DIVE | BEQA LAGOON • KADAVU GROUP
Sitting just to the south of the main island of Viti Levu is the scuba hotspot of the Beqa Lagoon. The area can be accessed by dive boats from the resorts along the main island's Coral Coast or you can stay on the island of Beqa. Further to the south is the Kadavu Group - a string of islands protected by barrier reefs.
DIVE | BEQA LAGOON
The island of Beqa is surrounded by a barrier reef which creates a 360 sq km lagoon. The channels around the lagoon provide some high-energy, top-quality diving and the area has what many believe to be the best shark dive on the planet! Most of the dives in the area are drifts around coral bommies and gently sloping walls with lots of reef fish, invertebrates and cruising pelagics.
Bull sharks are one of the star attractions
This has got to be near the top of every diver's bucket list of dream dives. Seven species of shark - bull, grey reef, nurse, silver tip, lemon, blacktip reef, and whitetip reef sharks - all gather for a spectacular feeding session. The site is also an excellent dive with lots of fish and soft corals and generally good visibility.
A large Clark's anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii) on the top of one of the bommies
This is series of 10 coral bommies rising almost to the surface which is honeycombed with tunnels, windows and overhangs festooned with soft corals. The highlight is a tunnel at 15m through one of the bommies which is encrusted with sponges and huge gorgonians. The tops of the pinnacles are covered with anemones with a huge number of clownfish.
Spotted eagle rays (Aetobatus narinari)
A classic drift dive through a large channel at the south-west of the reef with two big coral bommies at the entrance. Lots of overhangs, caves and holes on the bommies. Watch out for big pelagic such as mantas and eagle rays moving through the channel with plenty of whitetip reef sharks and stingrays on the sandy sea floor.
A series of coral bommies with a massive archway dripping with golden soft corals which lead to a swim through. A dramatic dive with plenty of marine life.
DIVE | KADAVU & THE GREAT ASTROLABE REEF
Kadavu. Photo: Joshua Fawcett/Shutterstock
The Great Astrolabe Reef is actually two barrier reefs which form a lagoon around Fiji's fourth largest island, Kadavu and just to the north the island of Ono. It got its name when French explorer Dumont d'Urville's ran around in 1827 in his vessel 'The Astrolabe'.
The eastern windward barrier reef has a couple of passages to the open sea. The western leeward barrier reef is more broken up into passages, channels and stretches of bommie complexes. Just north lies the smaller North Astrolabe Reef which forms an atoll four nautical miles diameter.
Dive guide giving a briefing of sites around Kadavu. Photo: Mad Fish Dive Centre, Kadavu
There are fringing reefs around the many small islands and lots of coral bommies, some with some manta cleaning stations. This remote area is exceptionally picturesque. Kadavu is fairly mountainous with few roads - transport around the island is by sea.
It can be reached by a short plane trip (30 minutes) from the international airport at Suva and many of the dive sites can easily be reached by day boats from Kadavu. But liveaboards are the best way to explore the more remote sites of the barrier reef and its exciting channel diving.
An oceanic manta ray at a cleaning station. Photo: Mad Fish Dive Centre, Kadavu
Primarily a feeding area for oceanic manta rays, but some do check out the various cleaning stations.If you are lucky you might see a great hammerhead shark, and if you are even lucker a Pacific sailfish.
One of the five excellent dives in Naiqoro Passageway. On an in-coming current this is an adrenaline-pumping, all-action drift dive. The wall forms the southern side of the channel which drops sharply to about 20m before gradually sloping down to a sandy channel floor at 36m. Expect cruising grey reef sharks, lots of soft corals, schooling barracuda and much more.
Left, a feather star on a sea fan; right, one of the many large gorgonian sea fans to be found in Japanese Garden. Photo: Mad Fish Dive Centre, Kadavu
Another of the great divers in Naiqoro Passage - while it doesn't have quite as much soft coral cover as Purple Wall, it more than makes up for it with stunning sea fans and lots of fish. Make sure you have a torch to fully appreciate the glorious colours found at the deepest point (30m+).
This spot is sheltered from the wind and swells and makes a great option if the weather isn't cooperating. You drop down to an awesome patch of lettuce coral (above) at 12m. A treat for macro photographers with ghost pipefish and lots of colourful marine life.
Alacrity Rocks, an area at the east end of the Great Astrolabe Reef, has a number of great sites including this one which is riddled with swim-throughs, caverns, tunnels, arches and canyons. There are four coral bommies to explore. The high point is at midday with the sun streaming through one of the many cavern skylights.
Photo: Papageno Resort
This 63m-long tanker was sunk as an artificial reef in 1994 and now rests on her side at 30m. You can penetrate the large holds, the wheelhouse and the crew's quarters.
LIVEABOARD SPOTLIGHT | FIJI AGGRESSOR
Operating out of the capital Suva on Viti Levu, this luxury 30m vessel takes only ten guests on itineraries focussing on Kadavu. Trips run Saturday to Saturday.