Diving Nigali Passage in Gau

Soft corals lining the edge of Nigali Passage in Gau. Photo ©Jack & Sue Drafahl.

By Sangeeta Mangubhai

[This is the third in a series of blogs by WCS-Fiji Director Sangeeta Mangubhai assessing the damage to coral reefs caused by Cyclone Winston, a Category 5 storm that hit Fiji on February 20]

It is Day 3 in our investigation of Cyclone Winston’s impact on the corals of Fiji’s Vatu-i-Ra Seascape. We are fortunate to be working in partnership with Nai’a Cruises, a live-aboard ship that has been diving in Fiji since 1993 and whose generous support has made the survey possible.

In addition to Winston-related destruction, we are paying special attention to the bleaching in the area corals, which will serve as a baseline for future expeditions.

Soft corals lining the edge of Nigali Passage in Gau. Photo ©Jack and Sue Drafahl.

As Director of the Fiji Program at WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society), I have been pleased on my previous dives so far to see that the storm damage has been limited. The hard corals appear to remain mostly intact. There were broken branching and plating corals and larger coral heads that had fallen over in the storm surge. And while many of the colorful soft corals and sea fans that Fiji is well-known for appear to have been lost in the heavy wave action, they will likely return.

On this day, we woke up to the tall green mountains on the island of Gau in the southern Lomaiviti group and anchored ourselves in the calm sandy lagoon. In addition to being home to the Gau petrel, the area is famous for the Nigali Passage.

Turbinaria corals flourishing in Nigali-lagoon in Gau. Photo ©Jack and Sue Drafahl.

Diving Nigali requires precision – you need to time the tide correctly or you may easily be swept out to sea. As oceanic water rushed into the channel, Cat Holloway (with whom —> Read More