Standing approximately 14 feet by 14 feet, the Bure, is similar to the style of a chalet. After taking the long hike up the hill (depending on which bure that one lives in), one encounters a beautiful, wooden balcony that overlooks the still ocean.
This balcony is located in the middle of the hill.
Morning views from the glass window panes is incredible. The sun rises so perfectly over the little island, known as “two trees”, for its two palm trees (when you get closer you will see that there are many more than just two trees). Even when it is not sunrise, these rooms house the finest views.
View from the River Bure.
Inside the Bure, there is one decent sized room, containing chairs, a night table, beds and something similar to a closet, except without doors. Also, there is a bathroom. Mine and Leora’s bathroom has a large spider, at first, he was a little scary, but after his second day with us, we have come to consider him our friend. The sea breeze comes in through windows and it feels lovely. We don’t spend too much time in our Bure’s. However, they do provide for an excellent place to rest our tired heads.
Outside of the Bure.
On Tuesday before the second Kava Ceremony, we all teamed up in pairs and had a drum competition on the drums they use to announce when meals are. Maggie [ed: our primary host at Matava] told us that the judges are a mermaid, a jungle warrior and someone in between, and that the winner would get a prize. Not much planning had been put into everyone’s performance but we all still went up none the less. After everyone performed for about 10 seconds each, Maggie asked one member from each group to stand up and get in a straight line. After we did he told us to spin around in a circle and start waving then said, “we are out of meat for the barbeque, say goodbye to your friends”. After we all sat down again he unrolled a blank place of tweed looking material for dramatic effect and announced that Alex and Tess were the competition winners, and they each got what we called a “tsunami tide” (extra large) cup of Kava as a prize, then we started the actual ceremony.
Alex and Tess receiving their “tsunami tide” cup of Kava.
One of the best parts about our stay in Fiji is easily the food. Every day, the meals prepared for us are fresh and flavorful. One of biggest treats though is getting to have fresh coconuts. When we first arrived to Matava we were greeted and given a coconut each. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of coconut water, but the coconut water back home is nothing like that of a freshly opened coconut here. The juice is so refreshing, and has a subtle sour kick to it, perfect after a long day of traveling or scuba diving.
Yesterday we got the extra treat of watching some coconuts get picked in person. I got down from my bure and heard a loud thud, a common sound we’ve all come to recognize as a coconut falling. I paid no mind to the first one but after a few more loud thuds and a crowd gathering with their phone cameras pointed up, I realized what was going on. A staff member had climbed to the top of a coconut tree and was kicking coconuts down to the ground. It was an impressive sight, especially considering how tall and smooth the tree was, and how effortlessly he did it. All us visitors collected a coconut, and went off to a husking station, where a couple of staff members used machetes to cut open the coconuts for drinking, and even cutting some in half to scoop out the meat. Delicious. It doesn’t get much fresher than that!
Climbing the coconut tree.
The coconut husking station.
I sat out the dive today as I wasn’t feeling well, So I spent the morning exploring the mangroves near Matava with Ashley. We got our dive boots and set out through the mud at low tide, sometimes sinking down to our shins in the loose sediment. We saw thousands of fiddler crabs, along with some rock crabs, a nautilus shell, mudskippers, and I fish I have yet to identify (white, wrasse shaped, with a large black false eye spot on the caudal peduncle). The coolest thing I saw, however, was a strange box crab. I noticed a rock in the sediment, and only thought to pick it up after I saw bubbles coming from it. It was by far the coolest crab I’ve ever seen.
box crab (top view)
box crab (bottom view)
Dive Location: Golden Chimney 08-01-18
Depth: ~50+ feet
Dive Time: ~30 minutes
So far, every dive location we have been fortunate to visit has been breathtaking and I still can’t believe how lucky I am to be experiencing this trip. Today’s dives took place at “Coral Wonderland” and “Golden Chimney” which of the two was the most magnificent in my eyes. The overhangs that we explored were massive and looking up from some of the ledges was a sight to behold, especially in the chimney itself.
View of inside the chimney looking up.
There was also multiple “pockets” where some fish were hanging out which made for an awesome photo opportunity.
Fish in “pocket” of chimney.
I wish we had more time and air to explore longer but unfortunately all good things must end at some point! I hope we will revisit this site in the second week.
Fiji has been the most incredible place since we got here, and I can already tell it might never be matched. One of the most common thing my friends and family will ask about when I get back to the states will be something along the lines of “how clear was that water?” or “did you see any fish?”. One of the things that stood out to me the most were the plants that surround our resort and cover each and every island. I am constantly blown away everywhere I look because it is all so different thank back home. I don’t think I have seen one plants that is common in the states, or from what I have noticed. Everything is extremely colorful and stands out so much.
These two pictures of a pink flower I saw is found along the trail up the bures.
This yellower flower stood out to me the most because of its size and incredible color. It is very brightly colored and is common around the resort.
While driving on the boats to get to our dive sites, plants and trees cover every inch of the mountains in our view. It is absolutely unbelievable seeing the native trees. These are forests like no other. Everything seems so pure and untouched, which adds a little extra beauty to it. Palm trees are sticking up from the very top and dense trees scale the side of the mountains. Coming from such an urban/suburban area back home, this is not seen at all. There is beauty in the water as well as on land in Fiji.
Yesterday we went out for two dives in the morning at Coral Wonderland and Golden Chimney. These dives were different from our previous dives because they were directly on the reef wall. The reef wall is the point where the reef drops steeply into open ocean.
Professor Joe Warren and Leora observing the reef wall.
While looking at the wall was captivating and beautiful, looking down or behind us and seeing the ocean continue to infinity was terrifying. During our ascent, the reef completely disappeared and there is only empty ocean. Without the reference of the reef the vastness of the ocean hits you. It is scary but also beautiful as the light beams dance from the waves above along with the promise of unique creatures somewhere in the deep. As students, experiencing the size and power of the ocean firsthand is priceless.
Sunrise over the water.
In Fiji, at Matava, every direction you turn provides you impeccable views of the island. The sea, the trees, the mountains, the environment, the natural and man-made architecture are like no other. My room is called river, or uciwei in Fijian. It sits on a hilltop therefore providing me with a breathtaking view of the morning sunrise. The sun rises just above the palm trees forming a silhouette of the horizon, truly beautiful. The colors that the sun emits into the sky is something to talk about as well. Vibrant purple, pink, orange and some blues blend together like watercolor in the sky. Sunrise is at around 6:25am so I either watch it from my amazing porch view or walk down to the beach and watch it rise over the mountains. I believe that since we are by the equator, the sun is brighter and more powerful so in return you get bright morning colors in the sky. Its breathtaking every time.
The beautiful view from my burre over the trees.
One of the most exhilarating aspects of this course is that I will also be a fully certified Open Water diver by the time that it is over. I had completed my pool training before coming to Fiji, and I had received a referral to complete my open water training here. For a few years now, I have had some ear trouble caused by TMJ, a muscular issue in the jaw. This caused trouble mostly in my left ear, but occasionally I could feel discomfort in my right ear as well. Since I was only trained in a six-foot pool, I had a lot of fears about my training in open water. I was nervous that my ears might be too sensitive and that I would not be able to equalize them properly, especially since I had no need to equalize them in the six feet I was trained in.
When it came time to do my first open water dives, I stressed to myself that the number one key is to relax and breathe — this is what our dive master, Mike, stressed to us as well. As we made our decent, I continuously held my nose while gently blowing out of it, which is the proper procedure for equalizing. By the time we had completely descended, my ears felt completely fine! We continued our dive from there, and as we descended even more, I had to equalize even more. That’s when I heard the sound of proper equalization—something that sounds like a deflating balloon coming from your ears. After that is when I felt completely at ease. As we continued my first open water dive, we came across the massive cabbage coral that I had only seen from above before I could join the rest of the class in diving, which made me really happy. To my surprise, our first dive went all the way down to 11.8m, or approximately 35ft. Finding out that I successfully dove down to nearly six times my pool training with minimal ear issues made me feel like I had achieved something great!
A large cabbage coral.
Life began in water.
By this I mean that the first things that could be called cells, the first self-replicating DNA strands enclosed in a protective lipid membrane, were aqueous. They likely evolved near hydrothermal vents, fueled by the heat and chemical energy in the water pouring out of the chimney-like structures. All life eventually evolved from these humble origins. We still carry salt water in every cell, a reminder of our ancestry.
Scuba tanks on a boat as we pass an island moored in teal waters.
Perhaps that’s why my first scuba diving experience felt like coming home. As we (I, three other student divers, and the instructor) dropped beneath the waves – one, two, three feet, eventually coming to rest on the sand about eight feet under – my brain seemed to slow its racing thoughts. My breathing became relaxed, with every inhale accompanied by a hiss, and every exhale, a column of bubbles reaching up to the glittering surface. I could barely follow the instructor’s signals, I was so enthralled in the experience.
There really is nothing quite like it. Snorkeling and diving in a pool don’t even come close. Nothing compares to seeing a massive coral right in front of your face, swarming with tropical fish like birds flitting around a tree. Nothing compares to soaring and twisting through the water with only the slightest of effort, somehow unencumbered by the ungainly inflatable vest and air tank. I never wanted to leave – but of course, as the air in the tanks hissed into our lungs and bubbled into the ocean, we were forced to turn back.
A bird’s eye view of the reef surrounding one of the Fijian islands. The breaks are caused by the influx of fresh water and sediment brought in by the rivers.
I think it goes without saying that I am very much looking forward to my next dives.