While Fiji is mostly known as the world capital of soft corals, and for exciting shark diving and big creatures passing by such as manta rays and whales, critter diving is a beautiful surprise while vacationing and diving in Fiji.
What is A Critter Dive
A critter is an animal. In the diving world, critters are small or tiny, rare beautiful sea creatures that are difficult to find and often require expert knowledge to find them, because their beautiful appearance often serves as perfect camouflage in the reef. Critter diving and the small, bizarre-looking rare beautiful sea creatures are the favorites of all underwater photographers.
Critter diving in Fiji
Experienced and novice scuba divers, as well as underwater videographers or photographers, will have great chances of examining the reef on the lookout for shrimps, crabs, squids, nudibranchs, and several types of sea stars, great subjects for wonderful macro photography and for sea lovers with an interest in marine biology.
Who can enjoy macro diving in Fiji?
Looking for critters on a colorful reef or on the sandy bottom of a turquoise lagoon is a very special type of diving adventure. Some divers even swim with magnifying lenses to be able to spot even the tiniest creature hiding in a hole or under a coral head. Critter diving in Fiji is possible in many dive sites and is particularly appreciated by:
- Underwater photographers: Set the camera on macro, add the right macro lens, and use natural and artificial light as an incredible assistant for a dramatic effect. The pictures of small creatures such as mantis shrimps or nudibranches are some of the most satisfying ones you’ll ever take. However, don’t underestimate critter photo diving: it requires enormous patience and sometimes some very static diving, which can be boring for a dive buddy who does not share your same interest. Ensure you and your buddy agree on the scope of the dive, or book a private guide who will show you the wonders of critter diving in Fiji and will take you to the right places with higher chances of taking a good shot of your favorite subject.
- Researchers: if you are researching a specific type of marine creature and trying to count samples or numbers of animals or plants, you are definitely welcome to the critter diving team! Statistic analysis of research and results will find great advantage by a type of diving that focuses on small areas and allows divers the time to record and register what they encounter.
- Divers with a passion for marine biology: if you are looking for a specific type of frogfish just for your own personal enjoyment, or that lovely microscopic polyp coming out of colorful soft corals to feed at night, you will find critter diving extremely fascinating and satisfying, too.
- Night divers: sea spiders, crustaceans of all sizes, mollusks and crinoids, together with all those fish that have special night behaviors or go out hunting only after sunset, are the best subjects of critter diving in Fiji in the night. While you focus on a small area due to the lack of light, you will find more and more rare beautiful sea creatures in a night dive. The spotlight is on tiny creatures rather than on sharks or pelagic animals.
What Rare Beautiful Sea Creatures can I see diving in Fiji?
Several species of animals belonging to the definition of rare beautiful sea creatures that divers like to refer to as critters can be found while diving in Fiji. Even during a regular drift dive, with the help of a reef hook, divers can stop and admire smaller creatures living on the reef.
Central Fiji with the Vatu Ira Seascape and the Bligh Waters, for instance, are famous for their outstanding and huge reefs made of hard and soft corals, their strong currents and the habitual presence of large animals, including sharks. But there are also many less-dived places in the area, dive sites that appear inconspicuous and not very interesting but are home to rare beautiful sea creatures.
However, this specific area of Fiji will surprise you with some interesting muck diving options, just the same type that Lembeh, in Indonesia, is so famous for. Muck diving, which is mostly possible with outgoing tides and heavy rains, that drastically reduce visibility, will allow you to spot critters that are just in front of your mask because it kind of forces you to focus on small areas and small creatures, those that are true masters of disguise, rather than on larger animals.
Some of the rare beautiful sea creatures you might encounter during critter diving in Fiji are:
Blue ribbon eels (Rhinomuraena quaesita), one of our favorite with those thin flexible bodies and bright colors. While the juvenile ones – in black with yellow stripes – are very shy in front of divers and are a very difficult subjects for photographers, the adult ones can be more accommodating. The full yellow ones are females, while the yellow and blue ones are male.
Frogfish (Antennarius pictus) are another amazing critter that underwater photographers and videographers always look for in the waters of Fiji. Their bodies have a very unique shape and their camouflage abilities are beyond imagination, there are many different colored ones to discover..
Weird and small crustaceans, like the crinoid squat lobster (Allogalathea elegans). A commensal shrimp that lives exclusively on feather stars and adapts its color to its host. Many species can be found in Fiji it is worth looking at feather stars. Hint: When feather stars hold their arms closed, you can entice them open by just lightly tickling the undersides of the arms near the base.
Cuttlefish (Sepia sp.) are masters in camouflage and extremely pleasant and interesting to observe, both during day and night dives. Their ability to display several ranges of colors and textures makes them extremely appreciated by videographers.
Banded sea snakes (Laticauda colubrina) can surprise you during a descent or an ascent, as they are often seen in mid-water moving from the aquatic environment, where they hunt, to land, where they digest, sleep and reproduce. Because of their movement back and forth they can be found quite often, and yes, they are highly venomous, but don’t be afraid. Sea snakes in general are extremely docile animals that do not attack humans unless they feel threatened.
Anemone fish (Amphiprion sp.) are common in the Pacific Ocean and those we can see in Fiji include one endemic species, Amphiprion Barberi, with their red-orange body with a single white bar. They can be found living in colonies on the bommies or pinnacle summits.
Pipeish and Seahorses, including the splendid Ornate or Harlequin Ghost pipefish (Solenostomus paradoxus) or the Weedy Pigmy Seahorse (Hippocampus Pontohi) are some of the incredible encounters that macro lovers can expect to find in the beautiful waters of Fiji, especially when diving on house reefs or shallow sandy areas.
Nudibranches of Fiji include the so-called Shaun-The-Sheep nudibranch (costasiella kuroshimae sp.), the Chromodoris lochi, the Phyllidia elegans and the Nembrotha linoleata.
Whip coral shrimp (Pontonides uncigar)