A few weeks back we celebrated Amanda’s 31st birthday and we decided to enjoy a few days away from Suva by visiting Beqa Island. Due to the COVID situation, Fiji’s tourism industry has suffered drastically and with no international tourists being able to enter, Fiji’s resorts and tourist operators came up with the “Love your Locals” campaign. Some resorts slashed their prices by more than half to encourage locals and expats still in Fiji to visit and spend their money in the local economy. The tourism industry has been hit hard and much of the staff has been laid off in recent weeks and months.
After we had a terrible experience with the Beqa Lagoon Resort back in 2015 where they literally made us disembark the transport boat in Pacific harbor after a strange phone call with the manager, we decided to give them another try. Already back then our main motivation was to participate in the Tiger Shark dive we wanted to avoid paying the high hotel costs, so through a contact that Amanda had established on the island during her REPICORE Ph.D. research here in Fiji, we organised to sleep at a house close to the resort and just wanted to dive there.
Loaded with gear, dive equipment, and other stuff we got to the jetty in Pacific Harbor on Christmas Eve (!!) 2015 and the staff packed all of our luggage on the boat. Then the phone rang, an exchange between staff and the then-manager and eventually with us resulted in us being thrown off the boat again “because it is resort policy that we would have to stay at the resort in order to use the transport”. And this was despite the fact that we had agreed to pay it anyway! So there we were, stranded in Pacific Harbor and mighty pissed and disappointed by the last-minute 180-degree turn..
Time heals all wounds or so they say and almost five years later we gave it another try. The management has changed by now so why not we thought. We arrived on the island and moved into a beautiful oceanfront bure with our own little plunge pool – our holiday could begin! I quickly noticed a few birds around the area, such as reef herons, orange-breasted myzomelas, barking pigeons, and other usual suspects, such has mynah birds and Red-vented bulbuls.
The lagoon itself lies on the north-western site on Beqa Island and is about a forty-minute boat ride from Pacific Harbor. It has a nice little beach and some sheltered areas to snorkel right in front of it.
One of our main motivations was to finally to the tiger shark dive to first and foremost see the tiger shark but also to compare the shark diving operations around Beqa. I have dived dozens of times we Beqa Adventure Divers and love their general approach and protocol (read more about the Shark Reef here), had a few dives with Aquatrek as well and now wanted to try out the Beqa Lagoon Resort dive. Amanda and I were indeed the only two guests (!) and this would be the first commercial shark dive in three months they told us. Apparently they had gone out to keep feeding the sharks during staff dives and we were told just four days prior four tigers turned up during a training dive.
Unfortunately, we remained unlucky and no tiger showed up this day. The tiger shark still remains my nemesis but I will not give up 😉 We will get back there some time soon and after that, I will get back with more images and a comparison report between the different shark operators here on Viti Levu in Fiji.
The resort offers a little hike towards some smaller waterfalls about an hour from the resort. Just sitting around can be a little boring (at least for me ;-)) so we packed our cameras and made our way along the dalo and cassava plantations. Being notorious for a lot of rain, Beqa Island was nice to us and showed us its best sunny side. A usual we kept our eyes sharp and tried to spot any birds out here, but besides a Fiji Whiteye in the dense forests, we couldn’t spot any others. The hike itself was great – a little muddy and slippery here and there, but a welcome exercise and it was lovely to see some of Fiji’s beautiful and lush forest areas. Definitely pack enough water and some proper shoes in case you plan to visit the waterfalls and you might want to take some mosquito repellent, too – we didn’t have any and returned with about 600 bites each.
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Tom Vierus is an award-winning photographer, filmmaker, and marine biologist based in Suva, Fiji Islands. This blog is dedicated to his assignments and to sharing some behind-the-scenes footage.