Diving with… Simon Doughty, Volivoli Beach Resort, Rakiraki, Fiji
In this ongoing series, we speak to the people who run dive centres, resorts and liveaboards from around the world about their businesses and the diving they have to offer…
What is your name?
What is the name of your business?
Volivoli Beach Resort, Rakiraki Fiji Islands.
It is a family owned and operated business. The Darling family, originally from New Zealand found this ‘block of land’ and over the last 20-years have developed it into Fiji’s Premier Dive Resort with clients flocking from around the globe to experience our unique part of heaven.
What is your role within the business?
Sales & Marketing Manager / Dive Operations Manager
How long has the business operated for?
The resort is now in it’s 17th year however the business initially started via our dive arm which is called Ra Divers back in 2000. We have consistently been growing and investing and now as an award winning boutique dive resort are proud to be acknowledged as Fiji’s Premier Dive Resort within the global diving community.
How long have you dived for, and what qualification are you?
I have been diving for over 30-years and I am an SSI Instructor Certifier (IC)
What is your favorite type of diving?
I love all diving, I love every dive I do however currently diving the beautiful Bligh Water in Fiji I am never amazed at the amount of incredible diversity of critters and colourful corals that are in our waters. I also love spending time in underwater cave systems and historical shipwrecks when I travel.
If you could tell people one thing about your business (or maybe more!) to make them want to visit you what would it be?
At Volivoli Beach Resort our clients frequently tell us they feel more like family than just a guest, after all Fiji is known as the ‘friendliest country on earth’ and once a diver experiences the incredible Bligh Water, ‘soft coral capital of the world’ and Fiji’s # 1 Dive Region we know they will be back. We dive the Bligh Water 365-days a year and have 9-regions with over 80-dive sites.
What is your favorite dive in your location and why?
For me I like Cannibals Cave at the moment due to its massive swim-throughs, and canyons, diversity of marine life, massive soft coral decorated walls however my favourite site changes quite regularly. I also love exploring and mapping new sites and of course world-famous sites like Mellow Yellow, Black Magic Mountain and E6 are always something special.
What types of diving are available in your location?
With over 80-mapped sites in 9-regions we certainly have something for almost every diver. Massive sea mounds coming up from 2,000msw to just breaking the surface on low tide, walls and pinnacles, many starting in just 2msw, some bottoming out shallow at 10 or 12msw with others dropping off to 30msw and far beyond. We have 3 House Reefs with super easy walk-in/walk-out access directly in front of the dive shop. The Bligh Water is universally known as not only Fiji’s #1 Dive Region and the ‘soft coral capital of the world’ and the diversity of marine life from the tiniest nudibranch or pigmy sea horse right through to massive schooling pelagic fish and sharks. We have 5 purpose built dive boats and explore the Bligh Water 365-days a year.
What do you find most rewarding about your current role?
I love seeing our guests return multiple times, it says to me we are doing something right, we have a great offer and service, we know they can choose anywhere to travel and dive however returning clients always make me smile.
What is your favorite underwater creature?
Just like dive sites this changes regularly however I think at the moment I would say octopus as they really are a magical creature.
As a center what is the biggest problem you face at the moment?
Currently like everyone else we are struggling with the restrictions around COVID-19 and international travel, this is especially hard on us at 95% of our business comes from overseas and our borders have been closed since 23rd March 2020, so we are well into our 2nd year of essentially no business.
Is your center involved in any environmental work?
Yes absolutely we do a lot of environmental work and also involve the community and local schools in an effort to help pass on and educate our future generations. Some examples of this are mangrove propagation and replanting, we are currently installing a new hard coral nursery with the longer term plan to be able to transplant the maturing coral to other areas within Fiji that are not so well established. We also run events around World Sea Turtle Day, World Environment Day, World Oceans Day and World Clean Up Day and again actively involve the community.
Are there any exciting changes / developments coming up in the near future?
We never stop! During this ‘downtime’ due to COVID-19 restrictions our construction team have been busy extending our second restaurant and bar, which we call the Ra Bar (we are located in the Ra province of Fiji) on the beach and in the same building as our dive shop. It is magnificent and the perfect place to start a day with coffee and dawn breaking or watch sensational tropical sunset over an ice cold beer or yummy cocktail. We are also part way through constructing our new conference centre which will also be used for photography workshops and classroom with full multimedia and air-conditioned.
How do you see the SCUBA / Freediving / snorkeling industry overall? What changes would you make?
If we currently remove the obvious COVID-19 obstacle the industry appears sound, we are teaching new students, doing lots of specialty courses, our market today may be slightly older than those of the past however SCUBA has few boundaries when it comes to age and our clients of today appear to have more disposable income and the ability to travel the world.
Finally, what would you say to our visitors to promote the diving you have to offer?
Fiji really is an easy sell, magnificent tropical location; the Bligh Water is home to arguably the most vibrant and healthy reef system on the planet, warm water (26⁰c/31⁰c), Fiji is frequently acknowledges at the ‘friendliest country on earth’ – we have a modern boutique resort, 33 rooms, all with ocean views, fully air-conditioned, 2 restaurants, 3 bars, 5 swimming pools, 5 purpose built dive boats, over 80 dive sites and offer unlimited free of charge diving on our 3 House Reefs 24/7 for anyone staying on a full dive package. Arrive as a guest, leave as a friend!
Where can our visitors find out more about your business?
Our website is www.volivoli.com, we are active on Facebook either at Volivoli Beach or Ra Divers and Instagram volivoli_beach_resort – you can contact us directly via email email@example.com or call + 679 992 0942 or our US office firstname.lastname@example.org
Calling all divers and citizen scientists: hunt for shark eggcases launches in Australia
The Great Eggcase Hunt has landed on Australian shores, calling on citizen scientists to help researchers learn more about sharks, skates and chimaeras by finding and recording eggcases found both underwater and washed up along our coasts.
CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, is calling on citizen scientists to find and record eggcases seen on dives as well as those found washed up on Australian coasts, so researchers can better-understand egg-laying sharks, skates and chimaeras.
The Great Eggcase Hunt, an initiative of UK-based charity The Shark Trust, has launched in Australia in partnership with CSIRO to help provide new data for scientists studying the taxonomy and distribution of these sharks, skates and chimaeras.Helen O’Neill, CSIRO Australian National Fish Collection biologist, said recording sightings of eggcases on beaches and coastlines would help scientists discover what the eggcases of different species look like, with some still unknown.
“Eggcases are important for understanding basic biology, as well as revealing valuable information such as where different species live and where their nurseries are located,” Ms O’Neill said.
Cat Gordon, Senior Conservation Officer at The Shark Trust said the Great Eggcase Hunt began in the UK 20 years ago and has since recorded more than 380,000 individual eggcases from around the world.
“We’re really excited to be partnering with CSIRO to officially launch this citizen science project in Australia and to be able to expand the Shark Trust’s eggcase identification resources. There’s such a diversity of species to be found around the Australian coastline, and with a tailored identification guide created for each state, they really showcase the different catsharks, skate, horn sharks, carpetsharks and chimaera eggcases that can be found washed ashore or seen while diving,” Ms Gordon said.
Also known as mermaids’ purses, eggcases come in many different shapes and colours, ranging from cream and butterscotch to deep amber and black. The range in size from approximately 4 to 25 centimetres.
Some eggcases have a smooth and simple appearance, while others have ridges, keels or curling tendrils that anchor them to kelp or coral. Port Jackson sharks have corkscrew-shaped egg cases that they wedge into rocks.
“At the Australian National Fish Collection, we are matching eggcases to the species that laid them,” Ms O’Neill said.
“We borrow eggcases from other collections, museums and aquariums around the world and use our own specimens collected from fish markets, from surveys at sea or extracted from the ovaries of preserved specimens in our collection,” she said.
Eggcases found on beaches rarely contain live embryos, whose incubation times range from a few months up to three years, depending on the species. However, if they’re seen in situ while diving, they may still contain a live embryo and so these eggcases should not be picked up or disturbed – if you can, take a photo and submit that along with your sighting when you’re back on dry land.
The Shark Trust is a UK-based charity dedicated to safeguarding the future of sharks, skates, rays, and chimaera through positive change. The Trust achieves this through science, education, influence, and action.
To get involved in the Great Eggcase Hunt, you can record sightings via the Shark Trust citizen science mobile phone app or through the project website www.eggcase.org.
Top 12 Dive Destinations in Oceania – Part 2
Oceania has a fascinating mixture of well-known romantic destinations and wild, remote dive spots that few people ever get to visit. It is a region of contrasts with enough dive destinations and cultural highlights to satisfy even the most adventurous divers. In part II of 12 great places to go diving in Oceania, we take a deep dive into some of this region’s most famous and little-known islands. Get inspired for your next dive trip to Oceania here.
French Polynesia’s Society Islands have a stellar list of dive destinations, including Tahiti and Moorea. Between them, they offer easy coral reef diving and calm, turquoise lagoons with friendly stingrays and blacktip reef sharks. You can also swim with humpback whales, tiger sharks, lemon and nurse sharks there.
This beautiful nation’s best-known dive spots, Fakarava and Rangiroa atolls, are just a short flight away from the Society Islands. Both of these huge atolls offer exciting pass dives with hundreds of grey reef sharks and resident dolphins.
For a completely different dive experience, visit the Marquesas Islands. This island group is the farthest from any landfall on Earth and has a unique underwater world that hosts unusually large mantas and melon-headed whales.
And if that all sounds like too much effort, go Bora Bora scuba diving instead. This ‘Pearl of the Pacific’ has fantastic diving, and you can spend your downtime relaxing with champagne lunches on deserted islands.
The Solomon Islands
The Solomon Islands are a haven for more than 1000 reef fish species and numerous prized critters, plus dolphins, sharks, rays and six species of sea turtle. Hosting hundreds of wrecks and remote hard coral reefs, there is something for every diver there.
The Russell Islands host some of the best-known dive sites in all of the Solomon Islands. There, you can glide between the walls of a crevasse that cuts through an island, immerse yourself in wreck diving at White Sand Beach, swim through a halocline at Custom Caves, or go in search of pygmy seahorses.
For the best wreck diving, make sure you visit Iron Bottom Sound. This stretch of water hosts around 200 ships and more than 600 aircraft wrecks from World War II. It is a wreck diving mecca that offers excellent tech-wreck dives.
The Marshall Islands
The Marshall Islands is a chain of volcanic islands and coral atolls that few people know about. As the fifth least visited country in the world, these islands offer remote diving among exciting deep wrecks and vibrant coral reefs.
Bikini Atoll is the main dive destination in the Marshall Islands. Made famous by US atomic bomb tests in the 1940s, this atoll hosts numerous deep wrecks that offer incredible tech diving.
As well as some of the best tech-wreck dives imaginable, the Marshall Islands also have thriving hard coral reefs without any dive crowds. There are pinnacles, drop-offs, channels and shallow coral gardens to explore, busy with colorful reef life.
The Cook Islands
When it comes to warm welcomes, it’s hard to beat the Cook Islands. From the moment you arrive, you will be drawn into one of the friendliest nations in the world and won’t want to leave.
This wonderful country is a perfect place to get your Open Water Diver certification or take your family diving. Rarotonga is the main destination for tourism and is a charming island with fresh markets, cafes, restaurants, and resorts tucked away among the palms. There are around 25 dive sites just offshore and gorgeous beaches for laid-back surface intervals.
Nearby Aitutaki has fewer visitors, yet it hosts around 22 dive sites, with many still being discovered. It is a great place to dive among remote coral-covered landscapes and forget the rest of the world exists. Whichever island you choose, the waters are warm and full of colorful reef life.
New Caledonia is one of those wish-list destinations known for its spectacular diving, crystal-clear waters and abundant marine life. Unlike some remote destinations in Oceania, New Caledonia has modern infrastructure that makes it easy to explore at your pace – by car or island hopping with regular domestic flights.
There are over 100 dive sites scatted around New Caledonia, offering a tempting mix of deep drop-offs, thrilling drift dives, wrecks, and easy reef diving. Most diving is conducted at the New Caledonia Barrier Reef, a vast 1500 km-long reef that encloses a UNESCO World Heritage lagoon. Within the lagoon, you can explore coral-encrusted walls, channels, and easy dive sites in shallow waters.
New Caledonia’s extensive marine reserves ensure these dive sites are teeming with life. For the best chance to see mantas and sharks, visit from April until September.
Vanuatu is the perfect place to reconnect with nature, offering untouched rainforests, natural swimming holes and excellent scuba diving.
Pristine reefs abound in Vanuatu, with many dive sites accessible simply by walking off the beach. Million Dollar Point is one of the most unique dive spots and hosts an array of machinery and equipment dumped by the US after World War II. The SS President Coolidge, a former World War II troop carrier, and the 1874 three-masted Star of Russia are excellent wrecks to dive.
The amount of marine life at Vanuatu’s dive sites is staggering. As well as rainbow-hued corals and countless reef fish, there are sea turtles, sharks, rays, and numerous pelagic fish. You can also go swimming with dugongs there.
Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world, home to more than 850 known languages and hundreds of different tribes. It is unlike anywhere else in Oceania.
Along with the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea has some of the healthiest coral reefs in the world, including at Kimbe Bay. This special bay was once ranked as the most beautiful reef by National Geographic.
The nearby Witu Islands are a great place to go critter hunting and drift dive among schools of tuna and barracuda. Milne Bay is the home of muck diving and offers excellent shallow muck and reef diving with numerous critters.
There are seamounts busy with reef sharks and exciting walls at Fathers Reefs, and you can dive in the shadow of jungle-covered fjords at Tufi.
Kathryn Curzon, a shark conservationist and dive travel writer for SSI (Scuba Schools International), wrote this article.