On November 24th 2018, I began my journey to Fiji!
It took roughly 20 hours to get to Nadi International Airport, plus another three hour drive to VoliVoli Beach Resort - where I won an 8-day dive trip for two - thanks to Audience Awards with the Ocean Film Challenge. VoliVoli is a beautiful and quiet resort located on the ocean. Myself and my "plus one," Josh, were greeted with a smile and a loud "Bula!" which translates to "Wishing you happiness and good health."
It's equivalent to the Hawaiian greeting of "Aloha."
I learned quickly that Fiji is a very special place to be for many reasons.
Green mountains, pristine and untouched water, kind locals, great food and no crowds.
Most impressive is that the government and the locals really care about their ocean.
Read more about that here.
I decided to leave most of my professional gear at home.
I often crave to unplug, and this was the trip to do just that.
I wanted the luxury of not feeling the need to capture everything in the most
professional way. As an artist, it can be hard for me to put the camera down when I'm
surrounded by so much beauty. Making this decision allowed me to be more present and enjoy this experience without a ton of responsibility. I was able to dive with my iPhone 8 as deep as 90 feet with the use of my H20 Lenzo Underwater case (tested up to 100 meters).
I also brought my DJI Mavic Pro drone and was easily able to fly from the boat.
The next five days were filled with glassy boat rides to the middle of the ocean,
scuba diving our asses off, exploring beautiful reefs, whale and dolphin sightings,
great food, snorkeling, shelling, swimming and making new friends.
Vinaka VoliVoli! After a week of diving, I can say with full confidence that I did not find one piece of plastic. Even at 90 feet, in the middle of the ocean, I found nothing. Even more impressive, Simon (Director of Marketing) and the crew at VoliVoli created a little greenhouse by growing baby mangroves and planting them on remote islands in order to help protect the coasts from erosion and rising sea levels. They used recycled Fiji water bottles instead of pots.
I did see quite a bit of coral bleaching. As global temperatures rise every year, so do the ocean temperatures. As a result, coral reefs are using their inner sunblock to protect themselves from the heat, displaying a very bright, saturated, fluorescent color when doing so. If temperatures do not cool down, the reefs will bleach white and die. We saw a lot of this in both stages. To learn more about coral bleaching, watch the amazing documentary "Chasing Coral."
After a week at VoliVoli, we traveled back to Nadi for more exploration. We decided to take a day-cruise to Tivua Island. Tivua Island is one of the hundreds of small, magnificent islands surrounding the main island of Viti Levu. Did you know there are a total of 330 islands in Fiji? I had to get out there. We sailed to Tivua on a giant, wooden tall ship. Although there were other people aboard, when we arrived it felt like we had the entire island to ourselves! There is only one small structure on the island for eating and playing music. Josh and I spent the entire day in the water observing coral, running into small reef sharks in very shallow waters, getting chased by a bunch of cute, little yellow pilotfish. We walked to the other side of the island to fly the drone,
and there was complete peace and quiet. The day ended with crazy stormy skies and we enjoyed the cool rain for the short time it lasted.
On our last day in Fiji, we made it to one of the world's famous surf breaks:
C L O U D B R E A K!
It was offseason, so the waves were only 5-7 ft, compared to the 20-ft barrels during the summer swell, but it was just as beautiful as I imagined. I felt like I won the lottery being out there on the boat, laying my eyes on the break. There were only a few surfers in the water. We learned that Fiji and its world-class surf breaks is what Hawaii used to be like before American commercialization. Surfing in Fiji is still somewhat untouched, and one considers themselves pretty lucky to say they surfed Cloudbreak. The big boys surf here. It’s rumored that Kelly Slater owns property on nearby Tavarua Island. I couldn't wait to get in the water with my mask and snorkel to get a closer look, and it wasn't long before I was swept out to sea by Cloudbreak's current. Didn't see that coming!
Cloudbreak's old judging tower that is now a giant bird house
In addition to wonderful Cloudbreak, we also visited Tavarua Rights, Swimming Pools and Restaurants. These breaks surrounded the heart-shaped island, Tavarua, as well as Namotu Island. The boat dropped us off to a few more snorkel spots - it was truly the most beautiful water I have ever seen - and that's saying a lot considering I'm in Fiji!
I've traveled half way around the planet, and that is something I will never forget!
Fiji is stunning. I loved the islands because it provided ample opportunities to be in the water. My happy place. I am so insanely grateful to have had this experience.