By Anne and Eric Simmons
I stood poised on the back of the boat as Tare our skipper repositioned the boat closer to the reef. The waves were crashing on my left, testament to how close we were to this exciting underwater playground waiting to be explored. I marvelled at how only hours ago we had been peering out the windows of our Island Hoppers flight as we scooted along the reef-lined coast of Vanua Levu showcasing its majestic turquoise lagoons. Luke, our pilot, had banked on occasion to provide us with amazing views of tropical perfection, palm-lined sandy beaches and tranquil clear waters. Once landed at Matei Airport on Taveuni, our van had been waiting to take us to the boat that had brought us to our ultimate destination, the luxurious Qamea Resort & Spa.
Arriving shortly before 11am we had been welcomed by the friendly managers with a refreshing cocktail before being shown to our beachside bures, each tucked away in their own secluded part of the extensive tropical gardens with amazing variety of birdlife. It only took a few minutes to realise this was a place of fairy-tale diving and luxury. By the end of lunch every staff member knew us by name and had welcomed us personally and Ben, the Dive Manager, had found us to check if we wanted to dive that day. Needless to say, there was no hesitation and 2pm
saw us eagerly boarding the dive boat.
So now here we were about to enter the pristine underwater environment of Qamea with its many colourful reefs and secluded bays, all subject to strong tidal and oceanic currents bringing all sorts of life to these waters. Finally Moses our Fijian boatman gave me the ‘all clear’ – it was time to get down and wet! We were quickly in the water and descending down to the reef below.
Our first dive with the Qamea Resort team is a cruisey one along the reef to the remains of an island trader that perished on the reef many years ago. Sitting at 28m, this is one of the deeper dive sites Qamea regularly dives, and while what remains of the bow sits in deeper water the rest of her is scattered around on the top of the reef, there’s lots of growth on the wreckage and it’s home to a myriad of tiny critters guaranteed to delight every macro enthusiast. A variety of shrimp have taken hold here and it’s obvious that Ben is on what equates to a first-name basis with several of them as he entices them out to play – either that or they know he is very tasty.
Investigating the interior I am met with thousands of small eyes gazing back at me, forming a solid wall broken only by reticent moray peering out cautiously or passing grouper seeking shelter, clouds of humbug damsels lift and sink into the hard corals sprouting from the deck and sides, while lazy lizard fish stare unblinkingly at us as we move over their piece of real estate. Moving back up the reef we continue to find hidden treasures tucked under bommies or in clear view. As always, checking the rear-view mirror is well worth the effort due to the schools of curious fish that shadow our progress. Ben indicates it’s time to surface and the crew up top are waiting ready to help us back on board before we make the ten-minute trip back to the resort.
Diving here is so easy and your choices are vast, generally three dives a day, which means you can often choose to join Qamea’s land-based activity (each day is different: waterfalls, jungle trekking, village and school visits, even visits to the local pearl farm) in the morning and dive after lunch, or simply dive, dive, dive. The reef in front of the resort is full of fascinating creatures and plenty of fish life, just walk down the beach, a twenty-metre swim out through the reef and you can find yourself entertained for hours in the horseshoe-shaped bay.
My favourites were the mantis shrimp, though the territorial clown anemone fish and the peacock flounders came a close second. Erick, one of the Fijian instructors, told me where to look for the ghost pipefish, but I never did find him, nor the small seahorses that apparently lurk near the mangroves.
Colourful reefs, turtles, reef sharks, vibrant marine life from the large, such as whales (seasonal) and dolphins (daily), to the smaller characters (I counted eight different nudibranchs on one dive!) are all found within minutes of the resort. For those who want to see something truly spectacular make sure you ask to dive the White Wall and Rainbow Reef. The White Wall is incorrectly named – we found it more a pale lilac and totally awesome. The currents here can be fierce so make sure you take your time and enjoy the scenery! The fish life is colourful and inquisitive, if you have to hang on watch where you place your fingers – there are plenty of scorpion fish and lionfish lurking. Don’t limit yourself to just the White Wall, there are many amazing dives in this area and the Qamea Dive Team know them all and love to share them. Sites such as Fish Factory or Midway are simply brimming with fish life, always with that ever-present current just carrying you along, though here you have the option of stopping for that shot in a million.
We came to Qamea Resort as divers determined to take advantage of as much diving as we could, and we did more than is often possible in other places and the Dive Team were always willing to share their underwater world with us. But alongside the diving we could also partake in luxurious dining in the tropical restaurant or at a romantic table for two on the beach by firelight, be pampered in the world class Jungle Spa, with a variety of massages or body treatments at times convenient to divers, or soak in the poolside spa, go paddle boarding or kayaking or just chill in our own private piece of paradise. As much activity as you can plan or chill-out time for you and your partner, Qamea Resort & Spa has it all. Whether it be an action-packed adventure, a luxurious destination to get married or a place in paradise to renew your wedding vows – think Qamea Resort. The diving is just an amazing bonus!