One of the more surprising results of our Australian Travel Inspirations 2018 survey was the number one adventure activity preferred by baby boomers – swimming with whales, dolphins and sharks in exotic locations. To give you a taste of this underwater adrenalin rush, we check in with nature nomad Laura Waters, who recently went to Fiji to get up close and personal with these apex predators.
Think of Fiji and a tranquil paradise of palm trees leaning over aqua lagoons might spring to mind, yet beneath the surface of its crystalline waters lies a Fiji guaranteed to boost heart rates, challenge comfort zones and spice up dinner party conversations for years to come.
© Mike Scotland
Like many others from around the globe, I’ve travelled to Beqa Lagoon, a few hours’ drive east of Nadi on the south coast, with one goal in mind – to dive with sharks. Not just any sharks but bull sharks, a powerful and chunky species often maligned by the press.
My adventure with Aqua-trek begins at a dive site called The Bistro. I slip beneath the surface, following our guide and chief shark feeder, reminiscent of a medieval knight in chain mail tunic and black hood, to a depth of 25 metres to discover a melee of hungry diners already waiting. The adrenaline rush is instant. There are no cages here. Only a low coral wall provides some token divide and we kneel behind it while safety guides hover behind us with long metal crooks, ready to fend off any overly curious animals.
© Mike Scotland
The feed begins less than five metres away, sending the assembled into action. I count forty sharks before losing track – a mix of bulls, silvertips, lemons and tawny nurses – yet despite the tornado of bodies, it’s a relatively orderly affair and the sharks appear nothing like the mindless man-eaters we’ve been led to believe. Supported by Aqua-trek’s unblemished safety record over 33 years of operation, I feel free to enjoy the spectacle without concern.
Opportunity for such close analysis of an apex predator is rare. A lemon shark cruises past, her pectoral fin barely 30cm from my face. We eyeball each other and I devour every detail from her textured skin to the sensory ampullae dotting her snout. Overhead, a silvertip flies so low I need to duck to avoid him, causing me to giggle and hoot into my regulator at the thrill of it all.
© Deborah Dickson-Smith
I’ve dived with sharks before, but Beqa Lagoon offers a close encounter like no other. An open water certification and about a dozen dives under your belt are all that’s required. If that’s out of reach, then you’ll only need a mask and snorkel to swim with reef sharks at Barefoot Kuata Resort in the Yasawa Islands.
Whichever way you choose, swimming with sharks is a thrill worth travelling for.
Do it yourself:
- Beqa Adventure Divers boast the biggest bulls at their dive sites while Aqua-Trek focus on attracting a broader mix of shark species.
- Trips depart year round from Pacific Harbour on the Coral Coast, perfect for exploring other land-based attractions.
- Stay at The Pearl Resort opposite the dive shops for slick waterfront hotel rooms, or try nearby Uprising Beach Resort for Fijian themed bures (wood and straw huts) and villas.
- Book with dive travel experts Diveplanit
Laura Waters is a freelance travel writer with a passion for inspiring people to connect with nature. She is loosely based in Melbourne but usually found roaming with a backpack and laptop in search of adventures in the great outdoors. www.soultrekkers.com.au
Would you swim with sharks? What would be your ultimate heart-starting travel adventure?
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