A Tour of the Coral Capital’s Best Dive Websites

Rainbow Reef, The Nook: A scuba diver and an aggregation of scalefin anthias, chromis and butterflyfish swimming over the colourful delicate coral reef


Bula! Fiji is certainly one of just a few dive locations that I’ve returned to on a number of events. The nation’s amazingly colourful coral reefs, considerable fish life and exquisite landscapes, in addition to the heat and caring of the Fijian individuals maintain me coming again. This Pacific island nation formally reopened its borders on December 1st, 2021, and my spouse and I had been lucky to go to in early March 2022. On this journey, we dove the Bligh Waters, Beqa Lagoon, and Rainbow Reef—three of Fiji’s premier dive locales unfold throughout their 300 plus islands.

The fabled Bligh Waters are positioned off the northern fringe of Viti Levu island. Named for Lieutenant William Bligh of the English Royal Navy, who, together with 18 loyal crew, sailed by means of these seas in 1789 on a 23-foot (7-meter) launch, forged adrift following the notorious mutiny on the Bounty. Volivoli Beach Resort and Ra Divers have been diving the realm for a few years and took nice care of us throughout our keep.


Golden damselfish swimming amongst massive colonies of darkish inexperienced black solar corals and colourful sea followers, Mount Mutiny, Bligh Waters


Fiji has been dubbed the “delicate coral capital of the world” and lots of the iconic dive websites inside the Bligh Waters substantiate that moniker. We had the pleasure of diving websites akin to Mount Mutiny, Purple Haze, Vatu Specific, Maytag, G6, Prompt Replay, and certainly one of my private favorites, Mellow Yellow. Because the title implies, golden delicate corals blanket its two submerged pinnacles whereas contrasting purple and purple sea followers and inexperienced solar coral formations break up the scene, offering shelter for aggregations of vibrant reef fish.


An aggregation of scalefin and bicolor anthias fish above yellow delicate corals, gorgonian sea followers and inexperienced black solar corals, Mellow Yellow, Bligh Waters


Most of those dive websites lie inside the 42-square-mile (110-square-kilometer) Vatu-i-Ra Conservation Park, which was established in 2017 as a method of defending the realm’s considerable biodiversity. Guests are charged a modest FJ$15 (~US$7) annual price that helps maintain the park’s administration. Vatu Island, positioned on the northern finish of the park, helps notable colonies of seabirds in addition to nesting hawksbill sea turtles. On a three-tank dive day, divers can wander the sand after lunch surrounded by tons of of terns, gulls and frigatebirds.

Mushy corals maintain themselves on passing meals particles within the water column, and when the present is working, they inflate their our bodies to maximise floor space and improve their likelihood of catching a meal. Efficiently diving delicate coral is all about managing the present. The trick for the dive operator is to discover a dive web site with sufficient water motion to open up the corals however not a lot power that divers are whisked away and not using a likelihood to understand—a lot much less {photograph}—the scene. It’s a delicate stability of timing that requires shut consideration to the tides, the analysis of circumstances as soon as on-site, and naturally years of expertise.


A colony of pink delicate corals, extending into the blue water, to feed within the present, Backyard of Eden, Bligh Waters


Throughout the pandemic, one of many homeowners, and his now 12-year-old daughter, remodeled 100 shore dives and found an entire new world of muck and critter diving. I made a check-out dive upon arrival and in simply half-hour, I noticed a number of pipefish, shrimp gobies, clownfish in anemones, juvenile filefish, sensible tube worms, and one very shy yellow seahorse. Fiji will without end be recognized for its phenomenal coral reefs, however it’s all the time good to have choices, and I feel a bit critter searching within the muck is an effective way to spend the afternoon and follow your macro pictures.


A tomato clownfish hiding in its bubble-tip anemone


Touring across the jap half of the island on our method to Pacific Harbor, we bade farewell to the Bligh Waters. Arriving on the islands southern perimeter, often called the Coral Coast, we discovered our new house located on the water’s edge, on a non-public inlet, surrounded by distant tropical jungle. The picturesque, secluded grounds of Waidroka Bay Resort conveyed a direct sense of peace and tranquility.

The vast majority of scuba diving on the southern shoreline happens inside the confines of Beqa Lagoon, which is protected by a large offshore barrier reef. The underwater topography is putting, predominantly comprised of pinnacles, bommies and partitions punctuated with arduous corals, sea followers, and considerably much less steadily than the Bligh Waters, delicate corals. The branching arduous corals entice a wide range of reef fish, which pulse into the water column looking for meals.


A scuba diver swimming beneath an underwater arch coated in delicate corals, Golden Arch, Beqa Lagoon


A scuba diver peering by means of the hole between a pair of enormous purple sea followers, Caesar’s Rock, Beqa Lagoon


On our first dive, we dropped in to discover the Tasu II shipwreck at a web site referred to as 7 Sisters. Along with its seven namesake pinnacles coated in arduous corals and sea followers, we discovered the previous 200-ton Taiwanese fishing vessel sitting upright on the sandy backside, encrusted with marine life. Even bigger sea followers awaited us across the pinnacles at a web site referred to as 3 Nuns earlier than we loved a picnic lunch on the gorgeous, uninhabited Yanuca Island. At our remaining dive web site, appropriately named Golden Arch, we found a big swimthrough, able to enveloping a number of divers, extensively cloaked in yellow delicate corals. A number of smaller arches within the rocky terrain supplied a wider array of gaudy delicate corals, together with a myriad of sea rods, sponges and sea followers to spherical out a fantastic day of diving.


A sicklefin lemon shark, accompanied by juvenile golden trevally and pilotfish, Beqa Lagoon


One other of the primary sights in Pacific Harbor is its world-renowned shark diving, and pleasure ranges had been excessive as we pushed off from the dock for a two-tank dive. Submerging to 60 ft (18 meters), the group knelt in an arc behind a brief rock wall as quite a few sharks circled the bait canisters suspended in entrance of us. A number of wholesome bull sharks stored our heads on a swivel, whereas a lemon shark, with juvenile golden trevally escorts, paid explicit consideration to my strobes as nurse, reef and blacktip sharks stayed shut by in hopes of a free meal. Animated voices stuffed the air again on-board as we replayed our exhilarating encounters, and after a floor interval, we had been all psyched to get again in with the sharks for spherical two. I had hoped one of many semi-resident tiger sharks would make our acquaintance, however alas she didn’t materialize.


A bull shark swims by means of an aggregation of pilotfish, snapper and different reef fish, Beqa Lagoon


The coral coast could as nicely even be often called the journey coast. We spent a refreshing day inner-tubing the Navua River, and guests also can partake in river rafting, jet boat safaris, cave excursions, waterfall hikes, jet snowboarding, dune buggy treks, zip-lining, sky diving, cultural excursions, wildlife parks, golf outings, paddle boarding, and browsing. Moreover, on the grounds of the resort we had entry to a slack line, volleyball, a swimming pool, jungle hikes, kayaks, SUPs, yoga, darts, and a pool desk.

After a number of days of diving alongside the Coral Coast, we returned to the worldwide airport in Nadi for the quick flight as much as the island of Taveuni. The 70-minute airplane journey on-board a small 19-seat puddle jumper provides unbelievable aerial views of the Bligh Waters, Rainbow Reef and Vuna Reef. Touchdown on the northern tip of what’s additionally known as the Backyard Isle, we hopped in a van for the scenic journey all the way down to Paradise Taveuni Resort on the southern finish of the island.


Blue chromis and three-spot dascyllus swimming over arduous corals, Paradise Taveuni home reef


The island of Taveuni is separated from the a lot bigger island of Vanua Levu by a slender physique of water referred to as the Somosomo Strait. Beneath the floor exists a compilation of dive websites well-known for his or her multicolored delicate corals, collectively often called Rainbow Reef. This consists of the acclaimed Nice White Wall, which is persistently included on lists of the world’s high 10 favourite dive websites. This towering vertical wall, comprised solely of white delicate corals, is simply accessible twice a day throughout slack tide when the present slows simply sufficient to permit divers to float previous whereas the delicate corals are nonetheless absolutely engorged.


Wanting up on the massive expanse of white delicate corals, Nice White Wall, Rainbow Reef


The transit from the resort to Rainbow Reef is anyplace from 20 to half-hour relying on the vacation spot. The resort’s location additionally provides divers the distinctive alternative to dive Vuna Reef, which is a mere 5 to 10 minutes farther south. Divers have unfettered entry to websites akin to Fish Manufacturing facility, Yellow Fin Wall, Pinnacle, Unbelievable Reef, and Orgasm.

Pulling away from the dock for a two-tank dive on Rainbow Reef, we headed north in the direction of Purple Wall. Close by to the Nice White Wall, this web site showcases a sturdy fusion of arduous corals with a wide range of purple delicate corals throughout an expansive vertical construction. Gliding previous the reef, we marveled on the huge purple canvas as tons of of cautious anthias got here out to say hiya. It was a beautiful begin to the day, although dive quantity two at a web site referred to as The Nook was much more spectacular. This spectacular mixture of arduous and delicate corals, in a kaleidoscope of colours, warranted the title of “Rainbow Reef” all by itself, and the fish life on this explicit dive was really outstanding.


A big colony of cabbage coral, Cabbage Patch, Rainbow Reef


For those who someway tire of colourful delicate corals, ask about diving Cabbage Patch on the far northern finish of Rainbow Reef. This web site comprises one of many largest colonies of cabbage corals I’ve ever seen. The home reef at Paradise Taveuni can be spectacular, boasting a resident blue ribbon eel, a number of species of clownfish in anemones, scorpionfish, parrotfish, lizardfish, nudibranchs, big clams, and numerous brightly coloured chromis, anthias and fusiliers swimming among the many branching corals. At evening, a wholly completely different forged of characters emerges from their daytime hiding spots, making this a fantastic place to seize a flashlight and discover after darkish.


Pink anemonefish shelter in a big carpet anemone as scalefin anthias swim overhead, Rainbow’s Finish, Rainbow Reef


A pair of reef lizardfish, Lone Rock, Rainbow Reef


Underwater Pictures Ideas for Fiji

The visibility of Fiji’s tropical blue water typically exceeds 100 ft (30 meters) throughout their dry season from April to October. The water temperatures are hotter in the course of the November–March wet season with the prospect for elevated particulate matter and decrease visibilty.

  • A large-angle zoom lens, fisheye lens or a wide-angle conversion lens are a should for photographing the gorgeous reefs and fish life

  • When you discover a robust composition, calmly maintain place if doable and let the reef fish get snug along with your presence, in order that they finally swim again out into the blue and fill the unfavorable house

  • An underwater mannequin helps add scale and curiosity to the scene however could require further endurance for the fish to get accustomed to a number of strangers of their house

  • Macro pictures topics can be found on most dive websites, making a conversion lens advantageous, although the present could not all the time enable for delicate, up-close work

  • I dive with a muck stick, even when taking pictures extensive angle, to assist preserve place with out touching the reef


A typical aerial view of the gorgeous Fijian Island chain



Matthew Meier is an award-winning industrial photographer specializing in underwater and nature, in addition to architectural and product pictures. His photographs have been revealed in books, magazines, and advert campaigns in addition to displayed in artwork galleries, museums and personal collections. For the previous 13 years, Matthew has served as a contributing editor, photographer and journey author for X-Ray Worldwide Dive Journal. Primarily based in San Diego, he’s accessible for project work and his images could also be bought as wonderful artwork prints and licensed for industrial and editorial utilizationwww.matthewmeierphoto.com