Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Wananavu Beach Resort, Fiji - For the Well Pampered Diver

Location: Fiji
Date: 5/27/2008 1:23:00 PM

If you are looking for a destination that combines plush accommodations and world class diving, Wananavu is a great choice.
My wife and I recently returned from a one-week stay at Wananavu Beach Resort on the island of Viti Levu, Fiji. We are 40-something divers on an ongoing search for the perfect balance between plush accommodations and world class diving. (As you pampered divers know, you often must sacrifice one for the other.) Young Island Resort on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent previously held the top spot on our list. It now ranks second behind Wananavu.

This was our first trip to the South Pacific. We chose Fiji because of its reputation for great diving, and because of the relatively easy access from the States (10-hour non-stop flight on Air Pacific from LAX to the Nadi airport). We chose Wanavu because of the price (package price lower than comparable properties), its location on the main island (no need for an additional inter-island flight), and its access to diving on the "outer passage" in the Bligh Waters (otherwise accessible only by liveaboard).

The resort was wonderful. This is an authentic island resort, with true island character; not a place that was merely built to look like an island resort. Our beachfront bure was not extravagant. However, it was more than comfortable. I typically would not pay extra for a beachfront unit (it was included as part of our package). In this case, however, I believe the spectacular ocean views and serene setting justify the extra cost. The resort is built on the side of a relatively steep hill, with the beach and marina at the bottom and the front desk/bar/dining room at the top. The grounds are well maintained and beautiful, with a wide variety of flowering tropical plants and palm trees. The beach is not extensive compared to some "beach" resorts. However, there are plenty of lounge chairs and hammocks, both in and out of the sun. You will have no trouble getting your "tropical paradise" fix during your visit. Our package included all meals. Drinks were extra, though quite affordable (about $1.50 US a soda and $3.00 US a beer). The food was very good, if not spectacular. I would give it a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10 (1=White Castle, 10=Le Cirque). The staff was wonderful. We noticed a little bit of the "island time" phenomenon, but not as much as at other destinations. I highly recommend taking a village tour. Also be sure to drink lots of kava.

The diving made the trip. We dove five days with Kai Viti Divers, the operator based at Wananavu. We dove one day with Ra Divers, the operator at a nearby backpacker resort. We enjoyed both operators. However, we preferred Kai Viti. The staff was extremely attentive and really knew their stuff. They have larger, better equipped boats. This made the 60+-minutes-each-way trip to the outer passage quite bearable. They also seemed to cater to a more experienced group of divers. (On the other hand, Ra seemed to cater to a much more colorful and rowdy crowd. If you prefer to spend your surface intervals dancing and sunbathing with 20-something Aussie backpackers, go with Ra.)

The diving was spectacular. The sites we visited were grouped in two areas. One was approximately 30 minutes from the resort. The other, the outer passage sites, was more than 60 minutes from the resort. Kai Viti makes the trip to the outer passage when the divers request it, and when the weather permits. The outer passage trips are 3-tank trips. The outer passage sites were wonderful. That being said, the sites closer in are also spectacular (so much so that on our last day the divers on the boat agreed that it was not necessary to make the longer trip to the outer passage).

Kai Viti and Ra appear to be the only operators in the area. As such, none of the sites appear to get an overwhelming amount of use. There was enough small stuff to overwhelm a couple of dedicated critter divers like my wife and me (e.g., 5 to 10 different varieties of nudibranches each dive). There was also plenty of interesting big stuff. The diving was primarily wall and pinnacle diving, with breathtaking canyons of soft coral and plenty of nooks and crevices to explore. I only had two things on my official "wish to see" list for the trip: lionfish and ornate ghost pipefish. We saw both by the third day. I can't say enough good things about Kai Viti and the diving.

As noted, this was our first trip to the South Pacific, after a 10+ years of diving throughout the Caribbean. We loved it. It was well worth the extra expense and travel time. If you are thinking about Fiji, do it! If you are considering Wananavu, you will love it!

SDcubaDiving Magazine Trip Report: Wananavu Beach Resort, Fiji - For the Well Pampered Diver


Anonymous said...

Il semble que vous soyez un expert dans ce domaine, vos remarques sont tres interessantes, merci.

- Daniel

fergie said...

A few of us are going to Fiji at the end of September and your description of the hotel and the diving is making me wish it was closer to departure time. Thanks for the interesting remarks.

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