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    Diving the Astrolabe Reef

    April 02, 2012 3 min read

    Diving the Astrolabe Reef

    Ever thought about going on a diving holiday in Fiji? The weather is great most of the year and it is only a few hours from Australia by plane. You’ll arrive in a lush green country with hundreds of islands scattered in crystal clear waters and will experience a completely different culture. It also offers great diving opportunities. Through the website of Diversion Dive Travel I found a great package deal: 8 days in an Eco-Resort called Matava, including daily dives with a PADI Green Star Awarded dive centre, all meals included. The second person would go for half price if booked before the end of February. We made good use of the leap year and booked a trip to Fiji at the end of February, doing our first dives on the extra day of this year!

    When we got to the resort and saw how comfortable our ‘bure’ (hut) was, surrounded by rainforest and with the best view I’ve seen in my 20+ years of overseas travels, we knew we were in paradise. And not only the view was breathtaking: the friendliness of the Fijians, the quality of the food, the service we received all overwhelmed us!

    On the doorstep of the Astrolabe Reef

    Matava is located right next to the Great Astrolabe Reef off the Kadavu group of islands, which is a hidden gem. The Astrolabe Reef is the 4th largest barrier reef in the world. Just like its big brother, the Great Barrier Reef, it offers a great variety of marine life, including very colourful soft corals, warm and clear waters and many different dive sites, such as walls, passages to the outer reef, big drop-offs and drift dives in mild currents.

    The best thing about this reef is that you hardly see any tourists. There is only a handful of dive operators that go to the reef and you and your buddy can do a shore dive and be the only divers out there.

    The reef is a breeding ground for large marlins, sharks, giant trevally, dolphin fish and snapper, due to it having many channels leading from extremely deep water into shallow lagoons. Parts of the reef, such as Naiqoro Passage, are main thoroughfares for large fish. And there is one dive site that offers a good chance to see Manta Rays (at an appropriate distance as to not disturb them).

    Our underwater adventures

    Of course we wanted to go diving as soon as possible and after a briefing about the reef, safety instructions and a gear check we soon were on our way in a fast boat that brought us to the outer reef. The first few mornings the weather was overcast, but the water in the bay was calm and we only encountered some choppy seas and rain at two occasions. On those days we just moved to the bay where the water was calmer. This variety of sites makes diving possible almost all year round, even on rough days.

    We were lucky enough to see some of the finest the Astrolabe reef has to offer: reef sharks, moray eels, colourful angelfish, many different types of clownfish in waving anemones, a banded eel that behaves a lot like a sea snake, tiny nudibranch of only fingernail size, and even a rarely seen comb jellyfish, flashing its lights at us during one safety stop.

    An ancient species

    Comb jellyfish have roamed the oceans for billions of years and have remained virtually unchanged. This is not actually a jellyfish but an animal (classed as a zoophyte) which feeds on small fish and crustaceans and even its own species. A comb jellyfish doesn’t sting and propels itself forward by millions of hair-like ‘cilia’, which catch the sunlight and appear to be electric shock waves. We were mesmerised by it!

    Manta encounter During two dives we saw groups of manta rays feeding, doing barrel rolls in order to get the plankton-filled water to flow through their gills. What an amazing sight and how lucky we were to witness this from up close. I will post of video of these dives soon!

    Back to basics

    Travelling in Fiji doesn’t have to be expensive. The flight is cheap and with the strong Australian dollar both accommodation and dive packages are very affordable. If you want to visit pristine places, then avoid the tourism hot spots on the main island and in the North and choose a smaller undeveloped island in the South, like Kadavu. There you will meet a lot of locals in tribal villages, see the true Fijian lifestyle and stay in a nice hut instead of a concrete high-rise hotel.

    What is your preferred diving holiday?

    Have you ever been in Fiji?

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