Fiji By Achim Nimmerfroh

black coral curling into the blue

Black coral curling into the blue

bright red lionfish hanging upside down.jpg

Bright red lionfish hanging upside down
bubbles making their way up

Bubbles making their way up
close up of a featherstar

Close up of a featherstar

crabs hiding in hardcoral

Crabs hiding in hardcoral

manta ray gliding above me

Manta ray gliding above me

For someone who didnt know the area there would have been no chance of finding a way through the inside reef when we cruised over the flat and glassy surface that morning. It seemed to be a silent lake, a huge mirror for the sun. My place was right on the bow, watching parrotfish darting away as we approached. Making our way out one of the passages of The Great Astrolabe Reef, a whole school of flying fish broke through the surface to fly with us. On days like this I felt caught in a dream with the sound of the boat engine is the only noise breaking the silence around me.

As I looked around one thought crossed my mind and made my heart race. This is the perfect day to jump in wherever you like! And I wasnt the only one onboard thinking about discovering a new place where no one had ever dived before!

Descending into the blue I discovered a 40 metre vertical dropoff covered in purple soft coral, featherstars and hundreds of colourful reefish. The water was so clear I could see that the wall became a huge overhang filled with holes and small caves that begged investigation.I went deeper and watched my bubbles hit the reef above, until a sudden movement inside a small hole caught my attention. A big red-white cleaner shrimp with a huge moray-eel underneath it made for a great cleaning station scenario shot, as did the pair of colourful nudibranchs a few metres further on. Facing the wall looking for small critters to photograph there was a sudden change in the light conditions. I looked up immediately at a huge mantaray. Its amazing to watch these giants gliding through the blue water like eagles flying the sky.They are regularly seen on the Great Astrolabe Reef but normally feeding in the nutrient rich waters around Kadavu, so its even more breathtaking to see them in clear water. We all stopped and hovered for a while watching it pass by before we went on exploring the reef. Torwards the end of the wall a giant gorgonian fan was perfectly placed to filter the water before the site changed into endless fields of hard coral. Schools of pyramid butterflyfish, fusiliers and parrotfish surrounded me as I finned along. I stopped and looked around for a few minutes to take in all the critters you dont see on a hurried dive. Fijitime! Relax! I found a beautifully coloured leopard blenny watching me from within coral and then it disappeared. I was patient and eventually got a nice portrait of him. Most underwater photographers know that you sometimes have to wait to get a good shot and that you often discover more great shots close by while youre hanging around to see if the elusive fish comes out again. On this occasion two crabs living next door to the blenny presented a photographic opportunity. As we came up to the five metre level I spotted a big seacucmber, I know you shouldnt touch anything, but with those animals its sometimes really worth it. Turning it carefully I saw a brilliant coloured emperor shrimp start to move into the shallow water with natural light making it a perfect macro shot. While floating on the surface enjoying the sun we all agreed that this place is worth visiting again. This story just describes a few moments of that dive, there was plenty more to see but as everyone knows whos ever been diving in Fijian waters, youll never tell someone everything youve seen on one dive. Theres just too much down there and theres much, much more to discover!!

After another dive we had dolphins jumping and playing around the boat when we headed back to Matava, fitting right into the feeling of another wonderful day in paradise on the beautiful island of Kadav
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