What attracts visitors to Fiji is not only its beauty and beaches on land, but also what can be seen below Fiji’s warm South Pacific Ocean. There is a wide variety of life in Fiji’s waters, including dolphins, sea turtles, eels, sea snakes, corals and a colorful array of exotic fish to name a few. Activities, including snorkeling and diving, also enable people to explore Fiji’s magnificent underwater world.
Sea Turtles in Fiji
Fiji is home to five species of sea turtles, three of which lay eggs on its beaches from November through March. One of these species is the green turtle, whose name derives from the green fat it stores. It carries a sub-circular to heart-shaped shell.
Sea turtles are lovely to watch under water as they are very graceful swimmers. However, they are also critically endangered, due to poaching, pollution, coastal development and from being caught in fishing nets. A few resorts in Fiji have developed conservation programs to aid in increasing the turtle population and to persuade local villagers to stop killing them for their meat.
People can spread bacteria to turtles by touching them, which can be deadly to them and hinder the attempts to rebuild their population, so people should keep their distance when around these animals.
Dolphins in Fiji
There are several species of dolphin living in Fiji’s waters. They can be entertaining and delightful to watch, though as cute as they may be, people are not allowed to touch them in the wild, only in parks or programs where one is permitted to do so.
Swimming with dolphins can be an amazing experience. You can do just this in a marine park or within their territory in the ocean, or you can also choose to watch them splash their way through the water from a boat.
Whales in Fiji
There was a time when humpback whales could be seen swimming all throughout the ocean near Fiji. However, many of these magnificent animals were hunted and killed by the whale trade, which started in the late nineteenth century.
One tradition that remains from this former trade is the giving of Tabua, or sperm whale’s teeth, which are offered at formal gatherings, such as weddings and funerals and can also be given to someone when asking for a favor or for forgiveness.
Today, humpback whales can occasionally be seen in the shallow waters of the Lomaiviti Islands and in the waters near Taveuni located in the northern islands between July and October.
Sharks in Fiji
Though shark attacks are rare, they have occurred in Fiji, and you don’t have to be very far out in the ocean to encounter one. Safety precautions you should follow to protect yourself from sharks are to avoid swimming in water with low visibility. Do not wear bright clothing, do not be in the middle of a school of fish or near ocean creatures that are behaving strangely or erratically, and never be in the ocean alone. A few species of shark that swim in Fiji’s ocean include bull sharks, tiger sharks and oceanic white tips.
Unlike some other tropical areas in the Pacific, there are no box jellyfish or other types of jellyfish that deliver nasty stings, so you do not have to worry about these creatures while in the ocean.
These eels have sharp teeth and will attack if they are provoked. They can be found in openings of rocks and coral, so keep your hands away from these areas.
Three species of sea snake dwell along Fiji’s rugged coastlines, where they will come ashore to rest. One of these species is the highly venomous black-and-white-banded sea snake, which is often found in lagoons or along Fiji’s shores. However, they will not attack people unless they are provoked. At night, they will come to shore and may even enter buildings and homes, so you should watch out for them, outdoors and indoors, in the evening.
Snorkeling and Diving
Fiji’s colorful and diverse underwater environment makes ocean activities, including snorkeling and diving, interesting and fun. Several programs are available for people that allow you to experience Fiji’s ocean through these activities.
Fiji is known as the “soft coral capital of the world” because of its huge variety of coral that can be seen under water that are home to all types of species of marine life, including anemone, many types of colorful exotic fish, sea snakes and moray eels. There are over 1200 species of reef fish that live in the ocean around Fiji.
The Bligh Waters-Vatu-i-Ra Seascape, which is located southwest of Vanua Levu, is home to a stunning variety of soft and hard corals, along with all sorts of fish, sharks and other top predators. It also has been conserved and taken care of by local communities for years.
Though Fiji is world-renowned for its diverse types of corals, there are several factors that pose serious threats to this form of marine life as well. For centuries, Fiji’s traditional approach to fishing included “tabu” areas, which were areas that people were temporarily forbidden to fish at. Today though, modern fishing methods, along with other factors in modern Fijian society, make “tabu” areas no longer effective in stopping people from fishing there. Overfishing, growing coastal populations, human activities on both land and sea and environmentally unfriendly human practices, such as road building, agriculture, forest clearing for villages and logging all are factors that endanger Fiji’s coral.
Protecting Fiji’s Underwater Ecosystem
You can help protect and preserve Fiji’s ocean ecosystem by:
Not stepping on or touching the coral
Not touching or holding any form of marine life
Reporting illegal fishing or dumping in the ocean
Supporting organizations that protect coral reefs and reef-friendly businesses