Your Dive Guide to The Soft Coral Capital of the World
February 07, 2024
Explore the depths of these world class dive sites at this nation of islands.
Fiji is what postcard perfect vacays are made of — pristine water, abundant sea life and soft sand beaches lined with palm trees. The incredible 333-island archipelago is one of the most idyllic tropical locations for divers and ocean lovers alike — they don’t call it the soft coral capital of the world for nothing.
However, this nation of islands is also on the frontline of climate change, where rising sea waters and warming temperatures pose a very real threat to the lives and livelihoods of Fijians.
This has seen Fijians voicing their concerns to the global community and has inspired many local businesses and hotels to adopt sustainable, eco-friendly practices and run conservation and restoration projects. So, let’s look at some of the best dive sites to find in Fiji and the ways you can give back for a seriously feel-good visit.
As the soft coral capital of the world, conservation is paramount to protect this important species — as is restoration. This is where Coral Gardeners come in.
The organisation’s committed team is growing, nurturing and planting coral gardens to build biodiversity and keep the Fijian coral reefs and community thriving. Coral reefs are not only beautiful; they also serve a vital purpose in nourishing many fish and sea species and protecting the islands from storm surges and wild weather.
Book an experience with Coral Gardeners for a one-of-a-kind travel encounter where you’ll get to plant coral and give back to the reefs you love.
Unforgettable Dive Experiences
Thanks to concerted efforts to protect and nurture the nation’s coral reefs, Fiji has some of the best dive sites in the world. Here’s just a handful of our favourites.
The Great Astrolabe Reef
Named after the French ship whose wreck forms part of your underwater exploration here, the Great Astrolabe Reef is the prime snorkelling and diving attraction on Kadavu Island’s southern shore.
If you’re into big fish, you’re in luck here as tuna, marlin, giant trevally and sharks can all be found swimming against the backdrop of colourful coral walls.
Taveuni and the Somosomo Strait
This stunning channel is called the Rainbow Reef — so you know that you’re in for a vibrant dive. When the tide is high, you’ll be holding onto your proverbial hat (or dive helmet) as the breathtaking Somosomo Strait fills with water and blows you away.
Its nutrient-rich water is part of a strong tidal current, and the literal translation of Somosomo is “good water”, which contributes to the abundance, health and diversity of the fish and coral here.
People might come for the rich pinks, oranges and purples that line bommies and tunnels – but the section known as the Great White Wall is for the diving diehards. At 15-65 metre depths, blooming white ‘Dendronepytha’ soft corals paint a spectacular backdrop to the reef fish, manta rays, Spinner dolphins and even humpbacks you may see here.
The Spectacular Suncoast
If rugged mountain ranges are your thing, you’ll love the drive from Nadi to Viti Levu’s Suncoast. For two and a half hours, you’ll journey through rural villages, cane fields and market towns to reach the comfort of a resort that will be your base for off-the-beaten-track adventures.
When you’re not chasing waterfalls, experience the maze of 50 dive sites at Bligh Waters. These reefs and channels were first mapped and plotted (in Western terms) by namesake William Bligh, who was famously tossed overboard in a mutiny. Black Magic and Instant Replay are two beloved sites teeming with soft and hard corals and the creatures that live among them all.
Savusavu and Vanua Levu
Situated on the island of Vanua Levu, Savusavu is the perfect jumping-off point for snorkelling the Great Sea Reef or visiting the world-class dive sites of Namena Marine Reserve.
The Namena Marine Reserve boasts over 1000 fish species thanks to the decision of landowners to ban fishing since 1997. It also serves as a fish migratory path, which makes it more likely that you’ll spot dolphins and different types of whales, too.
You can reach part of the 200-kilometre Great Sea Reef from the north coast of the island, exploring huge expanses of reef without the crowds – there is only one dive company that accesses the reef. It’s a diver’s dream.
One of the most popular destinations for travellers, the Mamanuca Islands are a short boat transfer or flight from Nadi (one of Fiji’s most populous cities). Not only does this strip of islands offer exceptional dive experiences, but there are also world-class waves to surf or jet ski across at the legendary Cloudbreak.
This is also a great “learn to dive” destination, with a calm, clear lagoon providing an ideal spot for beginner divers. If you’re a first-timer or novice, it’s the place that’ll turn your new hobby into an obsession.
Head to The Supermarket to see an abundance of reef sharks, turtles and rays – and Namotu Wall, well, remember the drop-off in Finding Nemo? This coral cay has a 1000m deep drop-off where sea turtles, barracuda and all manner of sea species abound. Namotu is also an ideal surf destination that welcomes wave enthusiasts year-round.
Hotel Stays with a Conservation Twist
Relax and unwind at one of these conservation-minded resorts.
Turtle Island is an eco-friendly all-inclusive private island resort where everything you imagined for your dream Fijian holiday comes true. In the heart of the Yasawa archipelago, Fijian values of family and friendship shine through, and you’ll experience warmth and hospitality that will stay with you.
Only allowing 14 couples at any time, it is the perfect escape for those truly seeking connection, wanting to immerse in Fijian culture, and completely disconnect from the outside world.
The island has resisted development, which means it’s devoid of high rises, airfields, shopping centres or billboards. What it does have is a richness of culture, the best in sustainable practices, and, of course, turtles.
Many sea turtles make their homes and nests on the island, and the resort has a turtle conservation program dedicated to strengthening the turtle population – something you can learn all about on your visit.
Barefoot Manta Fiji
If you like your accommodation with a side of marine conservation, then Barefoot Manta is for you. It is the only resort in Fiji with a dedicated Marine Conservation Centre, run by their in-house Marine Biologist, Rob MacFarlane. Along with enlightening conservation talks daily, you can also join a Marine Biology Tour in the form of a guided snorkel or conservation dive.
Another thing to love about this resort is its partnership with nearby Mua-ira Village, with many of the staff coming from the village and providing true local Fijian hospitality. The resort exudes understated comfort that honours its natural surroundings, making your Swiss Family Robinson dreams come true.
Sustainability is at the heart of your experience on exclusive Kokomo Island. From farm to table and dock to dish meals to the sustainable design of the architecture, interiors and decorative features – sustainability is built into every detail.
With a vision to give more than one can take, as a guest at Kokomo, you have opportunities to contribute to conservation projects focused on mangrove and coral reforestation as well as turtles, manta rays and clams.
With choices of private villas or multi-bedroom residences, you can make this your base for a family or friend vacation that gives you as much as you give back.
Tavarua Island Resort
Tavarua is an exclusive surf resort in the middle of seven surf breaks, including the iconic Cloudbreak, which draws surfers to Tavarua’s shores to experience world-class surfing. The resort started as a first-of-its-kind all-inclusive surf camp in the early 80s. Surfing isn’t the only watersport or activity here. It’s an ocean lover’s paradise.
In fact, surfers Kelly Slater, Rosy Hodge and John John Florence have been involved in Tavarua’s Giant Clam restoration project — an effort to grow the population of this extraordinary endangered species. It’s one of the many ways Tavarua gives back to the local community.
Staying at Tavarua feels like a home away from home, a perfect place to rest your head after a day’s surf or dive.
As you can see, sustainability, respect and love for nature and the ocean are the beating heart of the Fijian way of life. As a guest to its islands, it’s important to remember this and honour their beautiful sea life, reefs and nature.
Always bring reef-friendly sunscreen, never touch or harm the sea life or coral, minimise the waste you bring, and respect, listen and learn with an open heart and mind to the people who know this place better than anyone.
Feeling inspired? Plan your trip now at the Tourism Fiji website.
Images (from top): Awesome Adventures, Frogfish Photography (UK), Awesome Adventures, Brooke Sabin, Markus Roth, Markus Roth, Elliot Grafton, Elliot Grafton, Turtle Island Resort, Turtle Island Resort, Barefoot Manta, Oliver Bolch, Kokomo Private Island, Tourism Fiji
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