The No Dive Dive Trip to Fiji
We were a little lax plannning where to go for Christmas in 2016. To be honest, we were both a little depressed after the amazing trip to swim with the whales in Tonga 🙁 Yes, I realise how horribly spoiled that sounds. We were looking for somewhere warm, relatively close to home (by Australian standards), with good diving. This led us to Fiji. We should have known that the trip would be cursed based on the airport checkin experience.
The flight from Melbourne to Fiji departs at 11pm. We flew on Christmas Eve and the airport was absolutely deserted when we arrived. We are completely aware of baggage weight allowances, and travel as light as you can with two sets of dive gear and full underwater camera setups. So yeah, we were clearly over the 7kg limit for carryon (because we pack the large glass in hand luggage). In the past, we simply show the check-in agent that it is pure glass and electronics, and they want nothing to do with it and give us a pass. Not the Fiji Air agent. My rationale was that the weight was going on the plane either way, whether it was in cargo or in the overhead. She said the plane was full and there would be no room. I offered to board last, and gate check the bag if the overhead was already full. Nope – wouldn’t budge. And of course, the plane was half full when we departed. BITCH !
We arrived in Fiji Christmas morning. All bags made it, and everything survived. We’d booked the Sheraton, and had no issue checking in at 6:30am even though the official check-in time wasn’t until 2pm. After a buffet brekkie, and nap, we wandered the three properties that are part of the complex (Sheraton Fiji, Sheraton Denerau Villas, and The Westin). The most kid-free pool was at the Westin, but the most kid-free zone was the beach right in front of our room at the Sheraton. We splurged on a lobster dinner at Flying Fish, and sat at a table out on the sand.
The following morning, we were picked up by the drive from Beqa (pronounce ben-ga) Lagoon Resort, for the 2.5 hour drive to Pacific Harbour. There, we boarded a boat for the 45 minute crossing to Beqa Island. The staff was waiting for us on the beach, and welcomed us with a Fijian song and flower necklaces.
The resort consists of a common area restaurant/bar, the pool area, dive activity area, and different types of traditional bures. Ours was beach-front, with a plunge pool and hammock. It was very private (at the end of the resort) and only a short walk to the main area.
Meals are family style, and the food left a lot to be desired. Breakfast was decent but it went downhill from there. At breakfast you completed a form to indicate what you wanted for lunch and dinner, but they rarely brought us our selections. The meat at dinner was basically inedible, so we stuck with the soups and vegetarian options. The most annoying thing (other than the music that was WAY too loud) was that there were several large groups that were dominating everything (special requests, taking over too many tables, and taking all of the staffs attention).
I don’t mean to whine about a pretty cheap beachfront bure in Fiji, and had the diving been great (or even good) I probably wouldn’t whine at all.
The diving was a complete bust !
- Dive Day 1 – Entire dive operation was closed because they had a compressor issue which resulted in contaminated tanks.
- Dive Day 2 – No diving because the “shark bait place is closed due to public holiday.
- Dive Day 3 – We FINALLY get a chance to dive. We departed an hour late because we were waiting for the giant groups of people to assemble. We were given weights, but they weren’t labeled and the divemasters couldn’t tell us if they were kilos or pounds. Ugh. We were all loaded onto ONE boat (yep, 20 divers on one boat even though I was told 10 divers max and there were other boats free) for the short ride out to the Cathedral dive site. There were so many people on the boat that tanks were on the ground, making it nearly impossible to move around. The instructions were to enter the water and wait on the tow line because everyone needed to descend together. I got into the water first, because I was ready and near the back of the boat. Andy got stuck in the traffic and was one of the last in the water. By the time he got in, I’d been bobbing around on the tow line getting kicked in the face by first time divers for 20 minutes. I was seasick and annoyed so I just went back to the boat. 40 minutes later the first divers started to emerge, including one kid who’d ran out of air (who does a shark dive as their first open water dive?!?). AND, nothing was done about it ! Other places we’ve been “bench” people for a dive if they return with less than 50 bar. Here they just give you a new tank and send you back down. If you want to read someone else’s account of the dive operations – check out this trip advisor review.
That afternoon we began to plot our escape. There was no way that we were going to dive with these yahoos again. The on site manager was useless, and made us email the management in the US.
The following day we made our way back to Nadi. Our flight was in the evening, so we arranged a day room at the Fiji Gateway Hotel. When we arrived at the airport to check in, it could not have been smoother. No questions about the hand luggage. They didn’t even weigh it! We hung out in the lounge until it was time to board and then made our way to the gate, where of course, we spotted that mean lady from the Melbourne airport. She was a passenger this time, but she still gave us the stink eye.
On a positive note, they processed a full refund within a few days.