PHOTO: courtesy Fiji Tourism

Destination Guide: Fiji

Superyacht Private Expeditions, which provides superyacht guests with exclusive dive services, recently expanded its operations into Fiji. Its team, which stays aboard with you and your guests, has local knowledge of a variety of South Pacific destinations in particular. They adapt activities to your expectations and experience. In this Destination Guide article, Rodolphe Holler, co-owner of Superyacht Private Expeditions, and David Jamieson, general manager of Yacht Help Fiji and the local office manager of Superyacht Private Expeditions Fiji, share their experiences and recommendations in Fiji, with an emphasis on remote villages plus snorkeling and diving adventures.

 

Fiji is ideally located north of New Zealand and between Tonga and Vanuatu. Although Fiji benefits from strong tourism, it has places off the beaten track. The country is comprised of 332 islands, of which only 110 are inhabited. Most of these islands are of volcanic origin and feature great sheltered anchorages for superyachts. The main marina is Denarau Marina, close to Nadi.

No permits are needed for private cruises in Fiji. If you plan to charter, superyachts can receive a vessel charter permit for three months for Fijian $ 3,000 (about US$1,500). The permit can be renewed three times for a total period of 18 months. A 12.5-percent tax applies to the gross price of the charter.

One of the areas that we really like is the Lau Group. Few yachts go here, so you feel like you are the first ones to explore the area. It’s remote, with traditional villages, a strong, genuine culture, and friendly people eager to share their traditions and love for their islands. The chiefs of Lau used to rule most of Fiji pre-European times. There is a specific etiquette to respect when visiting the villages: no hats, sunglasses, or revealing clothing (like bathing suits). The best way to dress is to wear a sulu (equivalent of a pareo) with a T-shirt. Alcohol is prohibited in the villages, too.

Fiji has tropical weather patterns similar to Tahiti, but the diving and snorkeling are very different from the typical dives around French Polynesia. There is a profusion of small, colorful fish and amazing soft and hard corals, including huge gorgonas, but less pelagic seen under the water. Fiji is a perfect taste of Southeast Asia’s marine wildlife. Both experienced and beginner divers—including children—can enjoy it.

We like to cruise the Lau Group from north to south. You can fly into Nadi International Airport and fly to meet your boat.

Ni sa bula vinaka! Welcome to Fiji!

 

Vanua Balavu

You’ll join your yacht anchored in the scenic Bay of Islands. This area features rare, mushroom-shaped, limestone islets covered with lush vegetation similar to those in Palau, Micronesia. Some feature arches and caves and are perfect to explore while kayaking.

Together, we’ll visit the nearby Delaconi village and be greeted by the chief. When in the Lau Group, you pay tribute to the chiefly village of the island before engaging in any land or water activity. This is the way to introduce yourself and become a guest. You’ll present kava roots as a gift, called sevusevu (usually provided by the local yacht agent). You’ll then sit in the longhouse with your host. At the end of the ceremony (below), everyone claps hand three times and drinks kava (it doesn’t taste good, be prepared!). You are now guests on the island.

Although every village offers it, Delaconi village offers the nicest traditional experiences. Besides the kava ceremony, which is carried out everywhere in the Lau Group, spend a half day in the village to attend an impressive Meke (traditional dance show). It involves the local men, women, and children, performed just for you. It’s followed by a Lovo (earth oven). This is a unique experience so far from our usual modern world, letting you discover a culture many believe doesn’t exist anymore.

PHOTO: courtesy Fiji Tourism

PHOTO: courtesy Fiji Tourism

Reid and Bukatatanoa Reefs (65 NM)

The pass to our next destination is easy to navigate. There’s also a good anchorage southeast of the lagoon. These reefs offer amazing wall and pass dives. The drift in the pass may let you encounter some interesting pelagic fish such as sharks. Endless walls outside the reef are covered in colorful small fish, nudibranch, and coral. Snorkeling safaris are great in the lagoon, as fish are in profusion basically everywhere. It’s a great stop to appreciate the underwater beauty of the Lau Group, which are protected from commercial fishing.

 

Onatea Island (25 NM)

This island is made of limestone. The villages are south of the island, but we’ll anchor close to the deep north pass called Middle Passage. We’ll then enjoy a tender ride to the chiefly village of Waikori. After the kava ritual, we can stretch our legs on a great walk between Waikori and Dakuiloa villages, before going on a snorkeling trip to explore the lagoon. Onatea is also great for kayaking or paddle boarding.

 

Komo (20 NM)

Komo is a flat island featuring some amazingly pristine white sandy beaches, with not a soul in sight. You might like to have a private picnic! We very much like the area. A good anchorage is nearby, north of the island. While the surrounding area has coral heads, the lagoon is free of them.

 

Yagasa Group (22 NM)

These four uninhabited islets also offer incredible beaches and watersports opportunities! This is another fabulous place for a beach picnic—though you can also be chic with a beach dinner at sunset. While diving the lagoon, we commonly encounter eagle rays or manta rays and friendly parrotfish.

 

Fulaga (15 NM)

Fulaga is spectacular and features some of the most beautiful limestone arches and islets of the Lau Group. The area is scenic at any time of the day, though we prefer early morning and late afternoon.

The people of Fulaga are well-known for their carvings. They’re happy to invite visitors to watch them in their everyday work while they build a canoe or carve the sought-after kava bowls used for the kava rituals.

 

Ogea Levu (10 NM)

Spend a few hours in the village with its happy, smiling people and sharing their lifestyle. If you visit the school, the children may start singing for you unexpectedly. School supplies are much appreciated when visiting a village or a school.

Ogea Levu is also good for fishing. You may even be able to get advice from one of the local fishermen.

 

Totoya (85 NM)

This island’s name is derived from Totoka (“beautiful”), which is what the very first chief to set foot on it reportedly said. Totoya is horseshoe-shaped and has a lagoon within another crystal-clear lagoon. A legend says that a curse was put on the pass to keep out intruders. Play the game when entering the lagoon aboard your yacht: Don’t talk, smoke, or wear hats, or the ocean will overwhelm the vessel with three large waves!

Featuring several small passes, Totoya offers interesting diving.

PHOTO: Venson Kuchipudi/Flickr

PHOTO: Venson Kuchipudi/Flickr

Makutu (27 NM)

This island has a beautiful, large natural harbor. Makutu is also good for surfers, especially to the south, where you will have the break all to yourself!

 

Moala (38 NM)

The highest island of the southern Lau Group offers great hikes and overlooks a lagoon. As one of the rare volcanic islands of the area, it has crater lakes at its top (1,509 feet, or 460 meters) on the western side. Covered in matted sedges, they can support a person’s weight. The island is fertile, and farming is developed.

The coral is beautiful and is an invitation for diving and snorkeling. A scenic anchorage lies northwest, close to the chiefly village of Naroi.

An airstrip allows provisioning. You can also fly from Moala to Nadi and stay in a resort or cruise with the yacht back to South Viti Levu, the main island, to anchor around Beqa.

 

Beqa (43 NM)

The island is surrounded by a beautiful coral reef offering endless snorkeling through myriad fish, especially on the western side. The highlight of a visit really lies in diving with bull sharks. A local operator arranges daily dives. The sharks are attracted through a feeding frenzy in shallow water. Black tip sharks and hundreds of tropical fish accompany them. Although we do not support shark feeding, it is a one-time opportunity for shark lovers to see these amazing creatures in their habitat, while meeting all safety requirements for the divers.

Beqa also offers a few high-end resorts for a taste of luxury, like indulging in a spa treatment or Fijian fine dining and hospitality.

Now that we’re at the end of the trip, the yacht will cruise back to Marina Denarau, close to Nadi, the capital city.

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