Bula! Over a couple of years, we visited five different resorts in Fiji.
Our first island was Matagi, where we stayed at Matagi Island Resort. Accommodations are large bures, fashioned after the native housing, but much more luxurious. Each bure is set off by itself amongst lush palm trees, so it's very private. The food was excellent, but Fiji is tough if you have cholesterol problems, as the cooking is coconut based. Yum!
Fijian diving is known for its lush, beautiful walls of soft corals and at Matagi we saw huge walls of yellow soft coral feeding in the current. Critters were also plentiful and we were never bored with our macro and wide-angle cameras. Fiji is also known for some unique animal life, such as sea snakes and ribbon eels, both of which are fascinating.
The dive boat at Matagi was large and comfortable and never too crowded. Although they didn't always want to be bothered to go far. One evening was a sunset cruise with drinks and a band.
We did one night shore dive, but it was disappointing because the fish were so shy. We were later told the locals fished at night using lights, so now all lights mean danger to them.
Matagi also runs a live a board out of the resort, so a combination land/live-aboard trip can be arranged. There also is some great touring and hiking a short boat ride away on Taveuni.
On to Malawai on Kadavu, where the goats have to be shooed from the landing strip before the plane touches down. Malawai was very private, six guests maximum, in colonial style plantation houses. Dives were very personalized. This is where we saw mating octopus, several ribbon eels, and a sea snake. There is a nice wreck dive right off the resort. There was hiking up into the hills behind the resort and they had the best food we've ever eaten. Unfortunately, Malawai is closed for now.
Marlin Bay Resort on Bequa Lagoon was our third stop, another beautiful setting with wonderful bures, although not as private. The dining hall was a huge bure. I did not care for the food as much, but everything else made up for it! The diving is done off small open boats, so it's a little tough when it's rainy. We were there during the "dry" season, but some areas get more rain than others do, and Bequa Lagoon seems to be one of them! Luckily the boat rides are short and the diving terrific--nothing large, but lots of great critters like unicorn fish, and ghost shrimp. We also liked the shore diving, which we did almost every day. Great "muck" diving, with strange jellyfishes, crabs, schools of salt-water catfish, varieties of fish hanging out under the docked boats, and other baby fish we couldn't name, kept us thoroughly entertained. We spent a lot of time looking at Marlin Bay's fish books!
Since many Marlin Bay employees live in the nearby village, a visit was arranged for us. We started off with an official kava ceremony hosted by the wife of the chief and other village women. The oldest male in our group acted as our spokesman. We were taught when to drink the kava, when to clap hands, and what to say. They were so impressed with us, we did it twice; if you've ever had kava you will understand why this is not necessarily a good thing! After the kava ceremony we toured the village and the local school. Their bures were neat, simple, and clean. The school seemed well run considering the lack of supplies; a generator ran the copy machine. The school's gardens are tended by the students and a soccer field is out front. The village was saving for electricity. This particular village is known for fire walking, which we saw later in the week. We also observed how the kava root is dug up and processed into the ceremonial drink.
Hiking is available but due to the rain we were unable to do any; Marlin Bay was still a great over-all experience!
Four years later we were back in Fiji enjoying two different resorts. One was in Pacific Harbor on Veti Levu, originally Korean owned, now run by a couple from New Zealand. Diving was done in a different part of Bequa Lagoon than when we were at Marlin Bay, and wouldn't you know it was raining again! After a ten-minute boat ride down the river out to the lagoon, it was another hour to the dive sites. We saw lots of blue and black (juvenile) ribbon eels, lionfish, and had great lunches on the boat. The guides knew where the critters lived. We attended another kava ceremony/meke (dance) organized by one of the hotel employees, which was a great experience; the Fijians are very friendly people.
The last resort was Garden Island on the island of Taveuni. It reminded me of a Super 8 Motel in need of some refurbishing, but the staff was terrific, along with the food, and all our needs were met. There were many above-water activities such as hiking, checking out the 180th meridian, horseback riding, and water sliding. One evening we attended a huge buffet with local specialties followed by a very entertaining meke, with kava available. The diving was easy on fast boat; we saw a couple more sea snakes and plenty of other critters to keep us entertained.
Fiji is a beautiful country with great people and exotic sights. To really get a taste for the different types of diving available, you need to go to different areas. Between our first and second trips, a cyclone hit Fiji and destroyed many areas of the marvelous soft corals, but you can still find them under ledges. Fiji is fairly easy to get to and the overall experience rated four stars out of five in our travel book!
Where would we go if we went back to Fiji? Kadavu had the best diving of the places we stayed; with Malawai closed we might try Matana Resort on the same island. Marlin Bay had the best overall experience of diving plus experiencing the village and fire walking, especially if you can hit it when it's not raining! If you're into live-a-board boats, try the N'aia, or go to Matagi Island Resort, where you can combine land and live-a-board diving on their Matagi Princess II. Or try a totally new area, after combine through one of the Fiji tour guides; the possibilities are endless! Wherever you go, take plenty of wetsuit, as our summer is their winter--water temperatures can get as chilly as 74 degrees F. We saw many miserable divers in skins and shorty wetsuits. Try to do a minimum of two weeks in different locations to get the maximum experience. Enjoy, and sa moce!
Downey Diving 213 Summerfield Drive Baden, PA 15005 (724) 869-1989