The vast, deep stretch of water between Fiji’s two main islands – Viti Levu and Vanua Levu – has a sprinkling of small islands, reefs and submerged seamounts. The strong currents, great visibility and nutrient-rich seas add up to world-class diving. Further to the south and close to Vita Levu are the islands of the Lomativiti Group and across the Koro Sea the pristine diving of the isolated Lau Group.
On the northern side of Bligh Water, this site consists of one large and two smaller sloping pinnacles often shrouded in clouds of schooling trevally and barracuda. A great spot to find one of the area’s endemic species – the Fiji anemonefish (Amphiprion barberi).
Much of the gorgeous soft coral featured in Howard and Michelle Hall’s IMAX film Coral Reef Adventure was shot here. It is a stunning bommie in the heart of this world-class diving area on the Vanu Levu Barrier Reef – one side is dripping with soft and leather corals and the other features impressive hard coral structures.
This amazing pinnacle in the Vatu-I-Ra Channel rises up from some 1,000m to a metre below the surface. It is named after the old slide film processing system, as it has inspired so many photographs. There is such an abundance of marine riches you can happily spend several dives exploring the overhangs and canyons. Safety stops are a treat with a hard coral garden on the peak of the seamount.
This smaller, but in many ways similar, pinnacle to E6, is located only a few kilometres away in the Vatu-I-Ra Channel. It is famous for its coverage of Siphonogorgia soft corals which start at about 15m and descend well below safe recreational diving limits. One of the most beautiful soft coral dives. It was charted by Captain Bligh after the mutiny of his crew.
North Save-a-tack Passage
A site full of fish with hungry predators such as dogtooth tuna, grey reef sharks and the occasional scalloped hammerhead checking out the action. When you head off into the channel weaving through a series of bommies you will be stunned by the soft coral and sea fans. Part of the 70 sq km Namena Marine Reserve which surrounds the tiny island of Namenalala and was established in 1997.
One of a few sites in the south of the Namena reserve which are made up of two coral bommies rising up from 30m to nearly 5m. The twin peaks are home to an amazing number of critters such as jawfish, cleaner shrimps, pipefish and at the very top, among the patches of turtle weed, one of the most spectacular nudibranchs – the leaf gilled slug.
Jim’s Alley and nearby Anthias Avenue are fairly shallow sites in the Koro Sea brimming with soft corals and lots of fish. If you are lucky you might bump into one of the four or five manta rays that can frequently be found feeding in the adjacent channel during the waning tide.
On the western side of the Koro Sea near the main island of Viti Levu, this group of volcanic islands includes Naigani, Wakaya and Gau (pronounced Ngow) and includes the historic port town of Levuka – Fiji’s first capital and now a Unesco World Heritage site.
The sixteen islands form a triangular cluster in the heart of the Fijian archipelago. In the nineteenth century, the island of Ovalau became the centre of European trade, with whalers and merchants setting up camp beside the town of Levuka.
Surrounding Ovalau is a handful of small islands within a 15km radius, entwined within stunning coral reefs. Naigani is a small resort and several large hillforts, while a handful of beautiful small islands with backpacker resorts lie off the south coast.
Further east, the Outer Lomaiviti consist of half a dozen high volcanic islands with virtually no tourist infrastructure. The cliffs on Wakaya Island are where in 1848 a chief and many of his followers who faced capture by advancing enemies jumped to their deaths. The island is now owned by Fiji Water mogul David Gilmour and is the site of one of the country’s most exclusive resorts.
This scattering of tiny islands to the southeast of the Koro Sea is the wild frontier of Fijian diving. The islands are strongly influenced by nearby Tonga – most of the inhabitants speak Tongan as well as Fijian and their thatched homes are built in the Tongan style. The northern islands are hilly and volcanic in origin and those in the south extremely low-lying limestone outcrops.
Accommodation in the Lau Group consists of two guesthouses on Vanua Balavu and Lakeba islands, and the luxurious Vatuvara Resort on the northern Kaibu island, which has its own airstrip.
The diving is still largely unexplored. Due to a lack of river run-off from the arid, sandy islands the visibility is exceptional. Here the hard corals, rather than the soft excel. This is an area to explore on a private dive charter such as www.bigbluefiji.com
Liveaboard Spotlight | NAI’A
Trips on the Nai’a are either seven or ten nights and normally depart on a Saturday from Lautoka, just north of Nadi and cover various routes through Bligh Water and down to the Lomaiviti Group. The 40m boat takes up to 18 guests in nine, air-conditioned, cabins, each with en-suite bathroom.
For more Fiji itineraries and trips check out Dive Worldwide’s selection www.diveworldwide.com/discover/fiji