In case you didn't notice, Fiji recently took a hammering. Category 5 Tropical Cyclone Winston hit with full force on the 20th February, wreaking havoc on its way through.
Many villages and resorts were flattened and crops destroyed. But Fijians being Fijians, they got up the next day, went to work and started cleaning. Fijians are, as their adopted hashtag at the time said: #StrongerthanWinston.
According to Australian scuba diving enthusiast Heather Sutton, who happened to be in Taveuni when TC Winston hit, "The locals dug in and got to work in the usual Fijian way – with smiles on their faces and thanks for being alive. Some staff members walked for two hours to show up for work the day after the cyclone."
Some resorts were open again within days of the cyclone hitting, while rebuilding started on others. Taveuni Dive Resort was open the next day, while Paradise Taveuni is due to reopen in 28 May.
"The bures at the resort were built to cyclone specifications thanks to the insistence of the owners Carl and Muriel Fox," said Heather.
But the big question for scuba divers was: What do the reefs look like following TC Winston’s path of destruction? Had they survived intact?
Heather was back in the water five days later to check out the area’s world-famous dive sites.
"The first sites we assessed were Fish Factory and Jerry’s Jelly. There was a little damage to the shallow hard corals down to 10 metres on the south-facing site and Fish Factory, but Jerry’s Jelly sustained no damage at all.
"It took us a few days to get out to the Great White Wall, but we can openly and thankfully report: fantastic with no damage at all. As for Rainbow Reef, if you didn’t know the sites, you would struggle to spot any damage whatsoever.
"We have heard that some sites in the Namena Reserve have been damaged due to their exposed nature. The large patch of leather corals that make up the Kansas dive site have been destroyed and many of the soft corals on top of The Arch have been blown off."
Reports from the Bligh Water are fairly positive with only 15 percent of sites sustaining any noticeable damage. According to Ra Divers, Heartbreak Ridge, Instant Replay and Coral Garden were not damaged at all, with Wheatfields, Black Magic and Mellow Yellow only sustaining damage around five percent of the reef.
More Fiji holiday inspiration
"It was an instant delight as soon as we stepped off the boat to see such healthy reef and prolific fish life everywhere. Lots of sharks, jack fish, giant trevally, anemone fish and of course our trademark anthias in schools way too big to count," said Heather.
The majority of resorts in Fiji, even some right under the path of Winston, have been opening doors once again to divers – often as re-building work continues.
Volivoli Resort and Wananavu Resort both run dive trips to the magnificent Bligh Water. Another great option for divers is a cruise with Captain Cook Cruises Fiji, who operate regular cruises to The Yasawas, Taveuni, Savusavu and the remote Lau Islands, with opportunities to dive remote and pristine dive sites every day.
Anyone who might have been having second thoughts about a Fiji dive holiday shouldn’t. Right now the Fijians would value your patronage more than at any other time – some places are even offering discounts as an incentive.
Fiji has the third largest coral reef system in the world, is home to the world’s second largest barrier reef, world-class dive sites such as the Great White Wall near Taveuni, and numerous shark dives.
There are dive sites to suit every skill level and friendly, qualified dive instructors to take care of you. In fact, it’s probably one of the cheapest places in the world to get your PADI Open Water certification.
So what are you waiting for?