Saying sharks are revered here would be an understatement. Not only are they the proverbial bread and butter for some dive operators in this 300-island country, but also in native Fijian folklore, there's a god, Dakuwaqa, who takes the form of a shark. Beqa Lagoon, on the Coral Coast of the island of Viti Levu, has long established itself as the Pacific's shark diving capital, where as many as eight different species freely swim. While diving well-known sites on the Great Astrolabe Reef near the island of Kadavu--the world's fourth-largest barrier reef--it's possible to spot schools of upward of 30 gray reef sharks on a single dive and, dive pros have discovered, there's a hammerhead site off of Kadavu's northern shores. Stuart Gow, of Matava Eco-Adventure Resort, raves about another rarely dived site where sharks abound, Magic Roundabout.
"It's a newfound reef jutting out from the edge of the Great Astrolabe Reef at 60 feet," Gow says. "It's attracting lots of pelagics that just circle around and around."
But with its soft corals and population of manta rays, humpback whales, turtles, titan triggerfish and even ghost pipefish, Fiji isn't only about sharks, diving one island or one barrier reef. Whether on a live-aboard plying Bligh Water between Viti Levu and its island neighbor to the north, Vanua Levu, or hopscotching by plane from those islands to others, like Taveuni, Gau, Ovalau and Kadavu, or plunging into the Great Astrolabe or the Namena Barrier Reef, there's no shortage of unforgettable diving.
"Fiji has 90 percent of the biodiversity found in Indonesia, but has much greater abundance of life," says Rob Barrel, of the live-aboard vessel Nai'a and a 15-yearFiji dive veteran. "Different times of year and moon phases and even different wind or tide direction will make familiar sites new again."
Fiji is also legendary for its friendly and welcoming indigenous culture and the cultural contributions from generations of South Asians who also call these islands home. On Viti Levu, it's not uncommon to visit a rustic village for a kava-drinking ceremony and see traditional dances by day, then by night eat Indian roti bread and curry and take in a "Bollywood" film. The pace of life on the outlying islands and villages is far more leisurely than the bustle of the capital city, Suva.
2008 World Dive Guide | Scuba Diving Magazine