Taveuni, Fiji October 2004 (Todd - Cedar Rapids)
This is a return trip waiting to happen. My wife and I stayed at Garden Island Resort on the island of Taveuni(the garden island). It truly was a garden island. The island solid vegetation with small villages carved out near the streams running from the mountains.
The resort is not a five star resort, but it was clean and well kept. It consisted of 28 rooms that all face the Somosomo straits and the island of Vanua Levu(this is where our surface interval was to be between dives). There were plenty of lawn chairs by the pool and grounds so you can enjoy the afternoon sun. The rooms were average size, but clean. Not much time was spent there, so it was sufficient for us. The hotel staff(and the Fijian people) were the friendliest people I've ever met. By the second day they were calling us by our first names. Everyone always had a smile and were there to please. Unfortunately, there was a group from California that took advantage of this. All meals were provided for us in our package and were very good. We chose the meal plan because this isn't a highly developed island, and dining choices are few and far between.
The resort is a ten minute walk to the international dateline. It's cool to be standing in two different days at once, but I wouldn't walk twenty minutes to do it. There is a sign for a nice tourist photo op. And ifanyone is skeptical, there was a techno geek from silicon valley(not that there is anything wrong with that) with a GPS unit with him. It did in fact read 0 degress, 0 minutes, 0 seconds. It has been independently verified. Other tourist expeditions include an island tour(one north, one south), a village tour(highly recommended), and Tavoro waterfalls(see village tour).
The dive shop is 30 feet from the hotel, so it took less than a minute to get from breakfast to the dive boat. The day we arrived, we were told to take our gear to the dive shop by 4pm, so that everything would be geared up for us for the next morning. That's the last time we touched our gear until we left. The dive staff was very good at gearing the equipment properly. They seemed insulted if you wanted to try to change your gear between dives. They did not want us to do anything. One woman had a problem getting back on the boat one day because of the surface chop, so one of the divemasters jumped in, stripped the gear off of her, helped her on the boat, and brought the gear up for her. All with a smile on his face.
All of our surface intervals were done on Vanua Levu. There were three different bays that moored at. All three were what you would picture the south pacific to be. We stopped by one bay where one of the divers on our boat had a cousin that had a small resort that they were building. They had it built but decided that they didn't want to be in the resort business. So if anyone has two million burning a hole in their pocket...
The diving. Spectacular! It has been called the soft coral capital of the world, and I can't disagree. This is not a place for beginners. The current is very strong at certain dive sites, but that's what make the coral world class. The divemasters start the week at some sites that aren't as strong so we could get acclimated. Several people on our boat complained about the current and how tired they were. So if your looking for easy and relaxing diving, this might not be the place to go. But if you don't mind a little work, you'll be rewarded for your efforts. The soft coral opens up to feed when the current is ripping and the colors are amazing. I haven't seen a garden of flower bed with brighter colors. My mask wasn't big enough for my eyes(especially at the beginning of the week). I also swallowed a fair share of salt water during the week. My regulator seal very well with the big smile on my face.
One of their famous dive sites is called the Great White Wall. It is exactly what it says it is. I was skeptical about how interesting white coral could be. I am no longer skeptical. This was a drift dive along the wall that lasted only about three minutes due to the strong current. The wall from 40 feet down to 110 feet was covered in mostly white soft coral. What was so striking was that the white soft coral looked like they all had a small light bulb placed inside of them. The entire wall glowed. Vegas couldn't put on a light show this good.
Fish? Oh yeah, there were some fish there as well. As colorful as the soft coral was, the fish were even more so. Many were so colorful, they looked like the were painted. I wasn't sure if I was watching Finding Nemo or actually seeing them first hand. My head was on a swivel the whole week. If only my photography skills could do them justice. Moorish Idols, Regal Angelfish, Emporer Angelfish, Titan Triggerfish, Blue Ribbon Eels, Anemonefish hiding in anemnones two foot in diameter. These are just the highlights of the highlights.
All of the dives were very healthy with very little dead or beat up coral. The fish life was also abundant on each and every dive. If it's your first trip to the south pacific, you will think the checkout dive is the best dive you've ever done. Luckily, you'd be wrong. It only gets better and better.
What's the price? It depends on the airlines. The resort is very reasonable and falls in line with some caribbean destinations. It's getting there and back that will cost you. Would I recommend going? I'll let you know when I get back from my next trip there.