By Dave Moran
The hailstones were as big as those orange-coloured Jaffa lollies that we all love to munch on and hide from the children! The back lawn became an ice skating rink. It’s freezing! Global warming, yeah right! A man has to get away from Auckland’s approaching ice age even as we enter the first days of Spring! To warm up I jumped into my memory-bank time machine and whizzed back to June this year. Oh yes, I was feeling warmer already.
The water was warm and I recalled a dive that explained why many divers make the journey to the island of Kadavu 80km south of Suva on the Fijian Island of Viti Levu. We were diving a sea mount on the ocean side of Astrolabe Reef, which displayed a vibrant healthy ecosystem of tropical marine life. It was a hot spot for manta rays to feed and visit cleaner stations. But all was quiet, not a manta to be spotted anywhere!
Then, way in the distance, I notice a flash of moving white. Oh baby, come to mama!
This manta definitely thought I had no family connection and causally drifted to the other side of the sea mount.
A quick squirt of my fins had me slipping below its glide path. No matter how many times you dive with mantas it is always an amazing experience. These airbuses of the ocean have such grace, majesty and control it takes your breath away. My strobe burst into life and the moment was captured forever. The manta carried on as if I did not exist, having seen these ungainly bubble-blowers many times before.
Matava Resort (pronounced ‘MAH-ta-vah’) has built its reputation on its eco-friendly environmental way of running a resort. It makes sense to be relatively self-sufficient when you see where the resort is situated on the south side of Kadavu Island some 30km via boat from the airport village of Vunisea. There is no road access. Your adventure starts when you climb onboard the transfer boat and cruise on the lee side of the world’s fourth-largest barrier reef, Astrolabe Reef. The journey can take from 45 minutes to over an hour, depending on the sea conditions and height of the tide.
While I was there, the sea conditions were not behaving, so the diving was confined to exploring some of the five passages that split the 100km length of the Astrolabe Reef. Like all drift dives you never quite know what is just around the corner. Intricate colourful weave-pattern gorgonian fans were very prominent with a peppering of soft corals. Sharks, turtles, barracoota, shy Napoleon wrasse and even a zooming tuna were spotted by divers.
What I really enjoyed about this three-and-a-half star resort is how different it is to most resorts. Solar power keeps your lights on and charges your laptop, phones and strobe’s batteries till around 9pm. You have your dinner lit by non-smelling kerosene lamps, these add a romantic glow to the evening ambience! Most of the produce is cultivated in the resort’s own gardens with fish, poultry and meat supplied mainly by the villages. The hillside bures are very spacious with tiled ensuites, hot showers and a deck offering stunning “good morning” wide ocean views. The lack of 24-hour power I’m sure is not everyone’s cup of tea, but when you take a bird’s eye view of where you are on the planet it’s amazing that the resort even exists!
If you really want to relax your body have it pampered by expert masseurs. I bounced off the table feeling 20 years younger!
One experience I got a buzz from was visiting the local village where some of the staff of the resort live. To reach the village is a short boat ride and to stretch your legs a relaxing one-hour stroll back along the coast; in parts you meander through large healthy mangrove forests! The highlight of the village visit is its waterfall and swimming in the large grotto that the water cascades out from. Relax after your swim by watching the village children show off their climbing and diving skills as they plunge from the high cliff surrounding the pool below.
Kayaking is also a must. You can even stay overnight in one of the coastal villages if you wish, now that would be an unforgettable experience! Big game fishing is also a big attraction for visitors. Make sure you experience the night dive – wow, strange things sure come out to play after the sun goes down!
Fiji is well known for how friendly resort staff can be. Matava is no exception except for one thing. Matava’s master of ceremonies is Maggie. He is the organiser, dinner-menu adviser and practical joker who has a cheeky beaming smile that welcomes you at breakfast, ensures you have enjoyed your evening dinner and keeps your drink glass full (if you so wish). It worth going there just to experience the warmth of his gregarious personality. His joy for life infects all of the Matava team who go out of their way to make your stay as memorable as possible.
My time machine has ran out of gas and all of sudden I’m back in freezing Auckland. It’s time to book my tropical winter escape for next year so I can once again glide with the mantas and master the art of kayaking. Maybe overnight in one of the coastal villages, now that would be fun!
- Matava Resort has received the TripAdvisor ‘Certificate of Excellence’ accolade three times.
- 2015 winner of the Environment/Local Sustainability Award
at the AON Fiji Excellence in Tourism Awards.
- Project AWARE GoEco Operator.
- Water temperatures during the months of Nov–April vary from 28–30°C. During the winter months, 24–28°C.
- PADI 5-Star Dive Resort.
- High quality rental dive gear is available.
- Three dive boats.
- Eight self-contained bures.
- Wifi available in the lounge area.
- Power 230 volts. NZ/Australian sockets.
- Take a spare torch to assist when lights are out. The resort does supply solar hand held lights which are okay.
- Flights to Kadavu from Nadi and Suva.