We built a house in ’99 and ’00, so we didn’t get in any diving. Our first trip after the house was done was to Fiji in May of ’01. For me, the first two or three days of the trip were miserable. Yes, I was having camera troubles, but the big downer was the condition of the reefs. E6, which had been a truly magical spot in ’98, was in terrible shape: almost all the coral dead, fallen apart, and covered in algae. We found out that there had been an episode of elevated water temperatures in ’00 and to a much lesser extent in ’01, which had lead to coral bleaching in many places. I’d never seen the results of coral bleaching on a wide scale. The name makes it sound like the color of the coral is all that’s changed. Unfortunately, what it means is that the coral is dead. Dead coral is brittle and easily damaged in storms, and dead coral can’t fight off algae, and thus is colonized by algae. Truly a ugly thing.
After a few days, we started going to places that had more living coral, and finally at the end of the trip, nearly all the coral was is pretty good shape. I got some OK pictures, we all had a good time, and the memory of the first few days faded. I asked why in the world we started out in such trashed places, and was told that those places are famous and that’s what people come to see, and they’d complain if the boat skipped them. Doesn’t make any sense to me, but I’m sure they wouldn’t deliberately do anything they thought their guests wouldn’t like. If you go as a large group, and have strong feelings about famous dive sites versus living ones, be sure to let the people on the boat know in advance.
The boat and the crew were great, as usual, even if we did miss Rob and Cat, who had to be elsewhere.