Posted on June 21, 2022 by Chris Doherty

December 2016

My next journey, I will be traveling to the remote south pacific islands of fiji. Consisting of nearly 300 islands. I will be sailing through the bligh waters of Fiji on a live aboard dive vessel. My main focus will be soft corals and reef fish. Ever since i started diving I have heard of the beautiful tales of the soft coral capital of the world and it's beauty. I start out with a 12 1/2 hour direct flight to vita lavu from LAX. I fly through the night and land first thing in the morning where I am greeted with a warm fijian welcome from my driver. From Nadi I have a 3 hour trip across the island to the voli voli resort in Raki Raki. then my sailboat awaits me to take me out its the ocean for 8 days I wade out in the ocean with my luggage and jump into a tender that drives me out to the boat to find the crew playing music and singing me a very warm welcome fijian song. What a way to start out a great trip. i boarded the vessel and start to set up my gear. 

We set sail at 1pm and have a 2 hour ride out to our first reef called corral garden. It consisted of a pinnacle of corral shooting up from the deep to almost touch the surface. I boarded the zodiac from the boat and headed over. The ocean was very rough that day and it was starting rain. I rolled off the side of the boat and into the water. The visibility wasn't the greatest but that didn't matter from what I saw some of the beautiful most colorful corral I have ever seen. It was like I was part of a fairy tale seeing colors together. As I circled the pinnacle on my way down,  I found the currents to be very strong and forceful at certain areas so I had to be very careful not to get pushed in to the corals while I was shooting at a very close distance. 

My objective for my trip was to capture all of the beautiful soft corals of the reef along with the beautiful reef fish swimming above it. For this shot I chose a 15mm fisheye lens so I could get extremely close while still getting the wide angle coverage. I also had 3 strobes to help me capture all of the natural colors of the reef as you tend to lose the natural colors the deeper you get.

I had one strobe positioned 3 ft on each side of my camera and one 2 feet ? above. As I was gong through my dive I found so many opportunities for what I was looking for and that was the problem was which I would focus on? The fish were zooming around everywhere and seemed to be shy of my flashes.  The next day consisted a lot of the same situation of beautiful soft coral shots, as I continued to use my wide angle lends. However the 3rd dive of the second day I decided to use my macro lens and I am glad I did as I found the anemonefish I was looking for. It is called the pink anemonefish and is only found in that area. I swam up close to the anemone , positioned my strobes and began to shoot. The anemonefish can be difficult to shoot sometimes as it is playing a game of cat and mouse and always seems to swim into the anemone as soon as you get close. They are also always on the move as it is difficult to get them to stay still. I spent 2 of my 60 minute dives trying to capture the perfect shot. 

The 3rd day out was also windy and high surf which made for difficult diving conditions but it was still beautiful below the water. I decided to start out with my macro lens, because there was a rumor of a a pigmy seahorse hanging around. Pigmy seahorse are about the size of your pinky fingernail and very hard to spot. After swimming for 40 minutes in the sand looking I decided to move on. Of course that is when I had a giant pacific manta ray spend the rest of the dive with me which was awesome but I wasn't able to get any photos due to not having my wide angle lens on. I spent the rest of the day looking for small macro life and had no disappointments at all! Again I surfaced my 3rd dive that day excited about the night dive that evening but was informed by the captain that we had to cancel again due to a cyclone headed our way. We were over 12 hours away from our anchorage on the main island and I know were in for a long night, as we had to sail in front of the cyclone. So we set sail home as the waves and wind picked up it averaged 10-14ft seas on or crossing home. there was no sleep to have that night as you would just roll right out of your bed. So after many beers and no sleep we finally made it back early that morning. We had to exit the boat so the crew could get it to safe anchorage to ride out the storm. I arranged for a cab to take me the airport caught the last flight out before the cyclone hit. Although I didn't get to do a lot of things I had planned I will definitely be back as I still had a wonderful time.  Big thanks to the fiji siren crew for getting me back safely and doing a great job. I will be back.