The Tui Tai was built over 30 years ago by Dan Costello, one of the pioneers of Fiji Tourism. I have fond memories of the ship but its been decades since I was last on her. 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).
There’s a reason why you’ll see things on the Tui Tai that you won’t see elsewhere.
Tui Tai generally takes you a significant distance from the shore and you’re going to deeper, less visited sites than you’d ever travel to from a shoreline snorkel near a hotel. The good part was, the reef systems we visited did not display damage from Cyclone Tomas, which ravaged Fiji in 2009. In all, we went to at least a dozen different snorkeling sites around Fiji. Owen Whippy, the on board dive instructor, said that if a guest is willing to forgo other activities, they could be taken to as many as 20 different snorkeling sites.
Divers, of course, 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.
Length to most sites is 5-20 minutes on their Zodiac and topography will include walls, canyons and caves. There’s often a good deal of current around the Rainbow and other parts of the Somosomo Strait, so expect to do drift dives. If you’re interested, night dives are also available. Water temp averages 28/9 C and they provide the wetsuits and the other gear. All equipment is Scuba Pro. (They do provide masks and fins for snorkelers but I suggest bringing your own vests or rash guards).
Top shot and video courtesy of Tui Tai's superb photographer, Gemma Molinaro. Bottom shot from Robert F. Kay
For more info on the Tui Tai visit www.tuitai.com