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Where is the best diving in Fiji?
A question often asked is where the best diving in Fiji is located. Tough question! You can fall into the water almost anywhere and have a good dive, and every area has some sites that show signs of damage by weather, climate, runoff, human activity or other factors. One note about the currents in Fiji – most of them are the result of tidal changes, and as such come up and go down twice a day. If you want to minimize your exposure to current diving, they are at their strongest around a full or new moon. However, the currents bring in plentiful nutrients that account in great part for the prolific marine life and vast number of species for which Fiji is known. Some dives require current to be present in order for the soft coral polyps to be out feeding, and for the bigger pelagics to be actively hunting. The dive operators try to dive particular sites during optimal currents so that divers can experience each dive site to its fullest, but there can be a fine line between underdeveloped, optimal and overdeveloped currents. Dives that are incredible when the current is just right can be either downright scary or boring when that window is missed. Here is some general information that might help you decide which area is best for you.
Let's divide the most popular dive areas into 4 regions. These are the Mamanuca and Yasawa groups, the Northern Group (centered around Taveuni and the Somosomo Strait, but extending from the eastern and southern coasts of Vanua Levu to the northern and eastern coasts of Viti Levu, and the entire water between), Beqa Lagoon, and Kadavu (including Ono and the Astrolabe Reef). Of these, the Northern Group is by far the largest and most diverse, and includes many dives that are world renown. For discussion purposes, the Lomaiviti Group (to the east of Viti Levu) has been included in the Northern Group, but it is also sometimes referred to as the Central Group. The others are self-explanatory. It should be noted that there are some excellent dives that fall outside these four areas, like the Lau Group, the Great Sea Reef and Vatulele, but these are less accessible due to limited or non-existent dive operations providing access. Here is what you can generally expect in each of the regions.
Mamanuca and Yasawa Groups:
This is the perfect area for divers who are new to the sport, returning after an extended absence from diving, or just want to have some nice, relaxing dives. It is also great for honing your skills prior to diving the more advanced sites in other areas, or for getting your certification. There are lots of bommies and fairly shallow reefs, with pinnacles, walls and swim-throughs sprinkled in as well. While there is generally not as much current in this area, the soft corals are also less prolific. However, there is still plenty of marine life and hard coral. ‘The Supermarket’ is one of Fiji’s first shark dives, and can be an adrenalin-filled adventure. There are also wrecks, channels to the outer barrier reef and unique areas where resorts and dive operators have created protected areas and special environments. Of course, you can still see most of the marine life that exists throughout Fiji. The Mamanuca sites are the closest to Nadi and many can be reached from Nadi resorts within 20 minutes or so.
Kadavu, Ono and the Astrolabe Reef:
Here you will find one of Fiji’s most reliable manta areas for year-round sightings, and a greater diversity of dive types with both soft and hard coral. From huge walls and ravines to swim-throughs, bommies, pinnacles and languid reefs, Kadavu can satisfy a wide range of ability levels and is frequented by pelagics as well as a plethora of reef dwellers. It seems that you always see many of the beautiful ceremonial (live) egg cowries when diving Kadavu. Currents and surge can be fairly strong here. Kadavu is also popular due in part to its remoteness, and due to a lack of roads all of the resorts pick up their guests at or near the airport by boat to make the journey to your final destination. Once you are there, boat and foot travel are the only modes of transportation.
A relatively small area, Beqa Lagoon is only about 17 miles across with a lot of great diving is packed into this area. This is where the world famous Shark Encounter is located, along with Frigate’s Passage and many other well-known dives. There are pinnacles, bommies and reefs within the lagoon and some jaw dropping walls sporting huge gorgonian fans many feet across and gigantic black coral trees on the outside. The Shark Encounter alone draws in up to eight species of shark at once, including the much sought after Tiger Shark. Black tip, white and silver tip, lemon and bull sharks as well as others make their appearance throughout the lagoon. Vast fields of both hard and soft coral extend to the limits of your vision on some dives. Blue Ribbon Eels, schools of barracuda and unicorn fish seem like they are waiting there just for your entertainment. On one dive over 10 species of nudibranch were spotted in Beqa! While currents can be quite strong in Beqa, there are usually many good places to hide from it as well.
Arguably the most visited area of Fiji, located on the southern coast of the western division of Viti Levu, Fiji's main island. The Coral Coast is located approximately 90 minutes transfer from Nadi (pronounced Nandi) International Airport and is host to some of the most beautiful and easy diving anywhere. Dives include swim-thru's, wall dives, drift dives, hard and soft corals, large and small species and only a quick 40 minute transfer to Beqa Lagoon. There are a multitude of resorts to choose from - ranging from 5 Star to budget Backpacker accommodation. The diving is close by (suitable for all levels of diving, especially the diver/non-diver couple with or without children), as the dives are completed by lunchtime. Plenty to see above and below the water.
The Northern Group:
With a celebrity reputation that is often exceeded each time you visit, this region can excite even the most jaded divers. It is so big that no single trip can adequately cover all the great sites. This is the playground of liveaboards and the home of areas like Namena Marine Reserve, Somosomo Strait and Rainbow Reef, Vatu- I-Ra Channel and Bligh Water. Typically abundant with soft and hard coral, this is what Cousteau referred to as ‘The Soft Coral Capital of the World’. Somewhere within this region can be found just about everything Fiji has to offer from Pygmy Seahorses to Hammerheads. Generally considered a destination for advanced divers, there are also numerous sites suitable for novice divers and snorkelers. Currents can make the diving arduous at times, but the rewards can be exceptional. There are still areas here where exploratory dives can yield amazing discoveries.
There is a wide range of resorts in each of these areas to suit most tastes and budgets. Serious divers usually decide where they want to dive and then choose a resort, but no matter where you decide to stay there is probably some good diving nearby.