By Anne & Eric Simmons.
WANANAVU (Fijian) adj. Awesome, breathtaking, overwhelming, wonderful.
Fiji is blessed with many international visitors from all corners of the globe and with so many places to visit in Fiji it’s not easy to make a decision where to go or stay. The less common destination is to turn left as you leave Nadi Airport and travel north through Lautoka and up to Rakiraki. There you have the choice of several great resorts to match everyone’s budget and needs. Unlike the resorts of Denarau you get to taste a little of the true Fijian life and atmosphere not distorted by marketers and promotional gimmicks. We have visited this area on a number of occasions, this time staying at the luxurious and picturesque Wananavu Resort and diving the stunning soft corals of Bligh Waters.
Dive Wananavu has continually evolved over the years and has an extremely well equipped and professionally run set up from the warm welcome to guided dives by the friendly local Dive Masters. There are not many times that I have visited a dive resort or facility that advertises more than fifty dive sites and every one of them simply superb and not just a swim around underwater! This area really has the Midas touch and a lot of the credit needs to go to the local Dive Masters who went exploring with their clients after their old sites were damaged by cyclones.
With the choice of two modern aluminium dive boats the resort has the advantage of being able to cater for couples equally as well as larger groups, while getting you to the dive sites in comfort from their beautifully sheltered marina. More importantly for divers, is that the dive sites are generally only 20 minutes to an hour from the resort and either run as a two dive package in the morning and/or a single dive in the afternoon. To make the most of the dive sites, Wananavu also offers the option of diving on Nitrox/Enriched Air supplied from their meticulously well maintained Nuvair Compressor membrane system that provides quality air and consistently perfect mixes.
It is hard to imagine in 1789, the infamous Captain Bligh navigated these waters studded with jagged reefs and strong currents pushing the blue ocean waters onto them, rowing only a 23-foot open launch after mutiny by Fletcher Christian and others on the HMS Bounty. While Bligh feared stopping to provision at the islands that dot the area, he certainly left his mark on the area being named Bligh Waters and even down to the naming of many of the dive sites like Mount Mutiny. Just like William Bligh’s colourful history, the reefs can only be described as a mosaic of colour, as the soft corals bloom vibrantly in the currents – a diver really needs a good torch or the aid of powerful strobes to truly illuminate these and enjoy their beauty.
The local Dive Masters and boatmen are adept at finding the best spots on the day and local knowledge goes a long way when it comes to reading the often vigorous currents that can make or break a dive here. Typically the diving on the outer reef is wall diving with the boat mooring on the top of the reef and picking you up downstream if necessary. With buoyancy the only key to enjoying the dive, there is little else to concentrate on as you pick the depth you’re comfortable with. You drift gently along the tapestry of corals with the often forgotten azure water to your other side, missing the schools of Barracuda, sharks and other pelagics that cruise these walls. We were also blessed on many of our dives with the mesmerizing sound of humpback whales singing as they completed their annual migration. For those who have never heard these magnificent mammals’ soulful melodies you must put it on your bucket list. The variety of fish and critters on these dives are quite exhaustive and it is a fair bet that there is something for everyone here.
For those that aren’t diving or the inevitable no dive before flying day, the Resort has a steady stream of activities to entertain and involve everyone. Probably my favourite was a trip down a local river meandering its way past villages and gardens on a traditional Fijian raft made of bamboo lashed together in the shape of a boat and poled by several villagers over the shallows and through the gentle rapids. We had a chance to visit a village or two on the way back to the resort. This is the dry side of Fiji and cloudless nights are the norm to enjoy a local beer or rum with your evening meal before sitting on the sandy beach watching the night sky.
I always find it hard to answer divers that ask where the best dive sites are, but Wananavu and Bligh Waters certainly deserve a mention if you want clear water and beautiful soft corals with prolific fish-life – topped off with exceptional company and surroundings. We have always had amazing dive trips when local Dive Masters are used and looked after by the resorts and Wananavu has a great team of experienced dive leaders. Some were born with a regulator in their mouths, like Josh, whose father preceded him in the local dive industry and others, entertaining and enthusiastic like Jessie and even the addition of local female dive guides like Mary. Try it … You will love it!