Fiji’s ocean temperature usually ranges between 75-79 degrees F (24-26 C) around July and 80-84 degrees F (27-29 C) during January and February. The warmer temperatures often bring a huge increase in the number of plankton, which decreases the visibility in the water, but also increases the likelihood of seeing various marine life.
Though the ocean may appear serene and harmless, dangers do exist. It is important to be aware of these, so you can enjoy a fun and safe experience in Fiji’s lovely waters.
Hazardous Ocean Conditions in Fiji
Some beaches in Fiji have strong and dangerous currents, and there may be no warning signs present to signal hazardous swimming conditions. The White Wall for example, which is made up of soft corals, is a world-renowned drift dive, located in the Somosomo Strait off Taveuni and is one of the areas with very strong currents. Because of the strength and quickness of the currents, it is recommended that you have a knowledgeable local accompany you when diving in this area. But even on other beaches where the water looks calm, dangerous currents may be present.
November through April is also cyclone season, so strong winds can stir up on the seas especially during this time, though they can occur any other time of the year as well. Other dangers include rip tides along the reefs and river estuaries, so you should check the weather conditions before swimming, snorkeling, or boating.
Fiji Marine Life
A few fatal shark attacks have been reported that occurred off of Taveuni. Some happened as recently as December 2000, May 2001 and September 2003. In one account, a man was attacked only 30 m (33 yards) offshore and bled to death before reaching the shore, so you do not have to be very far out to be attacked.
Be very careful when swimming, snorkeling, diving and surfing, as sharks can mistake people and objects for other creatures, especially if the water has little visibility. Do not partake in any of these activities alone, and avoid swimming and diving in the mouths of rivers, as well as snorkeling in the middle of a school of fish. If you see sudden quick movement or bizarre behavior from animals in the ocean, get to shore as quickly as possible, as a shark could be nearby.
Tiger sharks, bull sharks and oceanic white tips are some of the species that are known to be dangerous. However, shark attacks on people are rare occurrences, so if you take the appropriate safety measures, it is unlikely that you will come in contact with these creatures.
Three species of sea snakes reside along Fiji’s rugged coastlines, where they come to the shore to rest. The highly-venomous black and white banded sea snakes are often found along Fiji’s shores or in lagoons, though they are usually docile and will not attack people unless they are severely provoked. At night, these snakes will slither on land and can even enter homes and buildings, so you should keep an eye out for them in the evening whether you are outdoors or indoors.
Out of the five species of sea turtles that are found in Fiji’s waters, three lay eggs on many of the islands’ beaches from November to March. However, these turtles have become severely endangered, and a few resorts on the islands have started conservation programs to help increase the turtle population and persuade local villagers not to kill these creatures for their meat.
Though they may look cute and appear docile, you should not get too close and reach out to touch these turtles, as they can bite and you could spread bacteria to them, which can kill them and interfere with the attempts of rebuilding the population. If you encounter them while in the ocean, do not make any sudden movements toward them, as this may cause them to feel threatened. Instead, simply enjoy the sight of these animals from a distance.
Other Ocean Creatures with Teeth
Some other marine life can also deliver some nasty bites, so it is best to stay away from them. Barracuda are one of the species of fish that have a sharp set of teeth, as well as the murray eel. Murray eels live inside caves in the reefs and usually will not attack a human unless they feel threatened. If you see an opening in the corals and rocks, do not place your hand inside or close to the opening, as it is highly likely that an eel is inside and will attack your hand. If you see these creatures swimming near you, remain calm and do not approach them.
Coral, as nice as it may look, is another form of ocean life that you do not want to get too close to. The fringing coral reefs, which can have very sharp edges and easily cut through your skin, often become too shallow at low tide. When this happens, it is definitely not wise to swim in these areas.
Some of the soft corals, such as the Lionfish and Crown of Thorns sea stars, can also give you a painful sting if you come in contact with them. To avoid these corals, you should ask a local about the wildlife or check out wildlife books about where you are diving, swimming, or snorkeling.