Everyone who has visited Fiji will attest to its’ beauty – over as well as underwater. Here, we’re going to talk about another of Fiji’s hidden gems – the amazing scuba-diving and snorkelling off Sun Coast!
As we talked about in another of our blogs What to Do in Suva, travellers land at Nadi’s international airport and immediately launch off to Yasawas and Mamanucas for resorts, scuba-diving, snorkelling and generally having a blast. Mind you, these islands are something special all right and we’re not taking an iota away from them. But at some point, of time, even these places get a little… crowded. We’re here to talk about doing all the above, having a great time and being secluded while at it – how amazing is that?
Now, Fiji has 333 islands (well, it’s actually 332 and several hundred islets, but we thought one islet was big enough to call an island and made it 333!), but it’s biggest are the mainland of Viti Levu and the smaller Vanua Levu at one o’ clock.
The Sun Coast is so named because it’s almost always sunny here, which explains why this area is where Fiji’s farm-belt starts. It is also the rim of the mainland and the channel between the mainland and Vanua Levu is called Bligh Waters. Back when Captain William Bligh was being hounded off Tahiti, he crossed these waters in nothing more than a 7-metre longboat. But, despite his many failings, Bligh was a cartographer and navigator to rival the best of Polynesian seamen. He, very literally, put Fiji on the international map and the waters of the channel have been named after the colourful character.
Instead of jetting off to Mamanucas, we recommend you hire a cab or take a bus down the King’s Road to Rakiraki. It’s a two-and-half hour journey, the road winds across hills, ribbons around beaches and travellers keep stopping for selfies with the hills on one side and the ocean on the other. Now, Rakiraki is a sleepy town, but there are a decent number of hotels and resorts dotting this agricultural spot. This would be the launching area for all adventures. There are a couple of PADI-certified diving operators and even diving special resorts here, which we’ll get to in a bit.
Within the area known as Bligh Waters are over 50 unique and jaw-dropping beautiful dive-sites. The reason? The depth of the channel between the islands touches sometimes over a kilometre deep and the ocean tides forces strong, nutrient-rich currents through them. Over time, the channel (called the Vatu-i-Ra Passage) has the some of the most beautiful stretches of soft coral reefs in the world. There are kilometres of seagrass meadow, mangrove coral and more which unfurl and reach out when the currents are right.
At the right moment, it is a jaw-dropping sight for any diver – a multi-rainbow as hundreds of species of coral and fish vie for attention. Anthias and other reef fish flit amongst the soft coral, while parrotfish, wrasses, turtles, manta rays, pilot whales and reef sharks monitor the waters above. Reportedly, the currents feed and nurture over 300 varieties of coral and over 1,000 species of fishes. But, as we said earlier, this passage has strong currents pulling along and is recommended for expert divers. But fear not, there are scores of diving hotspots for newbies and amateurs, too.
Then, there is kitesurfing off the island of Nananu-i-Ra. Perfectly warm emerald waters, white sand beaches and a steady wind that fills the kite and pulls you on and on… And afterwards, a picnic on Oni Beach. Life could not be better or simpler.
On land too, there’s so much to see, do, eat and explore! The Sun Coast winds around historical landmarks, villages, boutique resorts, traditional spa centres and so on. Speaking of sights and sounds, do remember to swing by the Tomb of Udre Udre – one of the most colourful Fijian chiefs. His claim to fame was that he had defeated and eaten over 870 of his opponents. Yes, that’s a fact. The Navutu Rock is also a historical site that is worthy of a dekko. A fortified Fijian settlement, the site is a massive rock formation that juts out into the sky like a guardian sentinel.
The Sun Coast might be out of the way, but don’t think that it’s too rustic. There are hotels and resorts that will suit all travellers’ budgets and needs – they just need to hunt them down. For example, for affordable travel requirements, the Tanoa Rakiraki Hotel is a good choice; it has twin and double-bed rooms, a good restaurant and bar and it’s close to the dive operators. Then, moving up the ladder are the Wananavu Beach Resort and the Volivoli Beach Resort. Their tour desks are very good at organising scuba-diving tours and snorkelling safaris; so are our South Pacific Specialists. Check out the resorts for more information about them, other things to do, accommodation details, and so on. By the way, our Specialists also keep an eye on the best diving deals in the South Pacific… just saying.
Worried about post-COVID travel? You’re right to be cautious. Check out our blog on the state of travel in the South Pacific. Our Specialists are in touch with resorts, tour operators, tourism bodies – everybody who has anything and everything to do with safe, stress-free holidays in South Pacific!
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