Fiji is world renowned for having some of the most friendliest and welcoming people on earth. It's a culture that lives the word, bula, which literally means life, but is used as a common greeting expressing a feeling of sincere welcome. It's a place that you could leave your kids at the local village for the day and know they'll be well taken care of. It's also romantic and full of exotic tropical adventure. And, underwater, it's a place that explodes with color, especially of the soft coral variety, which gives Fiji its nickname as the soft coral capital of the world. But, you might miss the multihued forests while distracted by such cool marine life as blue ribbon eels, sea turtles, tridacna clams and clouds of anthias. Most of the sites feel the rush of current, which keeps the soft corals nice and plump. Above the water, you'll want to end each day as the Fijians do, around the ceremonial kava bowl, a drink that has a great relaxing effect that will ensure each day ends with a smile. Bula!
When to go:
Year-round, with visibility at its best from July through December.
When to Get the Best Deals:
December to February
What to Pack:
3/2 mm wetsuit for summer; 5 mm for winter, inflatable safety tube for drift dives, sunscreen, mosquito repellent, sturdy shoes that can get wet for hiking, light jacket for cool evenings, DAN card.
Seasonal averages: 23°C/75°F in winter and 30°C/86°F in summer.
Seasonal averages: Varies from 19°C/65°F at night to 35°C/95°F in the day, year-round.
Fijian Dollar; Credit cards are widely accepted.
Valid passport; check with local immigration office for visa requirements.
Included in your airfare.
Where to Eat:
Lovo is the Fijian traditional feast where an underground oven is filled with meat, fish and vegetables wrapped in banana leaves and cooked for hours. Other wonderful local dishes include kokoda (raw fish steeped in lime juice and coconut cream), and a fish or other seafood cooked in coconut cream served with taro or cassava. With a large Indian population in Fiji, you'll also find wonderful curries, lentil soups and chutneys.
Where to Drink:
Beyond kava and the famous bottled Fiji Water, Carlton and Fiji Bitter are the locally brewed beer. South Pacific Distilleries makes Bounty rum as well as other spirits from local sugarcane.
Tapa is a great locally made craft to look for; visit Bourma Waterfalls, white water rafting, sea kayaking, and you must drink kava with the locals.
Customs and Culture:
Fijians are very family-oriented, so if they take your children for the day they will be well cared for; Fiji is also a hierarchal society with local chiefs that determine land use and accessibility. If you show up in a village, bring a gift for the chief. Kava is drunk each night with ceremony. It's a great way to get to know the locals.
Bula Fest, July; Diwali, November; Fiji Yachting Regatta, September.
Electricity and Internet:
240V/50 Hz; Internet available at most resorts.
Drink the water?
Bottled water recommended.
English, Fijian and Hindi are official languages.
Amazing Marine Life
Forming massive "tornadoes" over the reef, these schooling fish are a photographer's favorite.
Also known as the Maori wrasse, this enormous and vividly colored fish can grow to lengths of up to two meters/six feet.
The largest of all the parrotfish species, growing up to 1.3 meters/4 feet long, this brilliantly colored reef fish shares the parrot-like beak feature of its relatives, with the addition of a distinctive knob atop its head.
These frilly, brilliantly colored invertebrates proliferate among Fiji's reefs.
Great Hammerhead Shark:
Remarkable for their wide-bladed heads and quick maneuverability, these large sharks are breathtaking icons of the deep.
Striking in appearance with orange-and-black stripes and frilly venomous spines, these fish remind one more of a tiger than a lion.
Blue Ribbon Eel:
This elongated narrow-bodied eel is electric blue except for a bright yellow jaw. Striking appearance, like a fantasy dragon.
Named for its fleshy lips, this striking fish features wide black bands running the length of its body, alternating with black dotted lines against its white and yellow body.
This schooling fish has a white body with a swath of yellow along its back.
Silvertip, bull, tiger, white-tip reef, black-tip reef, leopard and other species can be seen on Fiji's reefs. Off Beqa Lagoon, one of the world's best sharks dives lures in up to five species in a single dive.
Top Dive Spots
Manta Reef, Kadavu:
One of the few places in the world where you are (almost) guaranteed to see manta rays.
Naiqoro Passage, Kadavu:
A vertical wall that drops past 30 meters/100 feet, this sheer face is tie-dyed with colored anemones and soft corals in reds, oranges, and a profusion of purples. Look for snapper, sweetlips, potato cod, huge soft coral trees, sea fans, and whip corals. Be cautious of current.
Pacific Harbor, Coral Coast:
Strong oceanic current and underwater volcanoes imbue this area with nutrients, resulting in spectacularly rich coral. Dives at this location include passages through the reef, steep walls, wrecks, and drift dives.
Great White Wall, Taveuni:
Named for the soft coral (actually a pale lavender), this drift dive begins with a swim-through tunnel and features gorgonian fans, sea whips, lionfish, moray eels, and pelagics like barracuda, mackerel, eagle rays, and manta rays.
Levuka Passage, Lomaiviti:
Swift currents flow through this deep and narrow passage, carrying thousands of schooling fish, giant groupers, eagle and manta rays, barracuda, trevally, white-tip reef sharks, grey reef sharks, bull sharks, and the occasional tiger shark.
Loba Loba Lighthouse, Lomaiviti:
At the tip of the reef you can find coral gardens, pinnacles, passages, white-tip reef sharks, Spanish mackerel, Napoleon wrasse, giant groupers, batfish, ornamental reef fish, and the occasional pelagic silvertip shark.
Snake Island, Lomaiviti:
This drop-off is adorned in sea fans and soft corals, with sea snakes, schooling fusiliers, sweet lips, parrotfish, and several species of nudibranch.
Wakaya Passage, Lomaiviti:
This reef features hundreds of schooling fish, white-tip reef sharks, nurse sharks, grey reef sharks, marble rays, turtles, eagle rays, blue ribbon eels, leaf fish, lionfish, and barracuda. In the winter, mantas and hammerheads are frequently sighted.
Simi's Maze, Tavewa, Yasawa Group:
Explore swim-throughs, caves, and canyons while looking for sea urchins, scorpionfish, eagle rays, sea turtles, bull rays, bumphead parrotfish, and the rare hairy ghost pipefish.
Barrier Reef, Nadi:
This reef (actually more than a dozen dive sites) encompasses pelagic viewing (manta rays, dolphins, marlin, yellowfin tuna, barracuda, trevally, reef and hammerhead sharks), lagoon diving, coral canyons, wall dives, and wreck dives (including the wreck of a B-26 bomber which crash-landed in the water).