Manta Ray Island, Fiji

Posted from Fiji.

You know in Jurasick Park when the velociraptors are heard scurrying around in the forest and everyone swings their heads around frightfully staring into the distance as if they have no idea what is there? This is what it’s like when you’re walking down the footpath of this resort. Only the lizards here are about as long as my hand-spread. And about as dangerous as a housefly.


When our boat pulled up to the island, I knew instantly that I had found paradise. The roofs are thatched, but it’s only for show. Corrugated metal roofs are underneath, but beyond that tiny indiscretion, everything is wonderful. Flat river stones pave the pathways and granular yellow sands littered with sea shells and coral bits line the beach. Fine wooden loungers lay splayed along the water’s edge for eager sunbathers, and most everyone walks by with some body part turned pink from lying down for far too long. A multitude of hammocks of varying sizes and styles hang between many of the palms, and I mean MANY palms, and there’s a fire pit that I am eager for them to light. I’m also told the mosquitoes don’t get too bad. Which would be paradise compared to the sandflies of New Zealand. There’s no warm water in the ceiling-less showers, but it’s too hot to care. And while the toilets are composting toilets, it’s miraculous they don’t stink with all this heat. OH, and despite that there are 32 beds in the dorm, complete with individual mosquito nets as it’s all open concept, with openings in the floorboards even, everyone is real conscientious and quiet so everyone can try and sleep in the +30C evening heat.

Island life in a dormitory.

At 8 a.m., 12 p.m. and 7 p.m. staff beat the Fiji drum to signal guests that it’s mealtime and come to eat. Breakfast is a scant buffet of pancakes, French toast, fresh fruit, cereal and toast. But lunch and dinner offer three to 12 plates to choose from. In case you missed a meal, or can’t wait the seven hours until dinner, pizza is prepared and sold for an additional cost at 5 p.m. The food is delicious and we’ve all learned to fill up at lunch.

About an hour after we transferred boats and had lunch, I met with my dive instructor. And by 5 p.m. I had done my gear introduction, my first snorkeling ever (and we saw two octopi – holding hands!) and my first SCUBA dive. I am taking my SSI Open Water Course. I’m only slightly overwhelmed by this experience. But there is an abundance of hard and soft coral and the fish are more colourful than anything I have ever seen in an aquarium. I wish I knew what I was looking at. But it’s totally cool to have done my first dive in the ocean and not a pool. And while I’ve done three more since, I’m glad I’ve not seen any sharks yet.

My instructor, Andrew, from North Carolina (and has 65 jumps) had me touch the plant life a few times. It’s so fuzzy and softy-slimy. Some times little schools of fish would hover above me, so I’m told it’s because the big fish like to eat them and I am their safety net. I had a tiny orange and black striped fish swim centimeters in front of my goggles for ages. He was half the size of my pinky. I still don’t know what he was. So many things I have never in my whole world seen before. While I’ve had moments of wanting to freak out, pull out my regulator, and momentarily forgetting how to breathe, I didn’t. Andrew had to remind me a few times to slow my breathing down, and I’d nod and relax. I’m told I am learning in probably one of the most amazing places in the world to learn. I can see how lucky I am. This place is extraordinary. This underwater world is beyond anything I have ever imagined. I wasn’t sure if I was going to like scuba, but I’m fairly certain now that I do. Did I mention the water is so warm that I wasn’t even in a wet suit? I think I will need to return to Fiji one day.

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