Would you go seeking out gigantic bull sharks in their natural environment? With no cage, no barriers, and nothing between you and those magnificent ocean predators?
To some, the idea sounds absurd – or just plain stupid. To others, it’s an adventure they’re longing for. To those people, I say – you need to go to Fiji.
Fiji is, of course, surrounded by stunning reefs featuring some of the world’s most colorful corals and more types of underwater life than you can count. Diving in Fiji is easy, accessible and safe, with certified dive operators around the country showing off these underwater marvels.
But there’s another type of dive that draws people to Fiji: shark diving.
In the waters of Beqa Lagoon, just south of Fiji’s main island Viti Levu, lies the protected Shark Reef Marine Reserve, home to a massive population of sharks. And for nearly 20 years, Beqa Adventure Divers has been leading groups of scuba divers down into the depths to observe them.
This is the real deal. The shark dive at Beqa Lagoon is often called the world’s best, giving divers the chance to get close to eight different species of shark, including those of the lemon, nurse, and silvertip varieties, along with the main attraction – spectacular bull sharks. The team has got a reputation for safety and professionalism, and is deeply involved in marine conservation.
But, even so – diving with bull sharks? Without a cage? Really? Are you crazy?
Well maybe I am, because bright and early one morning I find myself gearing up to explore Beqa Lagoon and spend some quality time with those sharks.
After a short boat ride out to the reef, it’s time. As I strap myself into my gear, I wonder if the hearts of my fellow divers are skipping every other beat, just like mine? If they are, you wouldn’t know it: we share foolhardy grins as we do the final safety checks, then plunge into the cool ocean.
The team let loose a few more heads. Soon, around 10 massive bull sharks are swooping through the water above and in front of us, enjoying their feast.
The team are poised around the group, armed with long poles to make sure no food comes too close and no shark pays us too much attention. The sharks, some over 3m long, ignore us completely. They’re focused on their meal, leaving us to gaze in awe at the incredible display.
All too soon, the sharks finish eating, and begin to drift away. The dive masters signal that it’s time to move on. We visit two other sites, watching our leaders hand-feed schools of lemon and nurse sharks. They’re almost playful, and water is filled with energy.
Finally, we break the surface and re-join our boat.
“Well, that was rubbish,” comments one of the dive masters.
“What?” I demand, genuinely shocked, still dripping wet. “We saw at least 10 bull sharks!”
“Yes,” he said, shaking his head. “Only 10. In high season, we see 80, maybe 100. It’s much better.” I think my mouth was hanging open. I need to go back in high season.
To dive with bull sharks, you’ll need to be a certified open water diver. PADI or SSI certification is available from most dive centers in Fiji and Australia.
Beqa Adventure Divers operate year-round from Pacific Harbor, about four hours from Fiji’s main airport at Nadi. You’ll see the most sharks in the winter months. Shark dives start from $155 (FJD 245) for a single-tank expedition.