Notes on some of the sites we may visit.
1. Split Rock: Split Rock is 150 metres off shore; a large coral head, it is named for the distinctive split down one side. At the bottom of the split you can see purple gorgonian fans and pale yellow soft corals. At the entrance to the split a fierce clown fish defends her anemone and the male takes refuge in its fronds. When a female clown fish dies, the male changes sex and becomes female, and the next male moves up the hierarchy. There’s a large school of inquisitive black and white sergeant fish nearby; they will come right up to you and often give your fingers a gentle nip. There is a glorious abundance of orange and purple anthias and golden damsels near the surface; a little deeper, parrotfish can be seen nibbling away at the coral, and a large brown spotted grouper glides shyly away. There are two large clams on the rock, and several small green fern corals. Split Rock is one of the most colourful and enchanting sites of the bay, and is endlessly fascinating.
2. Golden Nuggets: Some 700 metres past the point of the peninsula, the twin pinnacles of Golden Nuggets offer anther magnificent display of smaller fish. The first pinnacle has purple and orange anthias, the beautiful iridescent blue sapphire damsels, Moorish idols with their lazy grace, and the bluejewel damsel fish guarding his garden against intruders – human or fish. On the second pinnacle you will see schools of surgeon fish and snapper fish. Quite often a white tipped shark is around, utterly arresting in its fearsome power – but not aggressive to humans and very well fed on the fish life. You will also see magic coral which turns from bluey-brown to white when threatened and is hardly known outside Fiji.
3. Lighthouse: Further out towards the edge of the bay stands a lighthouse, warning ships and yachts of the edge of the reef. This site is named for the lighthouse, and offers an extraordinary growth of plate corals shimmering in the water. There are also soft spaghetti corals with their tentacles swaying in the currents, and you may see a trumpet fish going by, confusing you with the appearance of a face at its tail. Pale green damsel fish hover around coral growths, darting back into its forest to hide when you first approach but soon relaxing and coming back out. There are also humpbacked wrasse and maori wrasse, and, if you are very lucky, a turtle.
4. Lesciaceva Lagoon: Sheltered behind the main reef wall is a lagoon; stingrays and garden eels burrow into the sandy bottom. The occasional group of trevally finds its way in, and there are cruising wrasse, damsel fish and parrotfish. Some larger starfish are to be seen, and frequent sea slugs as thick as a man’s forearm.
5. Shark Alley. Best accessed at high tide, this site has a more suggestive name than the reality – sharks are only sometimes sighted. You are dropped off beside the reef wall and swim along the wall, coming across numerous coral heads and, if the tide is right, swimming over canyons within the reef.
6. Charlie’s Point. This is situated a little further past the end of the peninsula. It is rich in damsel fish, parrot fish, anthias, and wrasse and there are some beautiful corals.