Diving in Fiji will blow you away. This beach-blessed South Pacific archipelago is considered one of the world’s best dive destinations, and whether you’re a qualified scuba diver or a first-time snorkeller, the rainbow-bright tropical fish and vibrant coral will leave you breathless. On a foray to find new boutique hotels in Fiji, Smith took the plunge…
So what makes diving in Fiji so wow-worthy? For a start, Fiji’s 320-odd offshore islands and dazzling reefs sport around 390 species of coral and 1,500 types of fish, with many not found anywhere else. The psychedelic soft corals are famous; and the hard coral often comes in Saatchi-rivalling sculptural forms, from giant plates to brain shapes. No wonder divers have big watches – you really can lose track of time down there.
Fiji’s waters are warm year-round, but the best time to go is the dry season (May–October), when underwater visibility is at its best and you can make the most of being able to stride straight from sunlounger to shoreline for an impromptu snorkelling session. Smith’s scuba duo were lost in wonder as we ogled a million Nemos, spotted cobalt starfish and swam with turtles. All of our Fiji hotels offer snorkelling and diving, but here are our top tips:
For sensational soft coral: possibly the best soft-coral dive in Fiji, the Great White Wall is easily accessible from Smith stay Matangi Private Island Resort, near Taveuni Island in the dive-site dotted Somosomo Strait. A jaw-dropping wall and drift dive (which means you go with the current flow), it features slopes of ethereal white and lavender soft-coral trees. Purple Wall and Rainbow Passage nearby are also multi-hued must-sees. Matangi offers daily dives from its PADI-certified dive shop, and snorkelling off the beach as well as excursions further afield.
For fab fish: 5-star, PADI-certified Namale Resort & Spa, in Fiji’s north-east, has more than 25 local dive sites, with the chance to see everything from barracuda and big-eyed trevally at submerged reef Diamond Wall to leaf, lion and scorpion fish at Golden Nuggets. An hour’s boat ride away, Namena Marine Reserve sports a host of pelagic fish (which live near the ocean surface) at Grand Central Station and slinky eels at Blue Ribbon Eel Reef, with some good drift drives.
For reef action: ace diving awaits at the Mamanuca Islands, a short hop from Vomo Island Resort, which can arrange dives in the area and offers snorkelling off its beaches. Wilkes Passage boasts large pelagic fish and massive corals; catch reef fish, moray eels and bat fish at Gotham City’s colourful coral heads; explore deep-water rock towers at clown fish-flocked Plantation Pinnacles or spy gorgeous gorgonian sea fans at Sherwood Forest.
For shark encounters: book into Royal Davui Island Resort (joining Smith in March), south of main island Viti Levu, where Beqa Lagoon hosts a cluster of 15 brilliant dives, such as scarefest the Big Fish Encounter, rated as one of the world’s top shark dives. Shark wranglers and feeders will accompany you as you descend the edge of the lagoon, where you can witness up to eight shark species, including bull and tiger sharks, feasting on the bait.
Smith’s collection of boutique hotels in the Fiji Islands is growing, so check back in March and April for more sublime diving stays, including Qamea Resort & Spa near Taveuni Island and Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort on Vanua Levu, an eco-getaway with a PADI dive school, owned by the son of Jacques Cousteau.