by Paddy Ryan photo's by Norman Quinn

Fiji is different. With so many small islands the current systems are
complex. Throw in the
influence of several major rivers and upwellings from
the Tonga trench and you have a recipe for

energy source. Tiny

crystalline lenses in their
mantle concentrate the

sunlight for their algal
Search the coral carefully

lbr the smaller denizens.
Christmas tree worms are immediately obvious with their showy feeding spirals but other beasties will not be so blatant. Sharing the same Porites coral colony are tiny hermit crabs. These live in tubes in the coral, filtering plankton from the water with their fine antennae. Deep in the branching coral are tiny gobies, crabs and shrimps. You don't really need to swim anywhere to enjoy a Fijian coral reef. Everything you could wish for is within a ten-metre radius of you. The problem is to find it. Down on the sand a tiny goby sits at the entrance to its

spectacular underwater ecology. F1i is arguably the soft coral capital of the world. In parts of the Beqa lagoon soft corals and seafans

predominate. Pick the right day when the ployps are out
f'eeding and it can be an overwhelming sight. Thal's not (o say thal the hard corals are not

equally brilliant in their own right. Corals in the Koro Sea and around the offshore island of Vatulele are as good as any in the

world. Dense schools of f'airy basslets hang off the drop-off', making forays
into the plankton for a quick feed. A few metres further out, schools ofjacks cruise up and down, and at the range of vision, likely as not, there will be a giant school of barracuda. Hard corals tend to be
restricted to the top 20

burrow. Alongside,


antenna draped over the fish, is a shrimp. These two live in
a commensal relationship. The shrimp builds the burrow fbr the goby, with its superior eyesight the goby acts as sentinel for them both. Threaten them by swimming too near and they disappear at high speed into the burrow. Many sea cucumbers, sea urchins or starfish have little shrimps living on them. Featherstars. also known as

metres. They share their
tissues with tiny algal cells. These minute plants use the sunlight to make fbod that is shared by the coral. No sunlight, no coral. Evcn giant clams have tapped into this wonderJul fiee

We'll prepare you for the unexpected.
Mon - Fri 8.30am to 5pm, Sat - 8.30am to noon.

2lThomson Street, Privale Mail Bag, Suva, Fiji. Ph: (679) 301603
Fax: (679) 300304.

crinoids, are positively littered with freeloaders. They are unwilling hosts to fish,

Main Street Nadi Ph: (679) 703110. Fax: (679) 703877


i Magic, April/May 1997 5





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