Giant Clams

We’ve been off the beaten track for the past week and out of data coverage as well, but now we’re working our way towards Denarau as our cruising winds down. Today we sailed to Mana Island and are “connected” once more. It is very conveniently pouring down rain in a brief squall, giving me an excuse to catch up on the computer.

From Savusavu we sailed west some 50 miles to Makogai, a small island cluster encircling a protected bay. The Fijian government operates a fishery on the island raising crops of giant clams and coral for seeding the reefs.

We dinghied to shore to check in and were told a sevusevu was required, so back to AVATAR to collect our second bundle of gift-wrapped kava. This sevusevu was a far cry from the formal ceremony in the Lau. Two employees pulled up a few chairs on the porch of the fishery office and invited us to sit.  One accepted our kava bundle, mumbled three or four words max in Fijian, then looked up at us and said “OK”, by which we knew we were now invited guests free to anchor, swim, scuba dive, hike and otherwise enjoy the premises.

He did give us a tour of the giant clam incubation tanks, where tiny giants-to-be were only an inch or two long.  In five years or so they will be the size of the clams in the photo above, and in ten years they can be measured end to end with outstretched arms.  Their lips come in a variety of colors, from mottled creams and browns and blacks to irridescent peacock blues and emerald greens. Our Fijian guide told us the clams were incapable of slamming their shells shut because of the massive bulk of the flesh, but we declined to put that to a test with an arm or foot.

Mike and I spent an hour or so scuba diving with an assortment of the clams stored in shallow water off the fishery’s beach.  I thought it would be a quick rather dull dive dedicated to snapping a photo or two for posterity, but instead it turned out to be a fun exercise in underwater composition.

In addition to the giant clam nursery, Makogai offered a wonderful underwater garden off a rocky point. We snorkeled there first and it was such an unexpectedly spectacular spot that the next day Mike and I took our scuba gear and dove it again with photography in mind. Reef fish refuse to follow instructions and smile for the camera; it takes a lot of wasted shots to get a fish in sharp focus and posed in the right spot! I take my camera whether I snorkel or dive, but the added complication of holding my breath and bobbing up to the surface after every burst of clicks definitely ups the challenge. Puttering around in full scuba gear in shallow water with plenty of sunlight gives me a chance to actually make an effort to apply some composition and technique.

We spent nearly two hours leisurely exploring in just a few meters of water until I was too cold to hold the camera steady! In addition to looking for scenic shots in the rich variety of coral and marine growth, we spent time coaxing a shy octopus out of a crevice, and I caught a few shots from below of waves breaking on the black rocks. We had more fun playing in the shallow water than we did on the “real” scuba dive on a wall on the main pass into Makogai’s bay.

The slideshow below includes the giant clams and some other underwater scenery from Makogai.  Click on “options” at the lower right to play fullscreen.




5 thoughts on “Giant Clams

  1. So many little islands in that area. I never saw that one. I had to look it up on the map. A former leper colony I see. I did fly over it to Taveuni on one trip. Your clam shots are fabulous as usual.

  2. Hey kids,
    Can’t tell you how much I enjoy your photography and reading about the adventures. Thanks, be safe and keep have’g too much fun! Gordon

  3. Hi Rusty – 300+ islands to be (almost) exact, spread out over 1.3 million square kilometres of Pacific Ocean. Less than 1.5% of Fiji is dry land – all this according to our faithful Lonely Planet!

  4. Carol, Your photos inspire me! They are just stunning. Im off to Burma in January to spend two weeks photographing the temples and monks. Leaving Derek at home. Im going with Scott Stulberg, one of the instructors from PPSOP, and a few other students. Can’t wait! I recall the conversation we had in Tonga where you gave me the book, understanding exposure, and a list of equipment I should get and told me to start taking photos. Ive never been so broke as I am now! Thanks for that! LOL. Hope to see you here again soon.

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