Our first weekend on the island our family went for a full-day dolphin tour with our Fiji hosts, the Summerlins. After a 2-hour drive through villages and rural scenery, we arrived at Takalana resort, situated near an area called Half Moon Reef. A coral reef located about 30 minutes off the coast, Half Moon is a safe haven for sea life, with a series of coral pillars creating a natural circular barrier from major predators. Large pods of spinner dolphins call the reef home, so the area has been deemed a protected natural landmark. Although scuba diving and snorkeling are not allowed, a limited number of boats are permitted to enter the reef area to observe the dolphins from a distance. Watching pods of dolphins swim and jump around us made for a very memorable experience. We even saw a small whale breaching nearby.
Once we’d spent some time near Half Moon Reef, our boat took us to another reef open for snorkeling. Some of us donned masks and fins and spent time watching the massive amount of colorful fish swimming around the coral. At one point I was following a group of parrot fish and came upon a sleek, gray fish about 5 feet in length with large gills and a prominent dorsal fin. That’s weird. That fish kind of looks like a shark…wait a minute…SHARK!! Like the flailing, splashing freak that I am, I swam back toward the boat calling to the guides, “Um, there’s a shark over here! Hey! Guys! There’s a shark!” They just calmly smiled their big Fijian smiles and our guide Jimmy wryly said, “Don worry. Eet’s ah vegetarian shock. BAH! HA! HA! HA!” Hardy har har, Jimmy. Apparently, smaller sharks like this one are common around the reef and pose no risk to humans. Having learned this, I was a little mad at myself for swimming off so quickly without getting a better look at it.
Later in our snorkeling session I started seeing a number of saucer-sized jelly fish. My maternal instincts kicked in and I quickly found Emily to tell her to avoid them. However, everywhere I looked I could see at least a few jelly fish floating around us. A large pod of them had evidently floated into our snorkeling area with the current. Again, I go swimming back to the boat. “Um, I’m seeing a lot of jellyfish all of the sudden,” I called to our guides. Once again I got those big smiles and Jimmy replied, “Don worry. These jellyfish don’t have stingers.” I assumed he was joking like he was about the vegetarian shark, but then he scooped one up out of the water and threw it at me. The gelatinous mass gently slapped my head and plopped into the water. Then I noticed Liv above me in the boat holding a clear, slimy jellyfish in her cupped hands. So, apparently some jellyfish really don’t have stingers.
After climbing back into the boat, cruising through the dolphin pods one more time and seeing the little whale breaching again, we made our way back to shore and up the hill to Takalana resort for a Fijian lunch. We rode home worn out and a little sunburnt from our day on the water, but Fiji was definitely off to a good start.