Tuesday, February 24

Lora Van Uffelen & the Road Scholars


Road Scholar is a different sort of travel agency.  They offer educational tours with renowned experts in the field that provide a greater experience than your average tourist can normally expect.  Their primary clientele are American senior citizens with a thirst for knowledge and adventure.  Paradise Taveuni has been pleased to host oceanographer Lora Van Uffelen as she shares the underwater world with her band of Road Scholars.

Lora specializes in ocean acoustics, the way sound travels through water.  Her research focuses on how marine mammals, such as whales and dolphins, use ocean acoustics to communicate with each other and how we can use their natural communication networks to learn more about these elusive creatures.  Her study aims to help create an autonomous sea glider, a robotic submersible, that will be able to travel through the seas gathering information about marine mammals following them by sound.  She has worked in oceans around the world from San Diego to Taiwan and the Philippines. 

For her travels to Fiji she got back to the basics, teaching how the vast ocean works circulating currents in a giant ecosystem.  Each day the Road Scholars have gone snorkeling at a different location observing a piece of that ecosystem.  Lora’s final talk explained how the ocean is changing from ocean acidification to overfishing.  Sea-level rise will soon bring climate refugees from Kiribati to Fiji as their islands become inundated by water.  Lora focused particularly on plastics which break down in the oceans to the size of microscopic plankton and are in turn ingested by filter feeders like baleen whales and many other creatures.  Her talk moved us at Paradise to think about how we too can limit the amount of plastic we use.

To learn more about the Road Scholars program here in Fiji you can visit their website at: http://www.roadscholar.org/n/program/summary.aspx?id=1%2D4LRKSL

To learn more about the impact of plastics, check:
www.itsaplasticworld.com
 

Monday, February 23

Scuba Earth


If you’ve ever misplaced or lost your dive logbook, you know how precious those little scraps of paper are.  Well, PADI has found a solution.  At PADI’s Scuba Earth website you can log all of your dives digitally to the internet where they will never be lost.  You can also share your dive experiences with divers around the world.

Paradise Taveuni has now uploaded its dive sites for the southern portion of Taveuni around Vuna reef.  Go onto Scuba Earth and check out the 14 dive sites that only Pro Dive Taveuni can take you to.  With names like the Fish Factory, Foreplay, and Orgasm, you know there’s going to be some exciting things to see.  You can plan your trip before you even come.

 And keep checking.  We’ll be adding photos and videos from are archives.

Thursday, February 19

Local Dive Master, Christine Riley


Here at Paradise Taveuni, we are proud of our local dive masters and want to introduce you to some of them. Meet Christine Riley. 

Christine grew up on Taveuni island in Waimaqera, a coastal farming settlement where people grow dalo, yaqona, and vegetables, and raise goats and pigs.  Growing up she was always swimming in the ocean.  Two years ago, Christine took a six month break from Fiji National University to make some money back home.  She was working at Paradise in housekeeping when she was asked if she would like to try a Discover Scuba Diving course.  She says she immediately loved diving and decided to pursue more training. 

The dive instructor at the time was a local named Charlie Valentine who she knew from growing up.  But, even if they knew each other, Charlie didn’t take it easy on her.  Christine says he was a tough instructor and even if she got the answer correct he would ask if she was sure.  If she wasn’t sure she would have to look it up just to be certain.  Even if the course was difficult though, Christine says it was fun and kept her diving.

Now, two years later, Christine has dove on every dive site around Taveuni many times over: Rainbow reef, Vuna reef and all the shore dives.  She says her favorite dive sites are those that offer lots of ‘micro-stuff and turtles’, such as the Stairs on Vuna reef, the Purple Wall on Rainbow reef, Dolphin Bay just down the road and Paradise Reef just in front of the resort.  Recently, she’s been filling in as boat driver while the boat captains complete their training and can’t wait to get back into the water. Christine says she doesn’t like to make plans for the future because they usually don’t work out so for now she expects just to keep diving and see what happens.  Sounds like a good plan to me.
 

Monday, February 16

Protect Our Sharks


Most readers are likely accustomed to enjoying pleasurable stories of our life in Paradise, and, by and large, the sunsets keep things pretty rosy-tinted here.  But recently we learned of something so distressing that we cannot, in good conscience, sweep it under the rug.

A few days ago, a leopard shark was found dead on the beach and we have since learned that it had been thoughtlessly killed by local fishermen.  Paradise Taveuni is outraged that such a thing should happen.  We feel it is our duty to help educate the community on the value of sharks, not just to the tourist economy, but to the ecosystem itself. 

Yes, sharks attract tourists from all over the globe to dive in our waters and in doing so bring large amounts of money to our small island economy.  But more importantly, sharks play an important role in the health of the reef.  Like all natural predators in the wild, they feed on the weak including those that are sick.  By removing sick fish from the population they limit the spread of disease and make the overall fish population healthier, allowing the stronger fish to breed more vigorously.  A healthy population of herbivorous fish in turn clean algae from the reef and allow the coral to grow healthier providing more food and housing for other fish.  Sharks help support a reef with more fish for divers and fishermen alike.  One can compare it to raising a herd of livestock.  If you raise cattle and one of them gets sick you remove that one from the herd so it does not spread disease to all the others.  The shark performs the same function.

Sharks are often misconceived as dangerous animals.  In Fiji, writings from the early 1800s described sharks living in the larger rivers that would bite swimmers.  At that time newly-introduced European diseases were causing widespread epidemics of smallpox, measles, and other deadly killer infections.  The people died in such numbers that they were simply thrown into the rivers to dispose of them.  This practice led sharks to move into the rivers to feed on the abundant food supply of sick and dying people fulfilling their role cleaning the ecosystem.  Occasionally, an exploratory nibble discovered that the body was still alive, especially once immunity developed and the free food supply began to decline.  Today, shark attacks are extremely rare.

The leopard shark is a carpet shark meaning that it patrols the sea bottom.  It is extremely unlikely that it would ever bite a person, unless they were dead at the bottom of the ocean 60 meters down.  There is absolutely no reason to kill them from the wild.  The same is true of every other shark on the reef who prefers a free meal of something dead, sick, or if they absolutely have to work for it a fish or turtle, but never a person.

So, if while fishing, one ever gets a shark hooked on one’s line, which may happen when bait-fishing, do the right thing - cut the line and leave the hook to work itself out.  We don’t want anyone losing their fingers trying to get the hook out and its easy enough with a quick flip of the knife.  But to leave a shark dead on the beach is unthinkable.  It is destructive to the ecosystem and will lead to fewer fish for fishermen and divers, and is distressing to anyone on a casual walk on the beach whether they are a tourist or not.

We know this is one of those stories that everyone will find really weird to click that ‘like’ button on Facebook.  We’re not asking you to like what’s happened.  But we do want you to spread the word and ‘like’ that someone’s standing up for the rights of the sharks.  Many islands across the Pacific are making a pledge to make their waters shark sanctuaries.  If you think Fiji should protect its sharks click ‘like’ because that’s something worth feeling good about.
 

A Moment with Pilot Whales: Sea Shepard volunteers dive at Paradise


“Sometimes we see pilot whales this time of year," the divemaster explained, "but there is no promise we will see them today.” 

No sooner was it said then the dark silhouettes of a pod of pilot whales presented themselves.  We approached slowly while E.B. and Sarah excitedly scampered to the bow to get a better look.  They’ve spent the past few months volunteering for Sea Shepherd, a conservation group who’s mission it is to end the slaughter of wildlife in the world’s oceans.  Sea Shepherd has three vessels with which it takes direct action to expose and confront illegal harvesting of marine life on the high seas.  They are most famous for their efforts in the Great Southern Ocean to stop the harvest of whales by Japanese fishermen, doing whatever it takes to force fishing vessels out of their hunting grounds.  But, in fact, Sea Shepherd has campaigns all over the world including the Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic Ocean where pilot whales are slaughtered by the hundreds.  Thus, it is a relief for E.B. and Sarah to be able to see pods of these lovely creatures peacefully laying in the sun with their young calves. 

“Can we snorkel with them?” Sarah asked.

“You can try, but they will probably run away.”

Slowly, the couple slid into the water, careful not to make a splash and calmly began to swim towards the pod.  I expected them to disappear under the surface immediately but they continued to lay undisturbed, so I grabbed my own mask and snorkel and followed behind.  The visibility wasn’t good.  We kept swimming closer but couldn’t yet see them, popping our heads above the water intermittently to check that they were still there.  It wasn’t until we were within a few meters that they became visible hanging just beneath the surface, the faint outline of their eye watching us.  We lay limply, exhaling deeply, imitating their behavior naturally.  The big bull scrutinized us seeing we meant no harm.  We believe the pod stayed because it had a young calf it would not abandon.  We stayed for a little while and then swam back to the boat ensuring it didn’t get too close and resumed our day of diving on a new high.

Sea Shepherd has had a lot of success yet still has a lot of work ahead of it as well.  The Japanese fishing fleet announced that it would not be hunting whales this year, giving Sea Shepherd a chance to focus on the illegal fishing of Antarctic toothfish in the Ross Sea, more commonly known in restaurants as Chilean seabass.  Little is yet known about the toothfish that lives in the world’s coldest waters.  It has anti-freeze in its blood and matures very slowly.  The Ross Sea was once called the ‘Last Ocean‘ because it was the only sea where fishing had yet to be performed, but now that is changing drastically and fast as toothfish off the coast of Chile are being fished out and fishermen are turning southward.

To learn more about Sea Shepard and all of their efforts go to: http://www.seashepherd.org

 

Wednesday, February 11

Boat Training: Api in Paradise


In preparation for the arrival of a new and bigger boat, the boat captains of Paradise resort are currently undergoing training to obtain their class 6 boat captain’s license.  The new boat will be more powerful and capable of rounding the entire island of Taveuni, including the wind-swept eastern side that offers lovely views of waterfalls cascading into the ocean.

They are being trained by Apisei Saidora, or Api for short (pronounced Happy, to the left in photo).  Api is teaching all sorts of nautical knowledge from different types of knots and lines to how to identify boats far at sea by only the type of lights they have.  So far the highlight of his trip has been the school of dolphins that followed the boat as they brought guests along the coast from the airport to Paradise resort.

Api is Fijian and grew up across Somosomo strait in Buca (pr. bu-tha) bay on the island of Vanua Levu.  He spent many years working as second officer aboard ships up to 80 meters in length, so he knows his way around the deck of a vessel.  In his younger years he traveled all across Polynesia from New Zealand and Australia to the Marshall Islands with stops in Kiribati, Tuvalu, Tonga, Samoa, and the Cook Islands.  He has met the many people of the Pacific throughout his travels and can share a few stories.  In 2009, he was aboard a vessel anchored just off of Samoa, when early in the morning he heard the anchor channel rattle hard.  The captain decided to weigh anchor and move further to sea where it was safer.  As they were out at sea they learned that a magnitude 8.1 submarine earthquake had caused the tsunami that smashed into the Samoa coast.  It was thanks to the cautiousness of the captain and the strong anchor chain that the ship was spared.  Though as they sat offshore they could only watch the news unable to help.  Another time Api was aboard a vessel in seas so rough two containers broke free.

It is only recently that regulations have been put in place to require all boat drivers, from hotel resorts to local fishermen, to have up-to-date boating licenses due to a rash of accidents around Fiji.  Paradise resort is more than happy to comply and has always maintained the upmost professional standard as it travels to dive sites far and wide.

Friday, February 6

Ocean Art Winner

 
The winner of the 2014 Ocean Art Competition and a 7-night dive package at Paradise Taveuni Resort was announced yesterday.  The winner of the Wananavu prize is Ray Collins.  Ray received first place in both the wide-angle category and Best of Show for his through-the-barrel shot at Kirra Point, Australia.  About his winning shot, Ray writes, “I love to make images underwater. The sand on the Gold Coast reflects light really well so it is one of my favourite local places to shoot. On this morning I was trying to show the clarity and surroundings while composing for the wave to go past me.”  We can’t wait to see what shots he can produce when he gets here.  Congratulations Ray who was up against a lot of other great photographers.  Feel free to check out all the top shots entered in the contest at:
http://www.uwphotographyguide.com/2014-ocean-art-contest-winners
and check out more of Ray Collins wave shots at his facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/raycollinsphotographer
 

Monday, November 3

Learn to Dive in Paradise

Today I completed my Open Water Dive Certificate at Paradise Taveuni through Pro Dive Taveuni! It was a truly unforgettable experience, and a fairly easy thing to do. Pro Dive offers an extensive selection of courses, dive gear and sites; and is operated by a professional and knowledgeable Dive Team led by PADI Dive instructor and resort owner, Allan Gortan. Pro Dive Taveuni also has a fleet of custom made boats that provide access to the pristine reefs surrounding the Garden Island of Taveuni.

The Course:
Step One: Snorkel off the pristine waterfront at Paradise, where you can witness the labyrinth of lava flow covered by various hard and soft corral. There are innumerable fish from the majestic Parrot Fish to the elusive Leather Jacket. Here, your thirst will grow to explore more.

Step two: Take your Dive course which you can purchase and complete online. This gives you the flexibility to work at your own pace, anytime, anywhere within a 12 month period. I was very fortunate as I was presented the online dive course as a wedding gift from my wife's instructors.
The course will introduce you to the fundamentals of diving- the various techniques, dive theory, and worst case scenarios. There are risks with diving, but if steps are followed diligently, you will have an amazing time. Once you have finished all your reading and/or watching videos, you will take an exam, answering various questions about diving and having a safe enjoyable dive.


Step Three: The Practical. Here you will put to test the skills and knowledge you learned from the online course. The first two sessions will take place in the safety of the pool. Your instructor will show you everything from setting up your gear to how to enter the water, fixing problems underwater such as clearing your mask, runaway regulators, and the special hand signal signals used to communicate specific situations and directions.

Step four: Time to get in the Ocean. To complete your open water course you must log 2 shore dives and 2 boat dives. Here is where you really get to apply your new set of knowledge and skills like 'diving like a fish'. As the reef is a delicate system of hard and soft corrals, aquatic life and things that could hurt you if not careful, it is important to maintain neutral buoyancy using your lungs to ascend or descend. Nowadays, divers are equipped with a handy dive computer that tells you your depth, ascension rate, and dive time and features a convenient safety stop timer (safety stop: 15ft or 6-4.5 meters below the surface where you wait for 3 minutes so the nitrogen in you body safely leaves your blood stream). When you follow all the steps and procedures you can have the time of your life. Once you have completed your dives and logged the necessary time, that's it! You are now certified to dive anywhere in the world. As a final test and introduction to the deep, my instructor took me down to 100 feet, and acted out a panicked diver scenario that just ran out of air! Thanks Mark. Succeeding in this left me feeling confident and eager to explore more of the underwater world!

Click here to find out more how to get Certified to Dive at Paradise Taveuni.




Tuesday, September 30

Unique creations from an unlikely source!

ZULA DIVE WEAR

Recently, Paradise owner & operator, Terri Gortan, had the pleasure of meeting jewelry designer Amy Haas at the Dream Weaver Dive Show in Denver, Colorado. Amy has a unique range of jewelry including necklaces, pendants, bracelets, anklets and earrings all made from recycled o-rings used in scuba equipment.

A diver herself, Amy saw the potential in your spent o-rings, instead of seeing trash, she saw treasure and has not looked back since. Every piece is unique in material as well as design. These lightweight creations are not only eco-friendly but extremely versatile being waterproof they can be worn in the water, even get them back to their roots and go diving!

Zula Dive Wear is now available for purchase from the Paradise Gift Shop or from the website

Wednesday, September 24

Should you rent?

It is very easy to get attached to dive equipment, it’s yours, you know the little quirks and you have it set up exactly how you like. However, with airlines charging more and more for extra baggage, perhaps it is time to weigh up the value of bringing your own versus renting at your destination.


Here at Paradise, the Pro-Dive Team prides itself on stocking good quality and well maintained equipment for all shapes, sizes, and experience levels.

- We stock Oceanic and Scuba Pro products
- Well maintained
- Servicing performed by qualified technicians
- Air quality consistently monitored
- NITROX mixes up to 40%
- Emergency repairs can be handled in-house with parts inventory

So next time you are considering what to take on your dive trip, consider hiring instead of paying all those fees!