Thursday, 1 January 2009

DDNet Trip Report: Jean Michel Cousteau Resort

DDNet Trip Report
Where: Pacific Fiji
When: 07/07/2007 - 07/15/2007
By: otarala
Type: Land based
Accomodations: Jean Michel Cousteau Resort
Dive operator: L'Aventure Dive Shop
Overall photography friendliness: Good
Camera tables/prep area: Not applicable
Camera rinse tanks: Good
Charging facilities: Good
Voltage: 220-240 AC
(with thanks to Gilligan whose trip report Ive nicked as a template)

Arrival Point
Nadi, Fiji. Stayed overnight, then took small plane connecting flight in morning to Savusavu on Venua Levu, where a van from the resort picked us up and took us straight to the resort. We flew with Air Pacific with the flights arranged via travel agent. Air Pacific has recently taken over the domstic airline ‘Sun Air’. This means your weight allowance is identical for both the international flight and internal, previously the domestic flight was limited to a 15kg baggage allowance, maiing for surprised upon arrival. So weight limit for all flights was arranged as 20kg+5kg hand luggage. I was able to take my camera, housing and laptop on in my Lowepro bag as hand luggage for the international flight, but had to check it for the small plane flight, where we each got weighed individually.

Jean Michele Cousteau offers packages that include room and meals, which we did. Diving is purchased separately at their in-house dive shop ‘L’Aventure’ – it seems to be a separate operation but operates from inside the resort, its 30 feet from the restaurant/pool area. All ‘rooms’ are standalone bures. Rooms have fans, mosquito nets on request, mini fridge and hot water, and were quite beautiful in my view. The child care options are outstanding (ie nannies and club) and the child care staff were excellent. The area has separate pools for toddlers and older children, and a separate pool that’s ‘adults only’ in front of the main eating/socialising area.

The food there is outstanding, particularly for Fiji, where it can often be pretty uninspiring in my experience. Service in general was great, people very friendly.


Normally they do two dives per day at approximately 8:30 and 10:30am, but are very flexible, I did a few afternoon dives. Night dives are based on request and are just counted as a single dive– I did one as the only participant, would have done another but ran out of time. Business was pretty quiet, it might be a bit more structured at other times of the year, but manpower availability seemed to be the only limit on what was possible. A significant number of dives had me as the only participant, for no extra cost, including two shore dives where I puddled around the snorkelling area at ~5m for a few hours.

Diving can be done as a prearranged package, but they were happy to combine dives into the cheapest package after the amount of dives were totalled up rather than deciding beforehand. They separately charged me $10 a dive for the two shore dives I did, but I might have got lucky there. I am not sure the listed charges on the hotel site are current, I was charged in Fiji dollars rather than US making comparison difficult, but this worked well for me personally as the Australian dollar skyrocketed in the week I was at the resort. It seemed pretty close in practise but Im not sure it would have been without the dollar change.

A rinse/soak tub was provided for me on the boats for my camera. There were also rinse tubs at the shop, but I generally just used the tub in the boat. The dive guides, boat operators, hotel staff and tank/gear crew were all very attentive and efficient. Photographers arent their main trade, but they made me feel extremely welcome, rather than a pain. Their marine biologist 'Johnny' in particular tried very hard to find me interesting subjects, and does photography himself.

All your gear is locked up overnight. Most of the rental gear seemed fine, but the regs looked a bit long in the tooth, and I didn’t like the look of the first stage metal wool, it was awfully green. My own reg had problems (first stage pressure too high, making it slowly freeflow out of occy and primary), and the staff tweaked it free of charge, but weren’t able to completely fix it – they had parts for common makes (Scubapro etc), but not mine. Serves me right for having something a bit unusual (Cressi).

The limit on dive time was generally what people lasted to, I was allowed to noodle around at 5 m several times, once for about 90 minutes – the only limit was if too many other finished divers were waiting above. Nitrox was available but I didn’t use it, so don’t know the price.

Dive Sites

Approximately twenty dive sites are within fifteen minutes or less of the resort, and very easy dives as they were well sheltered by the island/bay, the only site I dived twice was the one I did as a night dive as well. There was little or no pelagic life at most of these sites, although a couple of Manta rays were seen on some of the wall dives, invariably while I was somewhere else, and one very fast turtle. All of these dives were done from a smaller boat, with a basic cover. Most of these dives were fairly vanilla Fiji, most coral OK, with some beautiful soft coral, although some looking pretty bleached/battered. Given we were pretty close to Savusavu, and a lot of fishing goes on, I wasn’t too surprised.

Trips to Namena Island are arranged once or twice a week depending on numbers, there is a one off marine park fee of $25 that is valid for 12 months. The trip takes approximately 60 minutes one way by their large boat ‘L’Aventure, and two dives are done while at the island. There are both wall dives and bommie dives at the site. There is one wall dive in particular that I found fairly spectacular, where you follow the wall with a 300m dropoff until it opens into a large amphitheatre area. At this site, I saw a large Groper, Barracuda schools, Grey reef sharks, batfish, trevally schools, an Oceanic white tip was seen while I was taking a picture of the groper (grr!), the biggest coral trout Ive ever seen (as in I thought it was another groper at first), and abundant other fish life.

The island was only made a marine park 6 years ago. One of the people diving it was someone who used to work as a dive guide in the area 8 years ago, he says the amount of recovery since then has been immense, so presumably it will be even better in future years.

While visibility is fairly high, there was a fairly high amount of large white particles in the water at times, making wide angle photography a bit tricky at times. It was also quite cloudy in the sky during most days we were there, which given this is ‘winter’ isn’t too surprising.


You can go into Savusavu, but theres not much to do. There are also waterfalls, river kayaking, village visits and a variety of other activities available, arranged via the hotel. Many of them felt pretty expensive for what they offered, and my focus was on the diving, so there were probably other options I never found about.


Marine Life
Overall marine life was very similar to what I saw in the Mamanuca’s. Coral close to the resort was pretty variable, with more damage and bleaching obvious, given we were so close to the mainland and town, hardly surprising. There is a pier to snorkel off that I got to do shore dives off as well. I found some of my favourite pictures there, thanks to having lots of time to noodle around.

Baggage Limits
If you’re not travelling with Air Pacific, you might want to check your baggage limits for any domestic travel. I'm not sure what they do if you’re not doing the entire trip with them – they’ve only recently acquired the domestic airline so things might be a bit up in the air.

Fiji is on the 240-volt system.

Overall had a great time, but it was ultimately a 5 star resort with a dive shop in it, not a ‘dive resort’ in my view. Great for going to with family who aren’t divers, but there are other more dive dedicated resorts in Fiji, ie Tavanui etc. Given its that though, it was great in my view, if pricy.

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