Why diving in Fiji is spectacular – Lonely Planet

For many, Fiji’s constellation of islands provides the perfect beaches for relaxing. But dip your head under the waves and you’ll find yourself in the soft coral capital of the world, surrounded by underwater gardens, fierce shooting fish and graceful manta rays. Whether you’re an experienced diver or have yet to learn how to aim your snorkel, Fiji offers a sublime underwater experience.

On the way to a dive site in the Yasawa Islands © Tourism Fiji

Planning your Fiji Dive

Fiji’s climate makes it a year-round diving destination and the warm, shallow waters of Fiji’s many reef-lined lagoons are the perfect training environments. Most resorts offer their own dive operators, who can provide everything from introductory resort dives for beginners to an open-water certification course for those who really want to take their skills to the next level.

The Mamanuca Islands and the Yasawa Islands are a particularly good destination for beginners who want to discover the underwater world. They are close to Nadi, the main arrival destination in Fiji, and are easy to get to – with great island hopping adventures and activities. The dive sites are generally safe for novices and beginners, and many resorts have coral gardens and other easy places to explore if you want to turn snorkelers into divers.

Once certified, there are many other fantastic underwater spots for all skill levels in Fiji. Experienced divers should check out the Great White Wall at Taveuni – possibly the best soft coral dive in Fiji – the Nasonisoni Passage off Vanua Levu and the E6 in the Lomaiviti Islands, with a phenomenal seamount skimming the ocean surface.

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Diving in Bligh waters © Tourism Fiji

Viti Levus

The Suncoast along the north side of Fiji’s main island of Viti Levu has perfect access to Bligh Water and the Vatu-i-Ra Passage, famous for its rich marine life. The most enthusiastic divers head to the Breath Taker dive site. Rarely has a place been so aptly named—80-foot-tall coral-clad pillars lined with reef fish, but the main draw here is the great concentration of really large open water species—including smooth and striped barracudas. You’re sure to catch your breath here, so plan a two-tank dive so you don’t miss a thing.

From the northeastern city of Lautoka, Nai’a Fiji offers one of the most unique diving experiences in the South Pacific: 7- to 10-day live-aboard cruises through the diving hotspots at Lomaiviti, Bligh Water and the Namena Marine Reserve. Wake up, dive, eat, sleep and repeat – all in the lap of luxury – with a new view every day.

On the south side of the island, there are over 20 dive sites near Pacific Harbour, the self-proclaimed ‘Adventure Capital of Fiji’, mostly in the Beqa Lagoon and its fantastic soft coral sites. These include ET, which has a huge tunnel over 100 feet (30 meters) long, densely covered with sea fans and soft corals. Other impressive dives include Side Streets (soft corals, coral heads, and gorgonian fans), Frigate Walls (a 150-foot wall in the frigate pass), and Caesar’s Rocks (coral heads and swim-throughs).

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Fiji is known for its colorful soft coral © Frogfish Photography (UK) / Tourism Fiji

The Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands

Just off the northwestern edge of Viti Levu, the 50-odd islands that make up the Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands are a behemoth of beauty with a powerful — and paradisiacal — punch.

If you’re new to scuba diving, the coral-strewn underwater cliff in the Yasawa island chain called Lekima’s Ledge is a particularly good place to get your gills wet. The gently sloping series of ledges allow you to explore deeper and deeper as your confidence grows, and the site attracts large schools of fish, as well as spacious coral gardens. Visibility here amazes novice divers and you can see up to 130 feet through the water for much of the year

Two immense pinnacles sit behind a barrier reef called Gotham City in the Mamanuca Island chain. Why the name? The superheroes here are the resident batfish, a reef species that is much more beautiful than their name suggests. Other fish abound in a dazzling rainbow parade, although the tidal currents here mean Gotham City isn’t suitable for first-time divers.

Captain Cook Cruises offers all-inclusive cruises from three to seven nights in a variety of classes and sleeping arrangements in the Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands, and is a great way to explore the many beautiful dive sites scattered throughout these chains.

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The Great White Wall © HSExposures / Shutterstock

Vanua Levu and Taveuni

Fiji’s second largest island and nearby horseman, located a short flight or boat ride north of Viti Levu, are some of the tropics’ best kept secrets.

If you could only choose one dive in the entire Pacific, chances are you would choose Taveuni’s Great White Wall. It’s a cliff dive that extends 30 feet below the surface, but once you get close you’ll understand why it’s also called the Rainbow Reef. It’s not just the fantastic colors that put it in the running for the best soft coral dive in Fiji, but it has a stunning array of hard corals to boot, plus an endless kaleidoscope of reef fish scurrying about going about their daily business.

For more of the best diving around Vanua Levu – and probably in all of Fiji – head to Namena Marine Reserve, a 27-square-mile protected park with corals so vibrant and marine life so abundant it’s become the showcase for Fiji’s underwater world . It is about a two hour boat ride from Savusavu. The best closer locations are just outside Savusavu Bay and include the Dreadlocks which is suitable for all skill levels with its multicolored hard and soft coral garden; Dreamhouse, home to large schools of barracuda, jack and tuna perched on a coral rock; and Dungeons and Dragons, a towering maze of drive-throughs.

In the nearby Naisonisoni Passage, you don’t move – the sea moves you. A drift dive for more experienced divers, you are pulled through a narrow passage like Alice down the rabbit hole, watching a sequence of amazing scenes – dramatic coral formations, schools of groupers and passing sharks. There’s little time to stop on this underwater conveyor belt, but when dramatic rides go, it’s hard to beat.

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Manta rays are nervous creatures startled by noisy scuba bubbles © Tourism Fiji

Kadavu

Kadavu lies sleepily about 100 kilometers south of Viti Levu, and is the starting point for the Great Astrolabe Reef, which stretches for nearly 45 miles, making it one of the longest barrier reefs in the world. Amazing dive sites abound here, with coral-lined pinnacles and tunnels. The sea currents also bring the big fish out to play. See Eagle Rock – a group of rocky peaks with an abundance of hard corals and multitudes of fish life – and Broken Stone, a beautiful underwater landscape with a maze of swim through, caves and tunnels.

Not all dives require oxygen cylinders – some require a gentler approach. Manta Reef off the south coast is a perfect example. Huge manta rays swim in the shallows here to be cared for by cleaner fish, becoming relaxed enough to allow swimmers to approach at a respectful distance. Despite their size, mantas are nervous creatures that are startled by noisy scuba bubbles, so divers must slip silently into the water from a spotter boat and use only their snorkels to encounter these peaceful giants.

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