Neill's just come back from a research trip to Fiji and he loved it. Here he shares some of the highlights of the dives, and the luxury dive resorts, he visited.
Let's start with the undeniable fact that Fiji is a long way from the UK; roughly 24 hours total travel time. My mission for this trip was to find that one thing (or many things) that would convince me that it is worth the trip. Did I succeed? Yes.
Made up of 300 islands, Fiji is renowned for having some of the friendliest people on Earth and this is part of what makes a trip here so special. You need to be careful when choosing where to go, as from a diving perspective; some areas can be hit and miss. The areas with the best beaches often have the worst diving! That's why I had to get out there and see for myself.
Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort and Namale, Vanua Levu
Next up was the area of Savusavu on the mainland of Vanua Levu and two hotels - the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort ) and Namale which both offer something very different. JMC is one of the best places I have ever seen for families and Namale for couples. The diving is on numerous local sites, which are very good although the reefs were badly damaged by a cyclone in 2010 and subsequent crown of thorn infestation the diving is still very good (hammerheads!!). The real gem from a diving perspective though is the Namena Marine Reserve about 20 miles offshore. This was the first time I saw the quality of diving that convinced me that people should travel all this way - pristine coral and a LOT of big stuff.
Taveuni Island Resort and Taveuni Palms, Taveuni
Next it was off to the island of Taveuni and the chance to dive the Somosomo Strait. And it was incredible. I had one of the dives of my life at the Great White Wall, so called because it is covered in white (lavender actually!) soft coral. It was magnificent. I visited a couple of beautiful places to stay too in Taveuni Island Resort and Taveuni Palms. This was really special.
Laucala Island Resort
Last stop was the island of Laucala, owned by the man that started Red Bull and I don't really know where to begin. This is without a doubt the most beautiful place I have ever stayed. The diving is fantastic with healthy hard and soft corals and excellent fish life (we saw a manta, hammerheads and 20 grey reef sharks on one dive!) and you can also access the Somosomo Strait as they have some very powerful boats. Away from the diving, the resort is immaculate and absolutely everything has been thought of. I am not going to start going into detail or I won't stop. It was mind-blowing. All in all, a fantastic trip and I am going to make it my mission to get back as soon as I possibly can.
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Nukubati Private Island, Vanua Levu
First stop was a place called Nukubati in the remote south of Vanua Levu (the second main island). This is a tiny private island with just seven bures (Fijian traditional dwelling - used as a generic word for a room at most hotels). It's a simple, laid back place and for those looking for complete privacy and serious eco-credentials it could be a winner. This is the only hotel with access to the Great Sea Reef - a 200km long reef system about 30mins speedboat journey away - it is so remote that you can still find and name your own dive sites. The diving was good but not compared with some of the other areas I visited.