Small creatures such as the rare blue ribbon eel are a common sight on Fiji reefs.
South Pacific paradise seems a fitting description for an island chain whose above-water attractions include lush tropical waterfalls and below-water sites feature fantastic soft coral gardens. But that's not all.
The fish life around these coral atolls and barrier reefs includes some of the most amazing tropical species as well as sharks and pelagic animals such as tunas and mantas. Pack your macro lens, too: Small creatures, such as the rare blue ribbon eel, are a common sight on Fiji reefs.
Can't-Miss Fiji Dives
This site features a trio of coral bommies that come within 15 feet of the surface. It's named for underwater photographer Jim Church and, with a maximum depth of about 70 feet, offers plenty of bottom time and an abundance of photogenic subjects including large mantas and sea snakes.
Timing is everything when you dive this narrow cut in the reef found on the southeast corner of Gau. For the best conditions and visibility, dive as close as you can to low tide. White-tip and gray reef sharks, barracuda, giant bumphead wrasse and schooling trevally populate the pass. Near the surface there's also a stunning garden of lettuce-leaf coral.
This series of small bommies, topping out at 10 to 15 feet with a 60-foot maximum depth, is a textbook example of a healthy Fijian reef. It's also a good place to see lionfish, turtles and white-tip sharks.
Back in the day, before there were digital cameras, the slide film of choice among serious underwater shooters was called E-6, and a lot of it got burned on this explosively colorful reef. The site features a pinnacle that rises almost to the surface from 3,000-foot depths, but the can't-miss feature is a horseshoe-shaped coral cavern. Keep an eye on the deep blue, and you might also get a shot of a hammerhead or silver-tip shark.
This eye-popping dive is named for potentially turbulent currents and needs to be timed right. When it's "on," you'll be speechless. There are soft corals of every color and lots of fish and gray reef sharks patrolling along the edge of the drop-off.
Bring a wide-angle lens for this deep-pinnacle dive that's great during the day but even better at night. Ask your guide to show you the area of the pinnacle between 60 and 120 feet known as Rainbow Wall, which is unusually heavy with thin, but colorful, Chironephthya soft corals.
VANUA LEVU AND TAVENUI
Grand Central Station
This site requires a special permit to dive. It's a channel with a series of pinnacles and seamounts within a marine-protected area. Look for fish endemic to Fiji, such as the bicolor rabbitfish and the canary fangblenny.
Great White Wall
The signature dive of the Somosomo Strait starts in a spacious, coral-decorated tunnel at 40 feet, which leads to another world at 80 feet: a vertical wall completely covered in white soft corals. Look for lionfish and morays on the upper portions of the wall.
This bommie rising from 70 to 15 feet is part of the Namena barrier reef, off Vanua Levu. It's named for the Sinularia coral covering that looks like waves of wheat fields. Words can't do it justice. It must be seen firsthand to be truly appreciated.
Coral bommies and overhangs laced with tunnels and caves characterize the southern lagoon off Viti Levu. You'll find huge sea fans and feather stars as well as lionfish, batfish and schooling jacks.
Water Conditions: Pack a safety sausage in your dive bag--Fiji has major-league current and serious tidal changes. Water temps can drop to 75 degrees. If you get chilled easily underwater, you'll need at least a 3mm wetsuit; some divers even wear 5- to 6mm suits with hoods. During the rainy season, water temps can climb into the low 80s.