Fiji is a sensual experience like none other
You'll use all your senses when scuba diving and experiencing the culture in these lovely islands!
Divine color, even in 150 feet of water. Twenty different shades of blue.
Fields of wheat, waving in the wind — or current, rather — and it's not wheat, but wheat-colored soft coral, thousands of strands of it perched atop a lonely bommie. They call it Kansas.
Sheets of delicate lavender and pink coral thrive, spreading out blooming fingers against the Great White Wall, which is slightly sloping and choking with almost glowing pale corals. Graceful giant manta, flying alongside not-so-graceful humans towed behind the ship. Blue-ribbon eels - tiny, menacing, electric, transparent snouts brightening into tulip-yellow.
Complex organisms in symbiosis. Huge blocks of the deepest purples, oranges, reds, blues, yellows. Clownfish guard their tentacled homes. Blue corals dangle from overhangs. Lobster wave their fine antennae about.
Camouflaged frogfish, incredible morays, drifting mantas, school upon school upon school of living color swimming by. Stripes, spots and more intricate patterns. Orange anthias by the hundreds. Table coral, broccoli coral, fan coral - every kind of coral. Elusive pipefish, almost transparent, snake along on unseen fins, thin as paper.
Dozens of gray, black and whitetip reef sharks, wriggling only inches away from masks. They make fast passes at the frozen bait with a look in their eyes of suspicion but also of surprise at their good fortune. Teeth bared, pectoral muscles flaring, then relaxing. And like an entourage of groupies, scavenger fish blanket the bait, risking shark teeth for a piece of the action. A lone hammerhead, cruising the depths, out and into the opaque blue.
Fiji tastes earthy. Kava - grog, silted and spiced by the pepper root. Cool against warm mouths, numbing on chapped lips. Kava is foggy. Tastes like a dilution of something stronger. Like long-steeped tea drawn again with water. The very soil is evident on the tongue as the kava flows. Even teeth taste different, like ghosts.
Food brought from the fire underground, the lovo, smokes of the rich soil beneath the sand. It is heavy and tender. Fish, fresh from the sea, flakes in the mouth; chicken is succulent and lean. Time is the only spice added. It is enough.
Taro root, sweet potato; dense texture, subtle, smoky flavors. Cassava, from which tapioca is harvested, is stringy yet dense, filling but almost tasteless but for the ever-present shadow of the earth on fire, of the lovo. Breadfruit, quartered, is a new experience, a surprise. Taste, barely there, like a blank foodstuff that is waiting to be assigned a flavor. But texture, yes. White, almost weightless flesh. Spongy, yet easy to tear with teeth or hands. Imagine a watermelon dehydrated.
Damp soil, hard clay under bare feet, cool in the shade. Large leaves of the breadfruit tree are furry underneath and deep green gloss on top, waxy. Their little Velcro hairs grip fingers, fabric - botanical flagella intended to prevent movement rather than conduct it. The sun is pure warmth, energy, life. It coats bare skin in delicious warmth.
Rock, grown over with seaweed but uninhabited by coral, rasps at fingerpads gripping at 60 feet below, while dozens of sharks dart and dash to feed only a few feet away. Cleaner shrimp, with long, delicate appendages and worrisome swaying, tickle fingertips and lips, pick-pick-picking at worn-out cuticles and dirty gums. Feels like the tiniest tap dancer doing a number on your teeth.
Fresh wind whisks from every direction at a perch in the crow's nest while at sea, gently rocking with the swell at sunset. Splinter-verging walls of a simple wood boat, paint cracking away under pressure of the elements, as Big John from the village on Plantation Island faithfully pushes the boat out toward the break at Tavarua.
Zodiac walls, gray, sun-warmed, swollen, bucking over wind chop at high speeds. The weight of your tanks disappear after you back-roll splash into 84-degree water. Warm rain. Big drops. Fresh-water contrast. Legs dangling over the bow of the boat as it dives and rises across high seas - the most wonderful roller coaster.
Smoke rises from the uncovered lovo thick with burnt palm leaves, jungle vines, and roasted chicken and roots. Fish fresh-caught, and the ocean-saturated nets. Neoprene dries in the shade. Rain-risen scents from the earth - dark, fertile soil; moist, red clay; shifting sand. The dry, abandoned scent of pepper-tree root, kava powder. Cows, but not like dairy-farm cows, like range cattle - their hide, their breath, their sweat.
A fire burning at a nearby village, tucked into a deep shaft of valley. High, healthy grass blowing in the wind. Heavy incense from the Indian shops in Nadi. Wet wood. Clean, swept air of the highlands. Dense, full-of-life wet air of the jungles. And the salty scent of the sea, constantly changing, ever the same.
Wind-rattled palm leaves, like a rolled r in Spanish. Water splashes up against the aluminum bottom of a Zodiac. The melodic, vowel-swollen Fijian language. A single, hollow clap before accepting the kava cup. Laughter.
Propellers whir on tiny charter planes - the in-your-face decibels from the ground and the inescapable background noise from inside during the short flights from island to island. A ceiling fan, rocking itself gently on an ever-so-slightly-loose fixture. The wind, and how it commands attention if you face directly into or away from it, but seems to quiet if you look across its path.
Incredible harmonies. Knives tap against tanks, a signal not to miss out. Deep-toned voices combine in Fijian song, clear strings thrumming in unison. Frog song, night sounds, insect choirs. Regulator purrs - inhale, exhale. Lapping shallows, that gentle sigh of water on sand. More laughter.
A class of Fijian children, maybe 7 years old, is learning English, repeating in high-pitched sweet voices, Watch the boy run. The buzz of the Zodiacs darting in indeterminate direction above you.
The traditional Fijian goodbye song hauntingly drifting across the water, following a retreating boat. An underlying quiet, paired with all of the sounds, all of the time. And the sea, master of all languages