The Rainbow Reef is perhaps the most famous dive spot in all of Fiji. It’s home to some of the richest and most abundant sea life in the world and is comparable to the diving I did in places like Komodo National Park and Raja Ampat. I came here right after my epic Beqa Lagoon shark dive where I dived with hundreds of sharks with an emphasis on the majestic bull shark! This couldn’t be any more different than the tranquil and natural beauty of the diving in Rainbow reef.
Rainbow Reef has perhaps the most vibrant and lush corals I’ve ever seen. Just the amount of colors I saw on one dive alone was enough for me to fall in love with this place. I spent 5 days diving in the Rainbow Reef and stayed on the beautiful island of Taveuni. In this post, I’ll cover everything you need to know about diving the Rainbow Reef along with plenty of my dive photos. As well, Taveuni island is as beautiful as it is diverse so there will also be a guide on what to do on this island.
Taveuni is a stunning island
Taveuni, often referred to as the “Garden Island” of Fiji, is a truly special and unique destination known for its stunning natural beauty, vibrant marine life, and rich cultural heritage. Situated in the South Pacific Ocean, Taveuni is the third-largest island in Fiji and is part of the Vanua Levu Group. What makes Taveuni special are its lush landscapes, diverse ecosystems, and the warm hospitality of its people.
I came to Taveuni as part of my greater two week Fiji trip through its various island.
Taveuni Island is a world within a world – a microcosm of natural wonders, cultural richness, and unforgettable adventures. From the lush rainforests to the vibrant coral reefs, every corner of this island paradise beckons travelers to explore, discover, and connect with both nature and the Fijian way of life. Whether you’re diving into the depths, hiking through ancient forests, or immersing yourself in local traditions, Taveuni promises an experience that transcends the ordinary and leaves an indelible mark on your heart and soul. So pack your sense of wonder and embark on a journey to Taveuni – where adventure and beauty intertwine in perfect harmony.
How to get to Taveuni and the Rainbow Reef
The best way to get to Taveuni is by flight. For 99% of tourists, this is going to be the way you come here because the ferry takes an entire day from Suva. There are multiple daily flights to Taveuni from Suva and Nadi. These flights are all operated on Fiji Link which is part of Fiji Airways.
These island hopper planes are the preferred way to get around Fiji and I absolutely loved taking them as they offered beautiful views of the Fijian islands.
Taveuni, affectionately known as the “Garden Island” is Fiji’s tropical diving paradise. When you think of diving in Fiji, images of diving with the sharks at Beqa Lagoon might come to mind but for everything else, it’s likely the pictures of beautiful corals and varied species of fish come from the Sumosomo strait next to Taveuni.
I spent just under a week exploring and diving in Taveuni which was enough time to see the highlights that this island has to offer. If you’re a scuba diver lover like myself, then I am here to say that diving in Taveuni will be one of the best experiences of your life. Take it from someone who’s dived all over the world. Fiji, particularly the Rainbow reef in the Sumosomo strait is one of the best dive spots I’ve ever done. While there isn’t a lot of big pelagics here, the variety and color of the corals will be sure to mesmerize you.
Where is the Sumosomo strait?
The Sumosomo straight is located between Fiji’s second largest island of Vanua Levu and its 3rd largest island of Taveuni. Channels are always a good place to start looking for beautiful underwater life as the channel currents generally bring in ample amounts of nutrients and plankton that the corals/fish thrive on. The Sumosomo strait is home to the Rainbow Reef which truly lives up to its name in every essence of the word.
The underwater world here is so colorful that I saw colors that I had never witnessed before. As you’d expect with the South Pacific, there are countless species of fish, incredibly healthy corals, and pristine conditions all abound. I would compare the Rainbow reef to other top diving spots like Raja Ampat, Komodo, and Sipadan.
The Rainbow reef is also home to the ultra famous Great White Wall dive which is an absolute must if you are diving in the area. More information on that in later sections of this post. While the Rainbow reef isn’t known for its big stuff, you can be lucky and see the occasional manta ray and numerous shark oceanic shark species.
We were lucky enough to see a humpback whale on the surface! A mother and calf were casually swimming through the channel! Unfortunatelyj, we were not lucky enough to snorkel with them as the whales swam off into the distance. If that were to have happened, I might have well just called it a career in diving!
Taveuni vs Savu Savu area?
One of the big debates I had while planning this trip was choosing between Taveuni and Savu Savu. Both areas are located equidistant to the Rainbow reef and dive shops from both islands regularly visit the strait for diving.
Savu Savu is a town on the eastern coast of Vanua Levu and is home to numerous resorts while Taveuni is its own island that is home to beautiful mountains and lush green jungles. While Savu Savu has nicer beaches at its resorts, Taveuni has a more remote and lush feel to it.
Where To Dive? Dive shops in Taveuni
There are a total of 5 dive shops on Taveuni. Three of them belong to resorts and you must stay at those resorts in order to dive (they do not accept outside guests). That leaves just 2 dive shops that take outside divers; Taveuni Ocean Sports and Salt Divers.
I ended up spending my time diving with Taveuni Ocean Sports after meeting someone at the Nadi Airport who lives on Taveuni and praised the shop. After 5 days of diving, I can absolutely recommend diving with this shop. Julie, the owner of this shop runs an absolutely spot on operation. They have top notch divemasters and instructors that know what they’re doing. She has lived on the island for many years and is an absolute gem when it comes to making people feel welcome and excited for the dives. They even paid their staff during COVID when they had essentially zero business for two years.
Taveuni Ocean sports also offers perhaps the best non-liveaboard food I’ve ever had. Even though they only do a standard 2 tank dive in the mornings, they had an absolute delicious spread of food on the surface intervals. We were treated to vegetarian roti wraps, banana bread, homemade lemonade, and chai tea which was became something I looked forward to every morning even before the first dive!
The boats in Taveuni are smaller speedboats and didn’t have any lounge space where you can relax in between dives like the phinisi boats in Indonesia or the Newton boats in the Caribbean unfortunately.
Cost of diving in Taveuni
Diving in Taveuni is reasonably priced for Fiji in my opinion. The cost of diving at Taveuni Ocean sports varies based on the amount of days you’re diving. In total, I paid about 1000 FJD for 8 dives including equipment rental. That averages out to be about 125 FJD per dive which equates to roughly $55 USD per dive. Very reasonable in my opinion for how remote and premier of a destination this is.
If you don’t dive, I also met plenty of people that were snorkeling or free diving the reefs instead. Taveuni Ocean Sports did snorkeling tours as well and they were on different boats than us divers.
Diving the Great White Wall
The Great White Wall in Fiji stands as one of the most famous and iconic dive sites, renowned for its unique and captivating features that draw divers from around the world to experience its underwater grandeur. Without a doubt, one of the main draws for people diving in the Rainbow reef is the chance to visit the Great White Wall. This dive site has been rated as one of the top 10 dive sites in the world and it’s not difficult to see why.
First and foremost, the name itself piques curiosity. Contrary to what one might assume, the name “Great White Wall” does not refer to sharks; rather, it’s derived from the stunning white color of the soft coral that covers the underwater cliffs. This intriguing contrast against the deep blue of the ocean creates a striking visual impact that remains etched in the memory of divers fortunate enough to explore this site.
The main allure of the Great White Wall lies in the sheer beauty and diversity of its soft corals. The coral formations here are a testament to nature’s artistry, exhibiting an astonishing array of shades, from immaculate white to delicate shades of pink and lavender. This vibrant display of color is a result of the nutrient-rich currents that flow through the area, nourishing the corals and contributing to their vibrant hues.
You must time the Great White Wall Dive
The Great White Wall can only be dived twice a month and has to be timed perfectly to the tides and moon cycles. The strength of the currents at these times allow these beautiful white corals to bloom and open completely and you’re left with a huge wall of beautiful white corals.
The key factor that dictates the timing of dives at the Great White Wall is the phase of the moon. Specifically, the site is best explored during the period surrounding the full moon. This is due to the phenomenon known as “muck diving,” which occurs as a result of the lunar cycle’s influence on the corals’ reproductive behaviors.
During the nights leading up to the full moon, the corals release their eggs and sperm into the water. This synchronized mass spawning event is a marvel of nature, contributing to the reproduction and genetic diversity of the coral population. However, it also creates unique diving conditions. The released eggs and sperm attract a multitude of marine life, including filter-feeding organisms and nocturnal predators that are drawn to the abundance of food.
Diving during this period offers a rare opportunity to witness the underwater ecosystem in a state of heightened activity. The coral reefs come alive with a flurry of movement as creatures seize the opportunity to feed and reproduce. This event also provides an extraordinary chance to observe marine life interactions that are not typically visible during other times of the month.
The specific timing of the dives is carefully planned around the lunar cycle. Divers often need to coordinate their trips to align with the full moon phase. This adds an element of planning and excitement, as divers eagerly anticipate the chance to witness this natural spectacle.
The Great White Wall is a deeper dive
These corals start at about 20 meters and completely cover the wall down to 50 meters so prepare accordingly by conserving your air and bottom times! Above 20 meters, you’ll find immensely colorful soft and hard corals that are in immaculate conditions. Huge coral balmys can be found everywhere with my favorite purple colored soft corals the star of the show. Seriously, I’ve never seen such beautiful purple colored corals in my dive career and they really make these reefs stand out versus anywhere else I’ve been.
If this dive site sounds interesting to you, make sure to plan your trip around the dates that the dives happen. Often times, the window to dive this is just 1 day but sometimes, you’ll have a 1-3 day window where the corals are still blooming. If you visit the dive site outside of these days, you’ll see nothing but a wall of rocks. Nature is incredible!
Diving in the Rainbow Reef
Now on to the good stuff, the actual diving of the Rainbow Reef. Like I’ve already mentioned numerous times in this post, the diving in this part of Fiji is among the best in the world. Every dive that I did had different things to offer. Huge schools of fish, incredibly vibrant corals, moray eels, sea snakes, garden eels, various nudibranch species, reef sharks, and more were on offer.
The currents that swept through Rainbow Reef brought with them a wealth of nutrients that nourished the marine life. This abundance was evident in the health and diversity of the reef inhabitants. The visibility was often exceptional, allowing me to take in the intricate details of the coral formations and the vibrant marine life that called this reef home.
As I descended beneath the waves, the underwater world unfurled before my eyes. Soft and hard corals painted the landscape in a mesmerizing palette – pinks, purples, reds, and oranges – covering every nook and cranny. The corals had crafted intricate structures resembling underwater gardens, making it feel like I was exploring an enchanted realm.
Navigating through the crystal-clear waters, I encountered a bustling community of marine creatures. Schools of anthias and butterflyfish painted the scene with their vibrant hues. Barracudas and trevallies cruised by with an air of authority, while the occasional reef shark glided gracefully in the distance, a reminder of the ocean’s wild beauty.
While I don’t remember the name of every dive site I visited, the one that did stick out to me was the cabbage patch. This was a beautiful dive that saw us float across a huge garden of flower corals. This was by far the biggest congregation of these coral species I’ve seen and made for some great photos.
In the end, photos and videos are the most important things so this will hopefully do a better job of reflecting the beauty of Fiji diving than my writing!
Where to stay in Taveuni?
Taveuni is a huge island that is 50km from north to south. For such a big island, it is surprisingly undeveloped and there aren’t many options for accommodations. Almost all the options for lodging are located in the northwest of the island. The airport is located at the northern tip in the town of Matei and many of the lodges, resorts, and guesthouses are located within a 10 minute drive of the airport. By airport, I mean a singular landing strip with a handful of flights a day and no security screenings!
As with the rest of Fiji, accommodation options in Taveuni are on the expensive side. During my search, I couldn’t find many options at all with the ones I did find being very budget, or very luxurious in pricing. After visiting the island, I can confirm there are a few more option than I had previously assumed.
We decided to splurge a bit and treat ourselves to the super fancy Taveuni Island Lodge and Spa. This property was absolutely stunning. It’s located near to the airport on the top of a hill which offers it absolutely stunning views of the Sumosomo strait and neighboring Vanua Levu island.
The rooms were spacious and beautifully decorated in a traditional island style. The meals are also included as is the case with many of the resorts on the island as there are little to no outside restaurants. On the entire island, I could only fight one café and one restaurant.
If you’re on a budget, everyone that didn’t stay at a nicer resort stayed at the Maravu Lodge which is across the street from the Taveuni island lodge. It’s a more basic eco lodge that offers accommodations at a much lower rate than the other options I found on the island.
What to do in Taveuni?
Taveuni is known as Fiji’s garden island due to its lush green landscapes and its enigmatically rich soil where you can throw just about anything into the ground and it will grow. While I personally wouldn’t come here if I didn’t dive, plenty of people do as there are so many activities to keep you busy.
Taveuni does not have many idyllic beaches to speak of; you’ll have to go to the Yasawa islands for that. However, there are countless hikes, waterfalls, jungle treks, and more. I highly recommend visiting Taveuni in combination with the Western islands of the Yasawas or Mamanucas to give you a contrasting flavor of just how diverse Fiji is.
Bouma Waterfalls of Taveuni
One of the best things to do in Taveuni is a visit to the famous waterfalls. Located half way down the island on the East side are three magnificent waterfalls that can be combined into one hike (roughly 3 hours Roundtrip).
Reaching the Bouma Waterfalls is an adventure in itself. You’ll need your own car or a taxi on the island to take you there. Most of the road is unpaved so it takes toughly 45 minutes to reach from Matei. Ask your hotel to arrange a taxi for you or simply ask around for cheaper rates as everyone knows someone. For example, my hotel wanted to charge us 180 FJD for this taxi ride but I simply asked my dive shop for a driver recommendation and they did it for 120 FJD.
The Hike and the Trail:
The trail leading to the Bouma Waterfalls is a treat for the senses. As you set off, a symphony of birdsong serenades your journey through a thriving rainforest. The well-maintained trail is a canvas of green, punctuated by the occasional burst of color from tropical blooms.
Lower Bouma Falls:
Your first reward on this journey is the Lower Bouma Falls. Here, water cascades gently over rocks, forming a tranquil pool that invites you to take a moment of reflection amidst nature’s soothing embrace. The delicate mist in the air adds to the atmosphere, refreshing your senses.
Upper Bouma Falls:
Continuing your trek, you’ll come across the Upper Bouma Falls. With a more dramatic drop, this waterfall offers a stunning spectacle. The pool below is an irresistible invitation, and a dip in its cool waters is a must-do to reinvigorate both body and soul.
Tavoro Falls – The Crown Jewel:
The pièce de résistance of the Bouma Waterfalls experience is Tavoro Falls. This multi-tiered masterpiece is a testament to nature’s artistry. As you stand in awe of its beauty, you’re reminded of the raw power and grace that water possesses. You can choose to admire it from a viewing platform or get closer for an immersive experience that will leave you mesmerized.
What to Pack:
For this adventure, pack essentials that’ll enhance your experience:
- Sturdy footwear for the trail
- Comfortable clothing suitable for hiking
- Swimwear for the waterfall pools
- Sun protection essentials
- Insect repellent
- Reusable water bottle and snacks
- Camera to capture the magic
A Lasting Impression:
Completing the hike leaves you with a sense of accomplishment and gratitude for the island’s natural beauty. The Bouma Waterfalls experience transcends the visual – it’s about connecting with nature, finding solace in its embrace, and making memories that resonate deeply.
Lovena Coastal Walk in Taveuni
Amidst its many treasures, the Lavena Coastal Walk stands out as a captivating journey that allows visitors to immerse themselves in the island’s pristine rainforests, stunning ocean views, and secluded beaches. Let’s delve into the enchanting experience of the Lavena Coastal Walk and discover why it’s a must-do activity for anyone seeking to connect with nature and explore the heart of Taveuni.
Introduction to Lavena Coastal Walk
The Lavena Coastal Walk is a picturesque trail that stretches along the northeastern coast of Taveuni. This guided or self-guided hike introduces visitors to the island’s exquisite natural wonders while providing a deeper understanding of its ecosystem, culture, and history. The walk is a moderate-level trek that caters to a wide range of fitness levels, making it accessible to both seasoned hikers and leisurely explorers.
The Lovena coastal walk will take roughly 6 hours. It is a 1.5h drive from the town of Matei and you’ll need three hour to finish the hike and enjoy the scenery.
You can either organize a tour with your hotel or simply hire a driver for the day who will drive you to the hike and wait for you to finish. This will likely be cheaper. As of 2023/2024, this was roughly 160 FJD for the day.
Lush Rainforests and Breathtaking Scenery
The journey begins at the entrance of the Bouma National Heritage Park, a protected area that encompasses diverse ecosystems, including lush rainforests and coastal landscapes. As you venture deeper into the trail, you’ll find yourself surrounded by towering trees, vibrant flora, and the harmonious symphony of native birds.
The path gradually meanders through the rainforest, eventually revealing breathtaking vistas of the Pacific Ocean. The juxtaposition of verdant forests and azure waters creates a mesmerizing panorama that evokes a sense of wonder and serenity.
Secluded Beaches and Refreshing Pools
One of the highlights of the Lavena Coastal Walk is the opportunity to visit secluded and pristine beaches. Along the trail, you’ll encounter white sandy shores gently kissed by turquoise waves. Take a moment to pause, let the ocean breeze caress your skin, and feel the soft sand beneath your feet. These tranquil beaches offer the perfect spots for contemplation, relaxation, and even a refreshing dip in the ocean.
As you continue your journey, you’ll come across natural freshwater pools fed by cascading waterfalls. The Waiqele Waterfall, in particular, is a mesmerizing sight with its crystal-clear waters tumbling down from the rainforest above. These pools invite you to cool off and rejuvenate amidst the lush surroundings, making for a truly immersive experience.
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