Fiji, Final Stop

30 12 2010

Hey Everyone!

After leaving Brisbane, Australia, I spent a week on a road trip with my family and ended the trip with a month in Fiji, island hopping from one remote village to another. Most of my days were spent spearfishing in the fishiest waters I’ve ever seen, usually with 100+ foot visibility. When there was enough fish for dinner, I would still be in the water surfing, fishing, or taking pictures. This month-long trip was probably the most amazing part of my travels. I hope you enjoy my last post! Here are some of the pictures I took along the way….

First stop, Kadavu (pronounced Kandavu)

Approaching Nagigia Island (off of Kadavu Island) after a 12 hour overnight ferry ride

The catch after my first dive around the small island that we stayed on.

Pesky sharks

Eagle rays

In Fiji, the most prized fish is probably Trevally which they call “Saqa” (pronounced “sanga”). I usually saw Blue-finned Trevally running in schools of 3-5, but this time, there must have been 1000 or more…

Right after this picture, I got two Trevally in one shot, then that shark ripped both of them off of my shaft within seconds.

Painted Cray. They're usually fished out in most populated areas, so when they are around, you know its a pristine spot.

Shane scaring off a grey reefie from our stringer

Blue-Finned Trevally

My first Dogtooth Tuna!

Coral Trout

Red Bass. I gave this one to some villagers because I heard it possibly has Ciguatera poisoning in this area. Not worth the risk when 150 miles over ocean to the nearest hospital

Misi pounding "Waka ni Yaqona" (the root of the kava plant)

After leaving Kadavu with my friends from uni in Australia, I started my 2 week solo adventure. I headed to Suva, where I took a 20 hour ferry ride to Taveuni, then went to the extremely remote village of Kocoma (pronounced Kothoma) on the the island of Qamea (pron. Gamea). In the village, there was not a fork to be found, no running water, and occasional electricity. I went a week without seeing another non-Fijian person.

The only way to get to the village from the beach is to cross this plank. No wheel chair access here

Momo(Uncle) John lining up with my gun. All of the divers in the remote villages use home-made slings with a improvised free shaft and a piece of rubber. I let them use my gun and they were ecstatic.


My dive buddies from Kocoma. I hope to return soon

My 10 kg fish after a shark got to it...It came back after this picture. I gave the remains to people in the village for soup

the beach in front of Kothoma village

best hammock in fiji

Heading back to Taveuni from Qamea with 23 people in a 15 foot boat.

Momo Camini

Anthias on the reef

My first permit

The best dive spots on Taveuni were kayak-distance from the house "Sere Ni Ika." Momo Camini made surgeonfish and giant clam in lime juice and peppers with Taro (Dahlo) for a mid-dive snack

The catch

My bed for the 20 hour ferry ride back to Suva.

My buddies in the band, the Kavaholics, at Smuggler's Cove in Nandi

Peppers. Spicy: Rakiraki in Fijian

Eta, Luisa, and Pah who work at Bamboo Backpackers in Nandi. Coincidentally, Eta is best friends with the people I stayed with in Kandavu, Luisa is the niece of the couple I spent 10 days with in Taveuni, and Pah is friends with the guys that I dove with in Qamea. I oddly had heaps of coincidences like this while traveling.

Fijian skyscraper

Fiji was a great ending to an incredible 5 months abroad. I met so many great people and learned a lot about different cultures. By the end of the Fiji trip, I knew a fair bit of the fijian language, “vosa,” and a ton about the local fishery. I can’t wait to return to Australia, NZ, and Fiji…


Heron Island Research Trip

8 11 2010

Hey everyone,

I just got back from a 9 day research trip at Heron Island on the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef. The trip could not have been any better: great weather, 5+ hours of diving everyday (for research!), and the water temp never dropped below 72. My research team studied the diversity of disturbance sites made by Tuskfish (the aussie version of the sheephead). We ended up discovering a relationship between two fish, graphic tuskies (choerodon graphicus) and variegated wrasse (coris batuensis) which has never before been acknowledged or studied. My group ended up winning the best project award!

Outside of field work, I spent my days: walking around the island, swimming around the island, diving (without a slate in hand), and eating 5 times the day. Every afternoon for 8 days straight, I snorkeled the shipwreck every afternoon, which was awesome to go inside (full of mangrove jack, barramundi cod, coral trout, & crays). In the evenings, we headed to the beach to watch turtles lay eggs and stargaze. I did one scuba dive and the rest was all free diving, and my whole class did a cool night dive, where we saw mating turtles, a huge 80 pound Baraccuda, strange nocturnal abalone, and tons of other cool things.

Since I had my camera on me on every research dive, I managed to take a ridiculous amount of photos, here are a few:

Coral Trout

Coral Cod


Looking out of the wreck

Wobbagong Shark up close and personal

Blue-Spotted Trevally

school day

Hanging out in trees

Hanging out in wrecks

Hanging out with turtles

Tori on the wreck

Almost there

79 degree water! Thanks for the watch Bob! It's been getting a ton of use, for spearing and for research.

My research team

Spontaneous pushups


Sleeping turtle

More Moreton Bay Spearing

8 11 2010

On my day off from school, I spent the day diving Moreton Bay. Since I had plenty of fish in the fridge, I spent most of my time filming (mostly kingfish and one wahoo clip), though I managed to capture a few still images…

My video clips should make for an entertaining little free diving video! (I’ll start editing when I get back to the states)

Australian Kingfish

Mutton birds attacking the burleigh (chum)

Lining up


A mysterious crustacean I found on a jellyfish in open water. I could not get a clear shot because it was maneuvering the jelly between it and my camera. I sent it to an invertebrate specialist at UQ who believes it may be a pelagic slipper lobster larvae

Video footage coming soon!

Moreton Bay Spearfishing

24 10 2010

Hi everyone!
Yesterday, I had the chance to spearfish in the fishiest waters I have ever seen… Leaving at 4:30 in the morning, we headed out of Moreton Bay on a local spearo’s boat to a FAD buoy that held more quality fish than I could every imagine: hundreds of kingfish, hundreds of dollies (dorado), and the occasional wahoo. The 73 degree water was bluer than ever and the visibility must have been 25 meters plus. Although the majority of the fish were 5-10 pounders, some larger fish came in. Within an hour of diving, I caught two dollies and one wahoo! Earlier that morning I was talking about how cool it would be to see a wahoo in the water, let alone shoot one! Here’s the proof:

My first 'hoo!

Our dive buddy Brad with a big bull. As he was fighting this fish, I handed him my speargun from the boat for a second shot. Within seconds, he shot a wahoo instead! (his first one as well) After bringing in the hoo, I chased down his float in the boat and retrieved the dodo

My housemate Shane with a trophy mahi mahi on his first open water dive

because everything is upside down in this hemisphere...

Brad getting pulled around by a nice Dolly as he was getting hassled by a hammerhead

On the ride back, we saw a Hammerhead (about 8 foot) and a couple Humpbacks. It was kind of startling to hear that the day after this dive, a 6 meter White was spotted right next to one of our dive spots… That’s bigger than the boat we were in. I’m glad I didn’t see him.

The catch

All in a morning's work

The total catch included 6 dorado (boat limit) and 2 wahoo. If we had more space, a need for more fish, and no bag limits, we could have taken heaps.

Spangled Emperor (7.5 kilos) that I caught the evening before the open water dive.  I was planning on a normal school day that friday until I was called to dive that afternoon.  In one descent, I went to the bottom, saw a 8 foot shark to the left (a nurse i think) and this huge Emperor to the right! We then headed back to Brissy, guided by the moonlight at 45 mph.  When we returned, my classmates came over to my house for a fish dinner.  Then we got called to dive the next day, leaving at 4:30 AM!

This is a Spangled Emperor (7.5 kilos) that I caught the evening prior. I was planning on a normal school day until I was called to dive that afternoon. In one descent, I went to the bottom, saw an 8 foot shark to the left (a bronze whaler or bull i think) and this huge Emperor to the right! We then headed back to Brissy, guided by the moonlight at 45 mph. When we returned, my classmates came over to my house for a fish dinner. Then we got invited to dive again the next day when I planned to write an essay… It was a worthy excuse for procrastination; I should probably start writing now!

These are probably my last spearfishing expeditions in Australia on this trip. If so, it definitely ended with a bang!

Carnarvon Gorge Field Trip

17 10 2010

We began our journey with a 10 hours bus ride through vast countryside and into the Australian outback. Along the way, we saw mobs of emus, a dingo, and passed heaps of farms that look like they belong in the movie Babe. Did you know sheep outnumber Australians 4:1?
Anyways, as we descended into the Gorge, the Bush became more lush and we entered the national park which was littered with wallabies, kangaroos, giant cycads and ferns.

Big agro grey kangaroo, i tried to hand feed him, but he wasn't too keen

Male pretty-faced wallaby

For the next three days, we spent our time hiking, exploring, and studying the ecology & Aboriginal culture of this area. Before we arrived, the Gorge had a lot of rainfall, so the rivers were high, which made for some fun river crossing. Us guys made chains in the fast moving parts to help the class safely cross.

After dinner one evening, my teacher, John Hall, took me and a couple others down to the river, where I saw a wild platypus for the first time.

We also hiked 10k into the Gorge to an Aboriginal cave painting site, which had art from 15,000 years ago perfectly intact. The stories explained their hunting feats, intertribal relations, and periods of disease. They combine plant pastes and blood or water, then blow it out of their mouths around stencils.

Netting=intertribal marriage, 3 toe foot=Emu, Boomerangs, Handprints

The campsite

Here are some more stencil paintings from a different location, these had scorch marks below them from thousands of years ago where the Aboriginals cooked their catch:

View from the Lookout at 5 AM

Pretty-faced wallabies below a macrozamia moorei cycad

Byron Bay Weekender

16 10 2010

With torrential rainfall in the whole area, we made the most of our 3-day weekend and headed down to Byron Bay for a weekend of surfing and relaxing. Along the way down, we stopped off in Kingscliff to check the diving condition, but the murky water, high winds, and ripping current kept us out of the water. Instead, we stopped off for some really good butcher paper style fish & chips at a local fish market, and visited a tropical fruit farm with the largest avocados I’ve ever seen. I spent the entirety of the following day surfing in heavy rainfall at The Wreck in Byron Bay with shoulder-high waves, offshore winds, and few other surfers. I had a great session, and afterwards, we went out to the local bar, the Cheeky Monkey, and had calamari, prawns, and chips for $2!

Looking out from Fingal Head (I spotted a couple Humpback calves breeching beyond Cook Island)

Exotic fruit farm on the road to Byron

North Stradbroke Island Research Trip

5 10 2010

Hey Everyone!
For the past 8 days, I’ve spent my time doing research at the University of Queensland Moreton Bay Research Station on North Stradbroke Island. We performed research projects for the majority of the trip; My project studied the relationship between fish diversity and tidal level in estuarine environments. I was able to use some really cool equipment: a BUV (Baited Underwater Video) system to capture carnivorous creatures on film and huge seine nets to collect fish samples from the beaches. Alongside of our projects, we also did turtle necropsies, multiple plankton and invertebrates labs, beach walks (day and night), dugong/whale watching, and snorkeling as a class. Outside of class and research, I did a little spearfishing and sandboarding. Here are some photos:

Ian Tibbets: Professor/Fishing Buddy

Flathead: the Australian version of a halibut. They taste great. I cooked it alongside of red snapper and we feasted during an evening lecture.

On our first day, we did some seine netting and snorkeling as a class:

Pulling the seine nets around a bed of seagrass

little flathead

Puffer fish puffed

Golden Trevally swimming out of my picture

Walking the shores of dunwich, we encountered lots of cool sea life. I almost stepped on a blue ring octopus that has venomous saliva and can cause paralysis then death in 30 minutes!

One of the thousands of soldier crabs roaming the beach in front of the research station

Sandboarding by Point Lookout: i spotted 3 humpbacks looking out from the dunes

Smelly green turtle necropsy

digesting worm under microscope in the invertebrates lab

Looking out from Deadman's Beach, deciding whether we should dive today. (we decided not to dive due to dwindling daylight, high winds, and rumors of huge resident bull and white sharks)

On the last day on Straddie, we were thankful for sunshine after 3 days of constant rain. We walked around Point Lookout, where we saw breaching humpbacks and turtles from the cliffside. Afterwards, we did some bodysurfing.

Blue Bottle Jelly (Portuguese Man-of-war) on the beach

Crabs I caught using chum in the sand

At night time, we did some tidal flat walks, in which I got pinched by multiple large, angry crabs, and ate an estuarine prawn alive right out of the silt as a bet. We also did some walks through the cemetery looking for koalas at night, where I was swooped by giant bats and happened to find tons of tree frogs mating in the streets, half of them were ran over, so we moved the remaining ones out of harm’s way.

Here is a little snip clip of my “Straddie Cam” footage: