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Matava – An Eco Hideaway in Fiji

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When you land at the small airstrip on the island of Kadavu, this is just the beginning of your adventure to Matava. We were met at the airport by the Matava team, who loaded our not insubstantial luggage onto the back of a pickup truck, and via local shops for provisions, we headed to the coast just a 5 minute drive away. Here the guys loaded our bags onto one of Matava’s metal boats, but there was a problem. Low tide had grounded the boat, and so we had to wait for more water to come into the bay, before wading out, with our shorts rolled-up, to deeper water. Once going, the journey takes about an hour (depending on how much shallow reef there is to avoid), and you really need to have a spirit of adventure to travel here! The coastline on this side of Kadavu is lush and green and the forests and mangroves alike are healthy with no roads cutting through them. The inhabitants of the tiny villages here use boats as their only form of transport, and when we arrived at the resort, there was a short wade to make it onto the boat deck, where we received a warm welcome.

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Matava is one of the most eco-friendly resorts you will find. Set it the forest, the main diving and reception area, dive centre and all the rooms are made to have a traditional Fijian feel. There are solar panels providing electricity to the resort, and guests are asked to only use fans at night (there is no air conditioning) and to charge electrical equipment at a dedicated station. They also grow their own food here, so all your salad, veg and fruit are organically grown by the staff. You will not see any plastic water bottles here, either; in fact, we do not recall seeing any single-use plastics during our stay.

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Once unpacked, and when our camera gear was all setup, we headed back down the short flight of stairs to the outdoor diving area. Heidi and Josh, who had arrived on the same flight as us, did not look happy. Josh was here to complete his Open Water course, and the instructor had fallen ill. In a remote resort like this one, this meant that his course would be delayed and he may miss several days of diving – not great when you have travelled from Seattle just for this adventure. So Nick volunteered to complete Josh’s course in the two afternoons we had at Matava; it was going to be a busy couple of days.

Matava is famous for its Manta Ray dive, which is about a 45 minute boat ride from the resort, on the outside of the reef. There is a cleaning station that sees mantas visit here all year around, and as we only had two days of diving, we had hoped to visit this site on at least one of the days, but it was not to be. On the first day the weather was against us, with strong winds making the journey difficult with large waves on the outer reef. Instead, we headed to a more local, yet beautiful and colourful, coral reef. Our favourite dive of the day was at Fan Dream Time, which, as the name suggests, is covered in all colours of sea fan. A quick lunch and we were back on a smaller boat heading out to a shallow, sandy bay to complete some training dives.

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The food at Matava is excellent. Caroline was well catered for as a veggie, and all the evening meals were themed by country; Thai, Greek, Italian and traditional Fijian. The Fijian traditional meal is called a Lovo, where meats and vegetables are cooked in the ground, covered by banana leaves. It is accompanied by the traditional drink – Kava, which is made up of ground up root, soaked in water, to produce a drink that looks somewhat like a muddy puddle. There is a ritual to drinking Kava, and we had a village chief leading our evening, but the end result is a numb tongue and a good night’s sleep! It is a fun evening where both staff and guests mix and chat into the night.

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Our next day brought bad news. We were not to dive the manta reef that day either. The dive master decided, instead, to take us to a wall dive called Japanese Reef. Our two dives were spread to cover either side of the cut, one with and one against the current. We did see whitetip sharks, who we disturbed from their slumber on the sea bed, to circle around the group before heading to deeper water. We also decided that this would be a great opportunity to do some creative photography and put the “bubble lens”, or Magic Ball, from Saga (www.sagadive.com) onto the housing for some fun images (review coming soon). Once again, back at the resort, we headed out to complete Josh’s course, which we will write about in more detail in a later post.

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One of the joys of trips like this one is the people you get to meet, and we had a fantastic bunch of divers with us at Matava. There was never a dull moment and always plenty of banter and jokes, and so it was sad to say goodbye the next day as we did our wade, boat, wade, truck & flight back to the main island and onto our next adventure.

www.matava.com

www.fiji.travel

Find out more about Nick and Caroline at www.frogfishphotography.com.

Nick and Caroline (Frogfish Photography) are a married couple of conservation driven underwater photo-journalists and authors. Both have honours degrees from Manchester University, in Environmental Biology and Biology respectively, with Nick being a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, a former high school science teacher with a DipEd in Teaching Studies. Caroline has an MSc in Animal Behaviour specializing in Caribbean Ecology. They are multiple award-winning photographers and along with 4 published books, feature regularly in the diving, wildlife and international press They are the Underwater Photography and Deputy Editors at Scubaverse and Dive Travel Adventures. Winners of the Caribbean Tourism Organization Photo-journalist of the Year for a feature on Shark Diving in The Bahamas, and they have been placed in every year they have entered. Nick and Caroline regularly use their free time to visit schools, both in the UK and on their travels, to discuss the important issues of marine conservation, sharks and plastic pollution. They are ambassadors for Sharks4Kids and founders of SeaStraw. They are Dive Ambassadors for The Islands of The Bahamas and are supported by Mares, Paralenz, Nauticam and Olympus. To find out more visit www.frogfishphotography.com

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Frontline workers honoured with free dive trip to Yap

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The remote island of Yap in the Federated States of Micronesia is among the few places in the world that remains free of Covid-19 thanks to its ocean border and a strict travel ban that has kept its residents safe.

Nonetheless, Yap has been affected, too. As one of the world’s premier, award-winning destinations for divers, this paradisiacal location in the western Pacific Ocean has had no outside visitors to its rich shores and reef for nearly a year. But while there may be no virus, the island hasn’t been cut off from the economic impact experienced around the globe.

Manta Ray Bay Resort and Yap Divers by A. Tareg

That didn’t stop Bill Acker, CEO and founder of the Manta Ray Bay Resort and Yap Divers, from doing something, though.

Last March, soon after the island went into lockdown, Bill began to realize the effect of the virus on daily life beyond the island. “Yes, we are closed, have no divers, had to send our employees home and prepare for difficult times,” he said. “But we’re lucky in that we have, for the most part, avoided the human suffering and death this pandemic has caused.”

Thinking about the problems faced by his family business, they paled when he compared them to those endured by the healthcare workers who have been fighting selflessly around the clock for months on end for the well-being and lives of others.

“One evening, while checking the news online, I saw pictures of frontline workers who were tending to desperately ill and dying people when families and friends could not be with their loved ones. It was heartbreaking,” he added.

The next day, a meeting was held with the resort’s staff and Bill invited suggestions for ways they could do something to honor healthcare workers. The result was the idea to award twenty divers who are working on the frontline to save other’s lives during this pandemic while risking their own, with a free week at the resort.

Manta ray, Manta birostris, gliding over a cleaning station in M’il Channel, Yap, Micronesia by David Fleetham

Divers around the world who had been guests at Manta Ray Bay in the past were invited to submit the names of candidates for the award by December 31, 2020. “We received nominations for 126 individuals from as far away as Germany, the U.S., Australia and Canada,” he said. “It was not easy choosing the winners but our committee of staff members took on the job and selected the 20 finalists.”

“While trying to choose the people to reward for their hard work during this Covid-19 crisis,” Bill added, “by reading the nominations we saw that every one of the nominees was doing things above and beyond the call of duty. Sadly, we don’t have the finances to offer over 100 free weeks in Yap, but we do want to recognize the contributions all of them are making to our world. So, we are offering the rest of the nominees a free week of diving in Yap which includes room, hotel tax, airport transfers, breakfast, diving and Wi-Fi.  The only requirement is that they travel with at least three other people and stay in two rooms or more.”

“We do not yet know when Yap will open its borders,” said Bill, “but when it does, we will welcome these important guests to Yap to relax and dive with the manta rays and the other beautiful denizens of the ocean surrounding our island home. They are the true heroes of this devastating, historic time and we look forward to honoring them with a well-deserved dive vacation.”

Watch out for our exclusive trip report from a healthcare worker from the UK who is one of the 20 to have been awarded this amazing dive trip!

For more information on Manta Ray Bay and Yap Divers visit their website by clicking here.

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Dive Training Blogs

Dream Dive Locker Build Out. Part I: Demolition (Watch Video)

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It’s finally here! Time to start building the greatest dive locker the world has ever seen! Part I: Demolition! #dreamdivelocker

This is the first of a series of videos showing the evolution of building out my dream dive locker. My dream dive locker needs to be dive gear drying and storage, dry storage, workshop, office, editing suite, You Tube studio and classroom. That’s a lot of functions for a small space!

The first step is planning out the space and demolishing the laminate flooring. Then I taped up the walls to get a feel for the space. We have a lot of work to do!

But finally we will have a purpose built space to house all of our dive equipment! Subscribe to our channel to follow our progress! 

Thanks for watching, Team!

James


Subscribe here: http://bit.ly/DiversReady

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