Thursday, October 05, 2006

The first time I ever saw a coral reef in person was on a trip to Fiji. It was actually just an extended layover; I was traveling from Auckland to Los Angeles and I was able to add a layover in Fiji for $20. I figured that I probably wouldn’t have another chance to go to Fiji for $20, so I took it. I started sweating the minute I got off the plane; after spending six months in rainy, temperate New Zealand I wasn’t prepared for eighty degree weather and ninety percent humidity. After my first night in Nadi I caught a bus and then a boat to one of the outlying islands, where I was to spend four days doing essentially nothing. I brought a couple of books and my pack-able hammock, but when I made it to the island I found that the hammocks were already set up for me. The island was small, but gorgeous. It only housed two resorts, which were essentially right next to each other, and it took three or four hours to walk all the way around the island. Fresh water was somewhat scarce, and rain water collectors made up for the majority of it. The whole island ran on a large generator, so the lights went off at 10pm and didn’t turn on again until morning. I had heard about Fiji’s great diving, but since I was there for such a short period of time and didn’t have a dive license, I opted to snorkel instead. On my second day on the island I hired a snorkel and a set of fins and set off to explore the coral reef right in front of our resort. When I plunged into the warm water I felt like I was in a different world. My doctor used to have this big elaborate fish tank filled with fish of all different colors, large and small. Gliding over the coral reef made me feel like I was in a life-sized mock-up of the same tank. Big fish patrolled the shelf of the coral reef while little neon-colored ones flitted in and out of the coral heads. Sea cucumbers loafed about the bottom, while parrot fish nibbled and ground at the coral. I snorkeled all day, checking out the coral reef all around the island. By the end of the day I had a terribly sunburned back and salty hair, but I knew that I was going back in the water the next morning.