral reef conservation program called “Integrated Coastal Management." The tidal area in front of the resort has been declard “Tabu” (protected). Guests should ask about the best time for snorkeling at high tide so as not to disturb living creatures including coral and starfish.
· Reef Walking Path: The resort offers daily guided tours at low tide. Sponsor and plant your own piece of coral for $10.00 (that’s what I did!)
· Coral Sponsorship funds are directed to eco-development projects at the neighboring Tagaqe Village.
· Operations at the resort seek to conserve water and power, and cut down on pollution into waterways and seas. Guests are encouraged to use bed linens and towels again – put note on bed to delay changing, and hang towels up.
· The resort gives back to the local community. To assist the nearby Sigatoka area with improved health and safety facilities, a donation of $10 is automatically added to guests' accounts. You can donate more, if you wish, or ask that the charges be declined.
Why We Need to Protect Coral Reefs
While coral reefs comprise a mere fraction of a percent of the world's ocean surface, these living organisms host 25% of all marine species in the world . Some have referred to coral reefs as the "rainforests of the sea," because of their diverse ecosystems and important role in providing habitat for so many other sea dwelling creatures.
Corals are not plants, but living animals that secrete calcium carbonate - an exoskeleton that supports and protects the coral polyp bodies. There are also soft corals, which are more rare. Throughout Fiji, you can dive and find soft corals in the abundant reefs.
Coral reefs are at risk with rising global temperatures. The organisms are quite sensitive to water temperature. They also sustain significant damage from storms and other weather events that are becoming more frequent. When temperatures get too high and/or the water too cloudy, sunlight cannot reach the corals and they become bleached and die.
Without corals, we lose important habitat for marine wildlife. That, in turn, impacts tourism, fisheries and shoreline protections. Each year, the economic value of coral reefs is a staggering $30 billion! Even if you are not an environmentalist, you have to consider the important economic benefit that coral reefs have for a number of industries.
Threats to Coral Reefs' Health
- Sedimentation run-off
- Rising water temperatures
- Storms - natural disasters that may be increasing as a result of global climate change
- Climate change
- Ocean acidification
- Cloudy waters
Scuba Diving in Fiji to see the Coral Reefs
If you love deep sea diving, you'll enjoy visiting Fiji. There are so many places to dive or snorkel and enjoy the abundant, beautiful sea life among the corals. If you are planning a trip to Fiji, be sure to check with Tourism Fiji for the best places to dive, including the best times of year to visit.
There is not really a "winter" in Fiji - just a rainy season. November through April is a bit wetter. But, if you are underwater, does that even matter?! Temperatures are generally from 75-85 F (28-32 C) during the day. The water temps are comfortable, as well.
Would I go back to Fiji? In a heartbeat! I loved the people, the food and the natural beauty.
I hope you get the chance to enjoy Fiji coral reefs one day!
Have You Ever Been Deep Sea Diving in Fiji?
© 2010 Stephanie Marshall