|The Bistro is on the mainland reef to the south west of Pacific Harbour, i.e., on the mainland side of the Beqa Passage.
Aquatrek run a 2-tank shark dive on MONDAY, WEDNESDAY, FRIDAY, SATURDAY.
The Bistro is run by Aquatrek, and is widely known as Fiji’s “Original Shark Dive”. It’s the biodiversity here that divers come to see, with eight species of shark and over 300 species of fish. Aqua-Trek’s ‘Ultimate Shark Encounter’ features bull sharks, whitetip reef sharks, blacktip reef sharks, nurse sharks, sicklefin lemon sharks, grey reef sharks, silvertip sharks and the occasional tiger shark.
There are often two boat-loads of divers, around 20 in total and the dive guides do a great job leading everyone down to a low wall of coral rubble and placing everyone in a position with a clear view of the action.
In the middle of the Bistro is a vertical line and a bin full of fish scraps has been slung from it about 10m up. It must be slowly dispensing its contents as what can only be described as a swarm of fish – a ball about 8m in diameter – circles it.
During the course of the next 20 minutes, the bull sharks come down out of the swarm and neatly take a piece of fish about the size of a tuna head from the feeder. The feeding is arranged so that as the sharks take the bait, they are positioned to swim directly at the spectators. They turn neatly before us left or right and head back around and into the swarming ball of fish.
At one point the ball of fish expands supernova style to encompass the crowd and we’re festooned with strips of skin being nibbled on along its full length by either butterflies, sergeants or surgeons – but only ever fish of one type per strip. And occasionally we see the mouth – and teeth – of something very big snap at a strip and everything attached to it, very close by.
The thick, powerful bodies of the bull sharks are unmistakable, and just occasionally you’ll see them face on heading straight in your direction. Just as you’re about to duck they turn and you can feel the flick of the tail that scatters the fusiliers. The lemon sharks tend to stay closer to the bottom and pick off any scraps that get left behind.
It’s a lively whirling spectacle, and it’s hard to know where to point the camera next. It’s a bit like the finale of a fireworks show, but it just keeps going at full tilt.
All too soon the deco spectra looms, and the watchful dive guides appear with their crook shaped poles to shepherd their guests back to their respective bowlines.
After an hour’s surface interval we go down to watch the re-match.
Though it’s effectively the same show – it’s just as good watching it a second time; and when the show is over, the feeder places a few leftover fish heads at strategic points between the arena and the bowlines, so that grey reef sharks swim amongst the crowd as they return to their boats, tired, drained of adrenaline, but emotionally elated at having spent almost an hour up close and personal with the oceans’ apex predators.
The term ‘Beqa Shark Dive’ is used to refer to three different shark dives: this one run by Aqua-Trek at ‘The Bistro’, ‘The Arena’, run by Beqa Adventure Divers and another, run by Beqa Lagoon Resort called ‘The Cathedral’.