KADAVU & THE GREAT ASTROLABE REEF, FIJI
Manta Rays and 'big game' in 'off the beaten path' Fiji
Season: Year-round diving
Water Temperature: 25-27°C/77-81°F
Diving: Sharks, wrecks, walls, coral gardens, Manta Rays
Can be combined with: Sea of Cortez
Non-diving activities available include fishing
Kadavu, the fourth largest archipelago in Fiji is one of the last to be exposed to tourists. It is the largest island in the Kadavu group, south of Viti Levu and is made famous amongst divers and fishermen for its proximity to The Great Astrolabe Reef, so named after French explorer Dumont d’Urville almost grounded his boat, The Astrolabe, on the reefs to the north of Kadavu Island. Like other islands in Fiji, it’s rugged mountainous terrain coupled with secluded bays and pristine beaches make this a highly attractive destination to visit. This said, it is relatively undeveloped with few roads and the locals mainly subsisting on farming for themselves and those on Viti Levu. If you are looking for a quiet getaway in a beautiful location with some fabulous diving right on your doorstep, this is the place for you.
KADAVU & THE GREAT ASTROLABE REEF
The Great Astrolabe Reef is the world’s fourth largest barrier reef. Extending for over 100 kilometers along the southern side of Kadavu, it boasts over 1000 fish species and of course Fiji’s famous soft corals in abundance. It is perhaps most famous for its Manta Rays, which can be seen along the reef year-round. Matava’s Mad Fish Dive Center visits around 20 dive sites between 5 and 30 minutes away by boat. Due to the expanse of the barrier reef, Mad Fish Dive Center have divided the reef system into six main areas; Naiqoro Marine reserve, Nacomoto Passage, Korolevu, Big Point, Soso Passage and finally and most famously – Manta Reef. The numerous channels and passages of this great barrier reef are mostly located on the leeward side so diving here is often calm and sheltered. Amongst some of the more thrilling creatures that you can encounter on Astrolabe are Tiger Sharks, Scalloped Hammerheads and even the occasional Sailfish!
The Naiqoro Marine Reserve and Nacomoto Passage were created by the resort in conjunction with the villagers of Kadavu Koro village and Nacomoto. Fishing, shell collecting and reef walking are banned practices in the area between the Matava foreshore and Waya Island. Each time Matava guests dive there, a contribution is given to villagers to help keep this a protected zone.
Naiqoro Marine Reserve is home to Spot X and Japanese Gardens which between them combine the best of what Astrolabe diving is all about; large pelagic schooling fish such as barracudas and kaleidoscopic soft and hard coral gardens.
Eagle Rock lies in the Nacomoto Passage and is a feeding and cleaning station for the Spotted Eagle Rays that frequent the reef. It is not uncommon to see Black-tip and Grey Reef Sharks cruise through, often accompanied by barracudas. Cabbage Patch, so named due to the vast expanses of cabbage coral, is a feeding ground for Bumphead Parrotfish and teeming with bannerfish and anthias.
Soso Passage is a very picturesque area known for its stunning coral formations, pinnacles and walls. Golden Chimney is a tall pinnacle shrouded in yellow and orange soft corals. When you get here on a clear day with the sun directly overhead, you’ll be sucking your cylinder dry! Coral Wonderland is a steep drop-off clad in innumerable soft and hard coral formations, which in its deeper parts is home to large schools of barracudas as well as Grey Reef Sharks. Towards the end of the dive you’ll enjoy drifting gently over the shallower parts of the top of the reef amongst the angelfish, Moorish Idols and Purple Anthias.
Matava prides itself on the high frequency of Manta Ray encounters that divers enjoy in the Astrolabe waters. Most of the world’s top diving destinations are endowed with a Manta Point or a Manta Ridge, but Astrolabe has an entire Manta Reef! The huge rays come alone or in twos and threes to feed or be cleaned. You’ll be awestruck as the first of them looms out of the blue with its filters wide open, a silent vacuum cleaner dutifully maintaining the oceans’ reefs. The rays will often sweep and circle several times over the reef, and often pause over pinnacles or rocks which serve as cleaning stations.