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The birds woke me up this morning, not the bio-clock set to California time. Looking outside, as the inky night gave way to purple hues, I grabbed the camera and tripod and headed outside to film the mangroves. In the steely light, there was no hint of breeze and the water was calmer than a glass lake. As I clicked away on the camera, I noted the lack of color compared to the previous sunset. I sat down on the beach, looking toward the horizon. An island, most likely a motu, was just visible. I took a deep breath out and imprinted the scene to recall for more unpleasant days.

Sena and her husband walked by, coming from the direction of the jungle. They told me they’d just come from the island’s lookout and suggested I take a look. I heeded their advice and took the trail up. It’s a short walk, not more than 5 minutes, but I knew immediately that I’d arrived at the “golden hour”. The light and views were just amazing! I clicked away, giddy with the results. But soon, the mesmerizing light transformed into equatorial blue, signaling breakfast and diving.

Since arriving in Fiji, I’ve chosen fish at every meal – yes, including breakfast. I never eat fish at home (except sushi on Fridays) and with the selections here so fresh, it seems a crime not to indulge. So, what did I have? Today’s fish choices were mackerel, mahi mahi, or wahoo. I chose the wahoo, pan fried. Yum. I finished the breakfast quickly, ran back to the bure, grabbed my batteries, housing, and lights and jumped in the boat. 8:30 a.m., exactly.

Two dive sites were on the diving menu today: Fish Market and Canyons/Caves. I’m not sure on the latter site’s name. Anyway, both were unbelievably spectacular and can give Namena a run for its money. The first site, Fish Market, had huge schools of fish and one of the largest colonies of green plating montipora coral I’ve ever seen. It went on and on… truly unbelievable. The schools of fish were also amazing to witness. Fiji, sadly, has been fished out – you just don’t see schools of large predatory reef fish (groupers, cod, snapper, trevally) – anywhere – and to see a site (that’s not protected) still sporting fish made me realize the absence of such elsewhere.

The second site, just across the small channel from Fish Market, was just as spectacular, but in a different way. I knew something was odd about this site when I jumped in and, to my surprise, saw 3 white tip reef sharks. Villy, the dive master, made no note of their presence. Usually, dive masters tap their tank, yell into their regulators, and make a hand gesture that equates to shark, but not Villy. No, he just swam on, indifferent to the “gentle” predators.

“OK”, I thought, “I’ll just follow his lead.” I noted these 3, thought how lucky I was, and kicked maybe 3 more strokes when 2 more white tips came cruising down the reef. OK: that’s now 5 – and all still visible. Oh, wait, no, there’s 6 (swim, kick, swim), 7, 8, 9, … 15, 16, 17, … 20, 21, and about this time I lost count.

There were just too many to think of them as special (hah, hah, hah). At about this time, I started to note the underwater formations. The landscape, while not clad in corals, was beautiful. A bright white sand bottom, with white limestone walls, sported swim-through crevices, tunnels, and arches. It was eerily familiar . . . and then it hit me. The site was a dead ringer for the extinct submarines ride at Disneyland – that reprised the movie, “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”.

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