September 14, 2020 ; 3:23 PM
16°75’S, 179°90’E – Vanua Levu, Fiji
Rainbow Reef is probably the most world-renowned dive spot in Fiji, featuring the famous Great White Wall.
So naturally, not 24 hours after we dropped the hook, we were keen to be on the reef.
The Great White Wall was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Fiji is known as the soft coral capital of the world, and Taveuni is known as the soft coral capital of Fiji. The colors were so vibrant they seemed unreal, and they varied from oranges to purples to yellows, etc. The reason the wall is unique compared to the rest of rainbow reef is that it’s a 90 degree, colorful cliff that is dusted with paper white soft coral as well. As our guide would say, “this is the only time you’ll ever see snow in Fiji”.
The difference between soft and hard coral is that soft coral shrinks and expands according to the current. Our awesome dive masters (Taveuni Ocean Sports) took us at just the right time of day for a current that ensured the wall was blooming like a field of wildflowers (or maybe more accurately rainbow cauliflower?). Apparently, if you go at the wrong time, it just looks like a big grey cliff. Nothing would be more of a letdown.
We swam through caverns and schools of colorful fish. I was completely bewildered at myself because I’ve spent almost every day swimming in the ocean since January, and I never wondered where the common Goldfish came from. What a dig to my favorite fish friend growing up, Cedric. (Cedric was an important member of the Pankratz family, killed by the hands of the admiral– but that’s a story for another time).
Swimming around the reef, I was sure I had found that Fiji was teeming with Goldfish, but I was mistaken. After dive number one, the dive masters educated us on the fish and coral native to Fiji. I learned that the orange fish that covered most of the reef were actually Anthias. The females are orange and look just like Cedric, but the males are a gorgeous purple (I referred to the males as “mohawk fish” prior to our little science class).
Anthias are all born female and live in schools with a single male. When that male dies, the largest female anthias turns into a male. This is opposite of clownfish (which we saw a lot of, too), who are born male and headed by a female. When the female clownfish dies, the biggest male turns into a female. Basically, Marlin was really Nemo’s MOM during the movie, although he was Nemo’s dad at birth. The animal kingdom is kind of freaky, isn’t it?
Our guide was extremely good at pointing out tiny micro animals throughout both dives. I would have missed literally all of them without his help, as most looked exactly like the coral or other plants they were sitting on. My favorite was a lime green crab, only about an inch wide, that he pulled out of some lime green “hair” growing off the coral. I had just examined the area carefully and missed it completely. We also got to see popcorn shrimp and searched for pygmy seahorses, although I never saw one.
We saw parrot fish laying eggs, a white tip shark, lots of mocking blue fin tuna, and so much more. As we explored the coral heads I had trouble keeping my snorkel in my mouth as my jaw dropped around every corner. Seriously, I encourage you to YouTube videos of Rainbow Reef and the Great White Wall, and then TRY not to put it on your bucket list. It was the most wonderful, other-worldly experience.
First mate, Amazing Grace
TLDR: Rainbow Reef was the best dive site that didn’t feature major game (sharks, rays, etc.) of the entire trip to date. It was jaw-droppingly beautiful and should be on every divers’ bucket list.