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Diving

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Diving

Fiji consists of over 300 islands scattered over 42,000 square miles of ocean. It’s not hyperbole to state that this island nation has some of the best diving in the world. Notably, the variety of soft coral is astounding. Fed by the rich nutrients streaming up from the Tonga Trench and influenced by several major rivers, the reef ecosystem in the Fiji Islands is noted for its complex nature. Whereas, the Great Barrier Reef has a greater total diversity, kilometer to kilometer, it doesn’t change very much. In Fiji, however, all you have to do is swim a few meters and likely as not you’ll see any number of hard and soft coral, sea fans, dense schools of fairy basslets, and a few meters out it’s not unusual to see schools of barracuda. Undercurrent, the bible of the diving world, offers this advice when it comes to Fiji…

“The best diving isn’t on the big island of Viti Levu; instead, go to the outer islands, and travel light to avoid getting popped for excess weight… Wetsuits are a staple year-round; currents add coolness, just like the wind chill factor…. Bring a compass, and carry both day and night emergency surface signaling devices (tubes, strobes)... This is a good area for sea snakes, soft corals, stonefish, and clown fish…

Other large creatures and pelagics that can be seen include also turtle, dolphin, mantas, and a wide variety of sharks. For a wonderful book that portrays Fiji’s underwater (as well as terrestrial) flora and fauna check out Paddy Ryan’s marvelous Fiji’s Natural Heritage. (All photos on this page courtesy of Paddy Ryan).

Why is Diving in Fiji Special?

In terms of diving there are several factors that contribute to the astounding quality of the Fiji diving experience. First of all, the reef system is for the most part unadulterated and intact. Located far from major population centers, Fiji’s reef system has not been over-exploited, over-fished or damaged, especially compared to other parts of the world. That said, Fiji has had problems with crown of thorns and some areas have seen damaged hard corals from over use or sloppy anchoring. That said, Fiji’s traditional land tenure system, which rigorously protects tribal land and waters from misuse, helps ensure that areas reserved for fishing are preserved and generally it works. Although geologically similar to other reef systems in the Indo-Pacific Basin, Fiji differs in one important way—its biological diversity is extremely pronounced.

There are over 400 species of coral found in Fiji, and in particular, the soft coral (Dendronepthya klunzingeri) is spectacular. The invertebrate divings found in these waters are too prolific to accurately catalog and the fish populations are among the most varied on the planet. There are over 35 species of angel and butterfly fish alone and numerous pelagics. In the latter category one may find barracudas, jacks, sharks, rays, bottlenosed dolphins, spinner dolphins, pilot whales and turtles.

Check out Fiji’s underwater flora and fauna as depicted in a video taken from the Fiji Aggressor II Liveaboard off Nigali Pass, Wakaya, Koro and the Namenalala Islands.

Climate and Water Temperature

Daytime temperatures range from 68-86 degrees F (20 to 30 Celsius). The best time to visit is during the dry (winter) mild season—from May to October. The wetter, warmer (summer) period is from late December to early April. The wettest months in terms of rainfall and humidity are January and February. Summer water temperature averages 80 to 83 degrees F and 78 to 80 F during the winter months. An east southwest trade wind blows for most of the year usually dropping in the evening and picking up in the mid-morning. The weather can be blustery June through September but short, heavy showers are possible any afternoon year-round because it’s tropical. The year-round average temperature is 80 or above; nights average 68-69 degrees in winter; bring a sweater. From February to March the water is warm enough to support a plankton bloom, which decreases visibility boost the amount of nutrients and associated activity in the marine eco-system. Simply put, there’s more food which means a richer marine life and more pelagics feeding off the bounty of the reef.

What To Bring

All of the resorts offer tanks, weights and many provide regulators and BCDs as well. A few resorts will rent camera or video gear—most do not. Most experienced divers bring their own regulators and BCDs at the minimum. Wet suits, vests or dive skins are highly recommended. During the summer months an eighth-inch (3 mm) suit is a good idea. Winter season necessitates an eighth to quarter inch (5 mm) suit for many divers (but not not necessarily everyone).

Certification

Experienced divers should bring your C-card and divers log. For beginners, the warm waters and equally warm hospitality make Fiji an ideal place to earn your diving certification. You can do certification courses but it’s probably more prudent for a traveler to do the bookwork before you go and do the open water certification in Fiji. It’s better to have your vacation time spent diving rather than going through instruction that you could replicate anywhere else. That said, generally a full range of certification (including instructor courses) are available in Fiji. Figure on spending at least US$400 for a PADI certification course , not including food and accommodation. You’ll spend at least US$250 for a referral course.

A Dive in the Life

A typical dive day is a 2-tank morning dive, with a surface interval done between the dives either on the boat or a deserted beach, returning to the dive shop by around 1:00 – 2:00 in the afternoon. In addition to the boat, captain and dive guide, tanks, weights and belts are included in the dive tariff, along with drinks and snacks between dives. Many resorts also offer afternoon or night dives which have to be arranged at the resort and generally require a minimum of 4 divers to go out. The vast majority of Fiji’s dive operators offer newer, well maintained rental equipment from reputable US manufacturers. The standard tanks are aluminum 80’s with yoke valves (if your regulator has a din attachment, you should bring an adapter with you). Full equipment rental is generally available at additional cost.

While it is possible to rent all of your gear, it is recommended that you bring at least a mask, fins, and snorkel. Water temperatures range from about 80-84o F (26-28o C) in the summer months to 76-80o (24-26o C) in the winter months (Jul-Aug). Many divers are comfortable with a 3mm short suit or dive skin in the summer and a 3-5mm long suit in the winter. Due to individual metabolism and a tendency to get colder on repetitive dives or towards the end of several days of diving you might want to consider bringing a vest or lightweight hood to compliment your diving wardrobe. Rental wetsuits are also available. Computers and cameras are sometimes available as well.

One word of caution – the flights between the islands are on small aircraft, and tight baggage restrictions exist. There is a 15kg (33 pounds) limit for checked bags (divers can request an additional 5kg waiver for up to 20kg (44 pounds). This applies to your checked baggage only, but it is cumulative so if you are 2 people traveling you can combine your total weight allowance. In addition to weighing your checked bags, both you and your carry-on bags will be weighed as well. Normally your carry-on bags are not very restricted, unless the plane is nearing its maximum weight limit.

Take a few minutes and check out some of the dive resorts linked by region on the left, and click through for more detailed information or assistance arranging the holiday of a lifetime.

What to Expect

Fiji is internationally known as the ‘Soft Coral Capital of the World’, and once you have been diving here it’s easy to see why. The sheer density of both soft and hard corals of every color is very impressive. And of course, where there are coral reefs there is also a myriad of other marine life, and in Fiji’s case the reef inhabitants are equally abundant. There are profuse underwater photo and video opportunities in every region from macro (commensal crab and shrimp, nudibranchs, many different anemone fish and countless other subjects) to wide angle (mantas, several species of shark, and the occasional sailfish, marlin or whale shark, etc.)

Unlike some dive destinations, Fiji’s best diving is easily accessible from land-based resorts in many areas. The dives range from sheer walls and pinnacles to bommies (small to medium coral outcroppings) and reefs, with special shark dives, caverns, drift and anchored current dives all available. The underwater experience changes from one region to another so if you have the time splitting your trip into 2 or more destinations will be well worth the effort. Of course, liveaboards offer maximum diving opportunities and the ability to visit many regions, making them a solid choice for hard-core divers.

While some areas of Fiji have a reputation of being too advanced for beginners, even novice divers who are comfortable in the water can enjoy most of the dive sites anywhere in the country. As a rule Fiji’s dive guides are exceptionally helpful, and all you need to do if you are feeling anxious is advise your guide and they will be happy to pay special attention to you—both on the boat and underwater. Conversely, once you have demonstrated your knowledge and skill level to their satisfaction the guides are not overly watchful or restrictive of your dives, unless it is by your request.

One thing of note is that Fiji’s currents are largely caused by tidal changes, so if you want to avoid the strongest currents try to plan your diving to avoid the several days around a full or new moon. However, currents also bring nutrients to the reef, so the reef’s splendor is fullest while at least some current is flowing. The dive operators try to plan their dives to coincide with the current just coming up or going down, but some current diving is inevitable if you want to see the reef at its peak beauty. The nutrient rich water that makes Fiji’s underwater world so exceptional can also play havoc with visibility. While 120’-140’ visibility is not uncommon, much lower visibility can occur, especially in the summer months (Jan-Mar) when a plankton bloom can develop in the warm water.

Diving in the North

  1. Light House
  2. Alice in Wonderland
  3. Shark Alley
  4. Mystery Reef
  5. Canyons
  6. Nugget
  7. Goldilocks
  8. Jacksons
  9. Fingers
  10. Hole in the Wall
  11. Big Blue
  12. Soni Soni Pass
  13. Dakuniba Pass
  14. Magic Mountain
  15. Namena Island

Map courtesy of Divi Fiji.


The reefs of Vanua Levu have superb diving with a great choice of sites offering the underwater scenery that made Fiji famous: walls, caves, overhangs soft and hard corals, reef fish and pelagic fish. The diving is less demanding in Savusavu Bay but becomes dramatic on the outer side of the barrier reef, which sweeps up the coast to Somosomo Strait dividing Vanua Levu and Taveuni.

Dive Commentary From Undercurrent

Undercurrent, a Sausalito, California based publication has graciously provided Fijiguide.com with commentary on Taveuni and Savusavu destinations from staff writers and readers. With the exception of one report, the verbiage below is generally not more than two years old.

Savusavu (Vanua Levu)
“Dive boats were in perfect shape, the crews helpful in dive planning, and videos were taken of all divers for later (optional, of course) purchase. Temps were in the mid-80s during the day, and sleeping was comfortable with overhead fans after about 9:30 PM. Afternoon showers usually came, after the day's dives. The resort was absolutely clean, and the dive shop was fully equipped, in case you might have forgotten something or in case something broke! Diving:We had two big problems. We are both slim and didn't have enough rubber. By the second dive of the day I was very cold. Also, the big boat had a dysfunctional motor so we never went to the southern area like Nsonisoni Pass where most of the good diving is supposedly located. We went to closer reefs; some in bad shape. I can hardly believe I went half way around the world to dive reefs that aren't as good as many in the closer and cheaper Caribbean.”

(This imaginary letter was written in jest to Jean-Michael Cousteau by Ben Davison, Editor of Undercurrent . (It’s been edited for brevity’s sake). Although this commentary was written nine years ago, it’s still quite accurate.

You've got a slick dive operation, right up there with the kind you find on Cayman or Bonaire, and a good crew. Your operation is just what divers have come to expect from guys like you and Ron Kipp—fixed moorings, good briefings with site maps, gear set up for you, camera cared for, set time and depth. Water 81 degrees F, vis 40-80 feet. Stacks of hard corals, beautiful soft corals, plenty of tropicals, anemones, clownfish—and one single black lionfish (strange, the only one in five days!). The guides weren't in a rush, they gave a full hour surface interval, then off we went to more lush pinnacles, with extraordinary corals, alive with fuschias, magentas, and yellows, big lobster, diving crinoids, schools of fusiliers, and sailfin anthias. Best part: millions of schooling juveniles; you know, I saw two-inch barracuda, triggers, and other critters that I even pointed out to the guides. How do you balance that? I mean, they were here first, which is probably why there aren't many big fish. And then you've got that crown-of-thorns guy. Man, at a couple of sites where the rubble was amazing, your guide (and others too) told me those starfish (I saw a few big guys) ripped through there a few years ago. What's the solution for a Cousteau? Let 'em be? Or kill 'em?

Your boat would moor here, but they drifted. Tiai, who worked at Nakoro in the old days, took me on the most splendid dive of my trip, past virgin heaps of table, plate, and other hard corals, across a large field of antler coral, through occasional clouds of reef fish, and never went below 50 feet. I requested Alice in Wonderland for my second dive, since I had enjoyed it years ago, and damn if those crowns hadn't grazed through, leaving large patches of coral bones. Yet I came across a forest of antler coral, big heads of mushroom coral, and a dozen flute mouths, a six-foot gray shark, and a three-foot mackerel. (Editor, Undercurrent)

  1. Great White Wall
  2. The Zoo
  3. The Corner
  4. Annie's Bommies
  5. Mini White Wall
  6. Fish Factory
  7. The Ledge
  8. Jerry's Jelly
  9. Yellow Tunnel
  10. White Wall
  11. Blue Ribben Eel Reef
  12. Rainbow Passage #1
  13. Rainbow Passage #2
  14. Cabbage Patch
  15. Chief's Garden
  16. The Caves
  17. Playground
  18. Coral Gardens
  19. Barracuda Pinnacle
  20. Fish Patch
  21. Gorgonian Garden
  22. Long Beach Pt.
  23. Purple Wall
  24. The Fans
  25. The Rock
  1. Suthu
  2. Lost Reef
  3. Mariah's Cove
  4. Still Waters
  5. Broken Reef
  6. Rainbow Sands
  7. Ringgold's
  8. Cross Channel
  9. Nukubalavu
  10. Molumolu
  11. Windseve Passage
  12. Motui I
  13. Motui II
  14. Backside
  15. Bonnie's Boulder
  16. Rainbow Passage
  17. Noel's Wall
  18. Golden Garden
  19. The Edge
  20. Motui Lailai
  21. Joe's Reef
  22. Mini Yellow Wall
  23. Sangrila
  24. North Passage
  25. South Passage


Map courtesy of Divi Fiji.

Taveuni has earned accolades from the most jaded divers. It features Rainbow Reef and the Great White Wall in the heart of Somosomo Strait. A few miles further north, Matangi and Qamea Islands have a different, but equally impressive portfolio of dive sites. There are so many islands and reefs that even pioneers like Rick Cammick who “discovered” the Great White Wall and Rainbow Reefs, or the Douglas family of Matagi Island who have dived the area for 40 years, have not seen more than a fraction of what the area offers.


Garden Island Resort
Atmosphere, safety, excitement, wonderful staff. We have done live-aboards (which are great), expensive resorts (also nice), but every time we go back to Garden Island it's like coming home choppy, currents. delays on return trip were extended unnecessarily) due to timing of flights. Beautiful island, crummy weather (suspect just bad luck.) Divemasters very knowledgeable and helpful without being excessively 'controlling.' Terrific staff. Knew our whole group by name within a day. Strong tides determined dive sites to find slack current areas. Super beach site for shore interval between two morning dives.”

Dive Commentary From Undercurrent

Undercurrent, a Sausalito, California based publication has graciously provided Fijiguide.com with commentary on Taveuni and Savusavu destinations from staff writers and readers. With the exception of one report, the verbiage below is generally not more than two years old.

“There are lots of soft corals, nudibranchs, blue ribbon eels, lion fish, sharks, schools of barracuda and even a wreck. The visibility can be poor on some days due to rain or current. If you're into macro, they have a great 'muck' dive in front of the resort. Their dive shop seems to be well equipped and is run by Joeli, the dive instructor, and three divemasters who accompanied us. They worked hard to show us as much as possible and helped us get back on the boats when the water was rough.”

Beqa Lagoon

Beqa (pronounced Benga) is surrounded by one of the largest barrier reefs in the world and lies 8 km South off Viti Levu (see above map) about 130 km from Nadi. The lagoon is an extinct volcanic crater with a 40-mile ring reef has formed on the lip of the old crater. The formation is situated on the windward side of Viti Levu, and is the recipient of south-easterly trades (and the nutrients they bring). Interestingly the reef on the windward (southern) sideof the Lagoon is not particularly rich in marine life as is the case of the main reef running along the south side of Viti Levu. The reason for this is the same reason why this area is so desired by surfers: Huge swells continually pummel the area. Whereas prevailing swell batters the southerly reef, the opposite (Northwest side) of the lagoon circle near Yanuca Island to the west of Beqa – is protected by the southern reef, the Lagoon, and by the islands in the Lagoon. (Note the cluster of dive sites on the map all lie in the Northwest side of the lagoon.) The result is a haven rich in marine and reef life—especially soft corals and sea fans.

Diving off of Beqa

  1. Turtle Patch
  2. Coral Gardens
  3. Soft Coral Grotto
  4. Sea Fan Ledge
  5. Side Streets
  6. Black Coral Fantasy
  7. Garden Eel Patch
  8. Colonial Boy Point
  9. Yanuca Shallows & Wreck of the Tasu No. 2
  10. No Name Passage
  11. Frigate Passage
  12. Surgeon's Alley
  13. Nasici Rocks
  14. Caesar's Rocks
  15. Action Drop Off

Map courtesy of Divi Fiji.


“The diving is amazing. Soft corals of all colors are abundant, leopard shark, white tip reef sharks, small schools of jacks, barracuda and tons of tropicals, 2 or 3 humpback in the lagoon and we saw one breach. Nudibranch and flat worms, octos - excellent night diving. E.T. is over dived by mainland operators and kicked to crap to the point that Beqa Lagoon Resort does not dive it! Beqa Lagoon Resort has installed mooring buoys at 90% of the dive sites. We pulled into Fantasy and the mooring was broken by a mainland dive operator. The Captain and mate fixed it and by the end of the dive we had a new tie-up, the mooring buoy, diver in and out excellent Daily 2-tank dives leave 8 am, all equipment handled by staff after arrival. Divers only look after wetsuits and cameras. Night dives 2x weekly if at least 4 divers sign up. Shark dive Fridays for extra $FJ140. Many dive sites to choose from. Most days included 10-12 divers per boat; additional boat added if more. Snorkelers welcome on boats. 60 minute surface intervals. Very plentiful smaller tropicals. Good stands of healthy hard and soft corals. Divemasters will point out critters and unusual fish, will help photographers find stuff if asked. Spare but good briefings. Light supervision, but all divers checked in on depth and time after every dive. Dives 40-60 minutes. Many lionfish, stonefish, several leaf fish, white tipped reef sharks on about half the dives cruising by. Unlimited shore diving, but no one availed during our visit. No photo processing available at resort, no video or computer viewing facility. I used a digital and it was very easy. Others had film cameras and video and seemed comfortable. Resort has 240V outlets in rooms for recharging.”

“I was disappointed with the diving in Beqa. About half were 'ho-hum', and half 'that was nice'. The dive sites are typically 20- 30 minutes by boat. They have three boats, and all are quite nice for diving. Several dives have a lot of current. The bommies have only patches of healthy coral, the locals have overfished so there are almost no large fish and fewer numbers of smaller tropicals than I have seen elsewhere in Fiji. There is some good soft coral. I saw leaf fish and blue ribbon eels on almost every dive. The divemasters do not provide any graphic overview of the dive site in their brief briefings, and they are only mildly attentive to the status of the divers in the water. They let you dive as you want. They are quite good at finding and pointing out interesting critters. The between-dive interval is spent on the boat, with water, koolaid, and cookies.”

Lush feathery bright soft corals, starfish and swim thrus at Caesars Rock, a tasty and beautiful lunch served in black lacquered boxes with snorkeling at picture perfect Yanutha Island, Side Street had bright yellow fluted vase and black rubbery sponges, foreye butterfly, rock beauty's, puffers, bright soft corals and more. Hard corals are mostly dead, much in part to lots of touching by other divers. Soft corals are healthy and beautiful from strong currents and this isn't a drift dive so be in good shape and comfortable handling yourself and gear in them. Currents threatened to rip my mask off and 4' swells yanked me up and down at Side Street while hanging on to the safety stop line. A reef hook might come in handy for photos or at the top of the reef for your safety stop. Fresh water rinse, no table, handled camera equipment with respect, handed to you in water.”

Kadavu (pronounced Kahn-da-voo), lies only 88 kilometers south of Suva. It is approximately 48 kilometers in length and varies in width from 365 meters to 13 kilome ters. Its area is 411 square kilometers, just a bit less than Taveuni. Though remote, Kadavu is well known by divers for its rich diversity of undersea life, particularly in the Astrolabe Reef. The reefs encircling Kadavu also offer outstanding diving. In particular the Namalata and Tavuki reefs have had a good deal of exploration and are the focus of excellent diving.

Dive Commentary From Undercurrent

Undercurrent, a Sausalito, California based publication has graciously provided Fijiguide.com with commentary on Taveuni and Savusavu destinations from staff writers and readers. With the exception of one report, the verbiage below is generally not more than two years old.

  1. North Astrolabe Reef
  2. Usbourne Passage
  3. Acquarium #1 & #2
  4. Naingoro Pass
  5. Caku Tolu
  6. Groove Tube
  7. Mellow Yellow
  8. Susa Ika
  9. Butterfly Bommie

Map courtesy of Divi Fiji.
  1. Gutu Gutu
  2. Evil Trench
  3. Dakunituba Reef
  4. Rainbow Tango
  5. Crazy Maze
  6. Blue Tang
  7. Bure's Jewel
  8. Maui Cake
  9. Cakau Se


One site delivered several mantas, which they say is dependable. The coral has taken a beating from cyclones but still plenty to see. One site was an absolute fairyland which was a mesmerizing with variety and critters at every turn. We were told that we needed to come up at 750 psi, which caused some grief, since management only filled tanks to 2700 pounds. So, we had less than 2000 psi of usable air for each dive we'd traveled 6,000 miles to enjoy. When we asked for more air, we were told that they fill the tanks to 3000 psi hot, according to PSI standards, and when they cool, they have 'less' air. Two of our group are PSI-certified cylinder inspector and knew that the standards being imposed were more conservative than PSI standards. To be fair, one reason Matava short filled tanks was that they are at such a emote site, they don't want to stress their tanks and have to replace them because it is so expensive to get to the resort. As it turned out, management was most responsive to our request for more air and increased bottom time. They filled tanks after the day's diving, and in the morning they topped them off to 3000 when cool so we all had full tanks the rest of the time. Matava is a wonderful, remote getaway where the people will make you feel welcome like family. The food will more than satisfy.”

A beautiful mix of soft and hard corals, sea squirts, crinoids, anemones and sponges and tons of fish made for a dizzying experience on every divingdive. White tip, and gray reef sharks on every dive, turtles almost every time, a curious 3 foot long Remora that followed us for an entire dive and the largest moray eel we have ever seen - it's head was a big as mine and it must have been at least 6 feet long. Blue ribbon eels, lionfish, enormous groupers - one at least 5 feet tail to tip, schools of barracuda and trevally, and pretty blue and gold fusiliers, giant clams everywhere, lots of unusual, brightly colored nudibranchs, and clouds of purple and gold anthias. Some other unusual fish (for us) included blackfin dartfish, the many lovely butterfly and banner fish (I loved the pennant and regal varieties), bumphead parrotfish, and tobies - a variety of pufferfish. Many different anemone fish cuddled coyly amongst the anemone tentacles or charged bravely out to confront us if we hovered close by. There were also many wrasses, damsels, angels, surgeons, trout, snappers, parrotfish, filefish, roupers and hinds, cleaning stations, picasso and triggerfish, six kinds of star fish, brittle stars, cowries, scallops, oysters. The dive sites are so pristine that many don't have names. Our favorite places were the north and south side of Naigoro Pass and Alacrity Rocks. The pass is a drift dive and exactly where we began and ended depended on the current. Alacrity Rocks offers many beautiful swim throughs encrusted with delicate lace corals in soft, glowing blues, purples, yellows and whites. Tiliva's divemaster, Filipe O'Connor tailored each dive to meet our wishes, and at the same time gave us a very safe and enjoyable experience. For our first three days we werethe only divers and enjoyed complete freedom to dive when and where we wished (given tides and currents). Most of the time we just followed Filipe because he knows how to find the good stuff - like a hole in the rock with two fairy and three bumblebee shrimp or a coral head with eight different colors of soft coral. At the end of our week two other divers joined us on the well-equipped boat (oxygen, first aid kit, radio phones, etc.). We never saw another dive boat the entire week. Surface intervals were on a lovely, pristine beach with fresh tropical fruit. I found two large and undamaged chambered nautilus shells washed up on the beach.”

Diving off Mamanuca and Yasaawa Groups

  1. Super Market
  2. Barrelheads
  3. Gotham City
  4. Castaway Passage
  5. The Big W's
  6. Magic Island
  7. Namotu Reef
  8. B26 Bomber
  9. Stonehenge
  10. Tui's Reef
  11. Jackie's Reef
  12. The Salamanda
  13. Ronnie's Reef
  14. Vomo Caves
  15. Kingfisher Reef
  16. Lighthouse
  17. Pinnacles
  18. Coral Heads
  19. Namotu Passage
  20. Fish Market
  21. Seven Sisters
  22. Distant Cousins
  23. Ika Bazaar
  24. Endless Dream
  25. Bird Rock
  26. Big Blue
  27. Sand Patch
  28. Mana Passage
  29. Navi's Point


Map courtesy of Divi Fiji.


The Mamanuca (pronounced mama-nutha) Group is a cluster of small islands located just offshore from the west coast of Viti Levu. Volcanic in origin, the islands are characterized by exceptionally good weather and and their proximity to the international airport (which is ten minutes away by plane or approximately an hour by boat). There are numerous mid-range (and some upscale) properties as well as very basic backpacker accommodations on Mana and several of the other islands. All of the resort islands have fine beaches—some of the best in Fiji. Diving is excellent around here and good for beginners—there aren’t the kinds of strong currents you find in Taveuni and the outer islands. (Photo courtesy of Aqua-Trek).

Of all the Fiji islands the Yasawa (pronounced Yah-sow-wah) Group is the most archetypically `South Pacific’. Perhaps that is why both versions of Blue Lagoon were shot on location here. There are about 20 islands of volcanic origin, which lie in a chain just off the northwest coast of Viti Levu. The island chain begins about 40 kilometers northwest of Lautoka and stretch for approximately 80 kilometers. From a distance they suggest a string of emerald beads lying on the horizon. Up close they are precipitous, with long stretches of sandy beaches fringed by azure waters.

Liveaboards

Liveaboards are an important component to Fiji’s dive portfolio. Fiji has a vast amount of ocean and a liveaboard offers a great way to sample the variety and diversity of reef and marine life. Here are some options that I think highly of…

Hana Nai’a – The Hana Nai’a is a 120’ motor-sailor, designed for maximum comfort forup to 18 divers. The Fijian crew of 12 spoils theirdiving guests and guest celebrities like Paul Humann, Stan Waterman, and Howard & Michele Hall. The boat lay out is unique and well thought out. She boasts 8 private suites with baths, 5 with queen size beds, and all air conditioned. Both 7 and 10 day cruises are scheduled, with her range being from from the Astrolabe Reef in the South to Taveuni and the Northern Group. This includes dive sites like the now famous E-6 (which they discovered, along with numerous other sites), Namena, Wakaya, and Gau. Special cruises are run several times a year, incorporating trips to Tonga, scientific surveys, and unique experiences like the Amelia Earhart Expedition. Arguably the finest liveaboard now operating in Fiji. Many of the staff is from the old Pacific Nomad. Good Value!

The Nai’a pioneered some of Fiji’s best diving, and still leads the way as far as liveaboards go. Most of their diving takes place in the crescent that stretches from the Vatu-I-Ra Channel down to Wakaya and Gau Island in the Lomaiviti Group. From nudibranchs to whales, you can see it all on the Nai’a.


The Tui Tai was built over 30 years ago by Dan Costello, one of the pioneers of Fiji Tourism.

Since then the vessel has changed ownership, been refitted with cabins and, has morphed from day cruiser to a live aboard. It mainly plies the deep, cobalt blue Somosomo Strait between Vanua Levu and Taveuni.

The vessel caters to individuals primarily interested ocean activities and has all the accoutrement for diving, kayaking or paddle boarding. However, you don’t have to be an extreme athlete (or even a scuba diver) to get the most out of this boat. I like to snorkel and the Tui Tai proved to be a superb vehicle to get me to some of the best sites I’ve ever experienced. On my 5-day stint we visited some very remote areas (such as Rabi, Ringgold Isles, Qamea and Viani Bay).

Divers won’t be disappointed. Expect to see bumphead parrot fish, groupers, sharks, sting rays, turtles and possibly some pelagics depending on where you go. It’s not unusual to see manta rays near Rabi or on Rainbow Reef. From the boat you can sometimes see spinner dolphins and of course the ubiquitous flying fish. Soft and hard coral are common, and lots of reef life. Pelagic activity on the dives is typically minimal, but it’s not uncommon to see large fish from the boat itself.

In addition to water sports the Tui Tai combines cultural interaction such as village visits and the opportunity to get to know the Fijian crew on board the vessel.

Other land activities (hiking and biking) entail village visits and treks to rain forests and waterfalls. You can do as much or as little as you like during the trip – there are recommended activities each day, but they will also supply guides and equipment for almost any adventure you’d like to do.

As an introduction to Fiji, the Tui Tai is superb.


Blue Lagoon Cruises – “Cruise in Luxury, Dive in Paradise” is the latest twist on Blue Lagoon, which specializes in upscale cruising in Fiji. If you are seeking a dive trip that pays equal attention to the diver as the non-diver you should consider this. The 60 meter catamaran Fiji Princess is the only catamaran and newest addition to the Blue Lagoon Fleet. She has 34 deluxe air-con cabins and offers great amenities including a luxurious dining saloon, spacious upper deck lounge bar, sky deck bar, foyer, boutique, Lagoon Spa, swimming pool, four sundecks and on-board water toys. The two custom made Naiad dive boats are staffed by PADI divemasters or PADI instructors from West Side Water Sports—an excellent operation. With the potential of doing up to 4 dives on some days in addition to all the other activities, you’ve got some good options with this vessel.

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