Diving Vanua Levu

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Vanua Levu, Fiji

Vanua LevuFiji

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Country: Fiji  Area: Fiji

Water Temp: 22 - 30°C (72 - 86°F)

Visibility: 15 - 40m (49 - 131 ft)

Depth Range: 10 - 40m (33 - 131 ft)

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Once a wild colonial outpost known as Sandalwood Island, Vanua Levu is now one of Fiji’s more laid-back destinations. Travellers will find a range of accommodations from backpacker hostels to five-star resorts with world class dining and facilities.

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Vanua Levu offer visitors a taste of the “real Fiji” – a remote location full of stunning jungles and waterfalls, friendly people, native wildlife and pristine diving. In spite of being Fiji’s second largest island, Vanua Levu is a well-kept secret both within the diving community and the tourism community more broadly. With beautiful mountains, lush waterfall-filled rainforests and charming villages – along with some phenomenal diving – a visit to Vanua Levu shows Fiji as it perhaps once was. It is perfect for those who wish to get off the beaten trail a little.

This island is a beach goers dream with long stretches of powdery white sand along calm, protected bays. Vanua Levu offers a host of exciting water adventures and one of Fiji’s most pristine nature reserves along with luxurious spas and a championship golf course.

Anemonefish, Credit

Diving off of Vanua Levu represents what Fiji locations are famous for: fabulous walls, mysterious caves and grand overhangs festooned with thriving hard and soft corals and teaming with reef fish. Jaw dropping pelagic species cruise this island as well. Divers may choose to remain within the sheltered confines of the enormous Savusavu bay where the waters are always calm and the current is non-existent or you may venture into the Somosomo Strait for some intense drift diving. Regardless of your level of experience, Vanua Levu is plentiful in exotic dive sites to suit everyone’s desires.

Taveuni is easily reached from northern Vanua Levu for diving so some information for Tavenui is included in this Location guide; for more information check the Tavenui page.

Sunset, Credit

The world-famous Rainbow Reef is sandwiched between Taveuni and Vanua Levu in the north of Fiji and is known as the “Soft Coral Capital of the World”. Thanks to the tidal currents running through the Strait between the islands, the dive sites on Rainbow Reef are full of stunning soft corals of all colours – the highlight being the “Great White Wall”, a sheer wall covered in white soft corals. The Rainbow Reef is a magnet for marine life of all kinds – sharks, turtles, manta rays and an abundance of colourful reef fish.

From Vanua Levu, it is also possible to explore one of Fiji’s few marine parks: Nanema. Here, divers swim through pristine corals with thriving and vibrant marine life. Dives here are heralded as some of the most impressive in all of Fiji! Nanema is easily explored on day trips from the central town of Savusavu – which also boasts a number of incredible dive sites right within the bay.


The climate in this area is tropical with November – May being the wet season and May – November being the dry season. The weather temperatures tend to be somewhat warmer during the wet season and the humidity is higher but it is still comfortable for travelling.

November - May is cyclone season but diving is available all year round (unless a cyclone is forecast) at which time Resorts would enact their cyclone procedures. Water temperature drops during the dry, winter season but is still a pleasant 25 Degrees Celsius and it comes with better visibility.

Bottled water in Fiji, Credit

Marine Conservation

Dive centres in Vanua Levu are generally very environmentally-conscious, practicing “look but don’t touch” diving at all times.  All diving is drift diving – dive boats do not anchor on the reef which helps to minimise human impact.

Nanema is one of the few protected marine areas in Fiji. Located just off the shores of Vanua Levu, around the island of Nanema, this park was created in reaction to overfishing in the 1990s. In 1997, the park was formed and a total ban on fishing was instituted. Today the park is managed by 10 village chiefs, and has largely been a nationwide success story. Local organizations and government are working to expand marine parks more thoroughly throughout Fiji.

The Seacology organization has established an interesting partnership with a local village just outside of Savusavu, called Nikubalavu Village. In exchange for local development funding, this village has established a 25,600-acre marine reserve in their bay. Fishing is now forbidden in these waters, which should have a positive effect on marine life populations both here and in neighbouring areas.

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Shore Diving

There are some shore dives available in Vanua Levu but these have to be booked through the Dive Centres at the Resorts as they are generally resort ‘House Reefs’.

The shore dives can be dived with any level of experience and are often used for dive training and night dives. The marine life is plentiful around the coastline with many reef fish and small critters to be seen.

Coral in Fiji, Credit

Boat Diving

The boat diving in northern Vanua Levu is centred around the Rainbow Reef – a large reef system with 20 different dive sites. Dive sites are available for all levels of experience, although currents can be strong in some areas so sites here would only be for experienced divers. The Rainbow Reef is world-renowned for its soft corals and these can be found at all dive sites in a rainbow of different colours. The world-famous “Great White Wall” is one of the sites on the Reef – a steep slope covered in white soft corals and accessed by a swim-through filled with sea fans.

Reef fish in their thousands can be seen – plus whitetip and blacktip reef sharks, manta rays, turtles, eagle rays, nudibranchs and octopus.

Bullshark! Credit

On the southern side of Vanua, dive shops are located in and around Savusavu Bay. Barracuda Point is a favourite dive site in the bay, with its humongous populations of barracuda, staghorn corals, gorgonian sea fans and the occasional school of hammerhead shark.  The Dreamhouse is one of the island’s best sites, largely because of the high number of pelagic sightings. This pinnacle site experiences strong currents at certain times of years, making it a more difficult site to dive. Be sure to keep an eye out for hammerhead and tiger sharks when currents are strong!

While in southern Vanua, it is well worth taking a 40 – 50 minute speedboat ride out to Namena Marine Reserve, which surrounds the island of Namena. As one of the few protected marine reserves in Fiji, the reefs here are in pristine condition and are among the best dive sites in the country.

Dives here exposes divers to anything from giant pinnacles to dramatic reef walls, with vibrant marine life around you. There are over 1000 species of invertebrate, 400 known corals, 445 documented marine plants and over 1100 species of fish. Four species of sea turtles are found in the area, as are a number of migratory cetaceans. Specific highlights include the Blue Ribbon Eel, the Barracuda, Tiger Sharks and the Hawksbill Sea Turtle.

Diving in Fiji, by Mairyn Piloto

Liveaboard Diving

A handful of liveaboards incorporate dive sites around Vanua Levu into their tour of Fiji. The S/Y Fiji Siren spends a full day diving at Nanema before moving towards Vanua Levu and Savusavu Bay.

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How to Get there

Vanua Levu is easily accessible by domestic flights from the mainland on Viti Levu. Or if going via Tavenui you can fly into Matei airport from either Nadi or Suva airports on the main island on Viti Levu.

There is also a ferry service from Suva or Savusavu.

Air Pacific, Fiji, Credit

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Where to Eat & Drink

The town of Savusavu has the largest number of independent bars and restaurants – though relative to other islands, selection remains limited. This charming town is located beside Fiji’s second largest port, against the backdrop of green hills and hibiscus trees. It is the only place for yachts to dock on the island, leading to quick growth in both the port and the town more broadly.

Restaurants in Savusavu tend to serve either international or Indian fare. Surf and Turf is the fanciest restaurant in the area, and has a great view of the ocean. Decked Out Café is, by contrast, much more low key and serves a similarly international menu. Sea View Café has some of the best Indian and Chinese food.

A very inviting Fijian tropical water, Credit

It is possible to poke around smaller towns, including Nagara, to sample local cuisine from tiny restaurants. Otherwise, once you are outside of Savusavu all dining options tend to come from the all-inclusive resorts. Some are open to non-guests.

Nightlife in Savusavu is fairly low key. The Savusavu Yacht club is however a 20-year institution with yachters in the region, and has a great happy hour and open-air bar. Otherwise, most nightlife occurs in the resorts themselves.

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Other Activities

One of the best  - and most leisurely – things to do on Vanua Levu is to drive the Hibiscus Highway which connects Savusavu with the Natewa Peninsula. This highway offers great views of the island’s mountains and rainforests as you drive east. Busses are infrequent, though it is possible to hire a taxi to do the drive for you.

If interested in hiking through the island’s rainforests, head north of Savusavu to the Waisali Nature Reserve. This 130ha reserve has a number of hiking trails that run through it. On a guided walk, you can learn about the numerous endangered and endemic species and plants that live within the area.  

A collection of  few shells in Fiji, Credit

Another interesting – and unique – activity is taking a tour of a Pearl Farm on the island. Here, oysters are implanted with mussel tissue to spark the growth of a pearl. They are then suspended in Savusavu Bay where, twice a year, they are harvested. Tours of the farm include information on the history of cultured pearls, and a tour by glass bottom boat of the farm in the bay. The tour of course concludes in a showroom with local pearls are for sale.

In Savusavu, there is a collection of hot springs near the wharf. They’re great to see – especially when locals cook food in them – but are generally too hot to touch. There are a few sacred religious sites around town that are also possible to visit.

Otherwise, rent a kayak or join a cruise to explore the ocean by boat!

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Fijian people are very friendly and are always happy to help travellers with any questions or problems they may have.

Taveuni has its own hospital and police station. There are also bigger hospitals in Nadi and Suva and the recompression chamber can also be found in Suva.

Travellers should exercise common-sense caution while travelling although in general Fiji is a friendly and open place, ideal for getting around and making friends with the local people.

Diving and snorkelling are usually available for children – although it is generally sensible to book these in advance.

Iguana in Fiji, Credit

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