Getting Onboard for Going Overboard: Live-aboard Scuba Diving in Fiji
Two compelling reasons exist for pursuing the live-aboard option: first, you'll have unrivalled access to Fiji's sub-aqua wonderworld of soft coral, psychedelically hued marine life, and steep-walled Pacific Ocean canyons, well away from the flotillas of day-tripping enthusiasts; second, once you're onboard, the frequency with which you can get overboard, at any time of day or night, increases dramatically. Most live-aboard charters ply the northern, western, and central spans of Fiji's reef system, criss-crossing to any number of dive spots over the span of several days.
In the northern region, between Taveuni and Vanua Levu, the narrow, tidal channel of Somosomo Strait is a celluloid favorite for its stunning collection of vivid soft corals. Although this region is easily accessible from either of the two islands, divers on live-aboard excursions will have more flexibility with regard to the tidal timetable; must-see sites such as the luminescent White Wall can only be viewed during a falling tide.
West of Viti Levu, the largest of the Fijian islands, the waters are sheltered by the slender barrier archipelagos of Mamanuca and Yasawa. In the Malolo Barrier Reef, divers plunge into lagoons garnished with gorgonian sea fans, coral cabbage, and coral heads. Gotham City, a site named for its coral spires and teeming batfish, spans the outer edge of the Malolo Reef. Nearby, Magic Island is, as the name portends, a rich kaleidoscope of fantastical critters and colors. Other aptly named sites include the Circus, Sunflower Reef, and Supermarket (where divers can hand-feed sharks).
Fiji's central region probably boasts the most varied and expansive dive locales, mostly anchored off Viti Levu's northeastern fringe. However, the rather nondescript, southerly town of Pacific Harbor is a gateway to some of the South Pacific's best saline-washed fantasies. The island of Kadavu, 45 miles south of Viti Levu, hosts the 20-mile-long Great Astrolabe Reef, a mile-wide swathe of caves and walls that can deliver visibility as transparent as a freshly washed window. Beqa Lagoon is the rim of an ancient volcano and protects invertebrates too prolific to accurately catalogue.
The self-described adventure-sailing cruise aboard Tui Tai (877.682.5433; www.tuitai.com) ports at Vanua Levu and prides itself on hitting the seldom-visited diving sites. They also offer other adventuresmountain biking, hiking, beach combinas part of a weeklong cruise (approx $650 per person for a bunk; $1,170 per person for a luxury cabin, including all meals. Diving costs an additional $380 per person for up to eight dives including all gear).
Whichever dive sites you ultimately choose to explore, you'll ascend to the comforting knowledge that bobbing on the surface is your Fijian home-away-from-home, replete with like-minded souls, a skilled crew, and cooling bottle of Chardonnay over which to share tales of that day's diving.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
Best Hotels in Fiji