Fiji’s Great Astrolabe Reef is one of the world’s largest ribbon barrier reefs and is the world’s best scuba diving site to see soft coral. Imagine diving in 80-degree crystal-blue waters. From where you hover, you have great visibility. You can see 82 feet, straight down to the coral bommies on the ocean floor. Multitudes of Butterfly fish and Angelfish dart around you along with many other species of fish and sea creatures to numerous to count. Suddenly, a manta ray courses by so close you can almost touch it and you are filled with delight! This is the magic of diving the reef.
Astrolabe Reef is actually two barrier reefs that wind around several islands, creating a protective atoll lagoon-like structure. The hard coral reef protects a diverse ecosystem rich with fish and invertebrates and provides a welcoming environment for all levels of scuba divers, from beginners to advanced.
The reef is equally accessible for snorkeling and offers both shore diving and boat diving depending on where you are. Matava Resort, on Kadavu, offers shore diving. Kadavu is the biggest island in the area, with a fringing reef surrounding it. It extends along the entire southern side of Kadavu for over 74 miles. The island has no roads and the handful of resorts that can be found there are conscientious of the habitat.
Most diving is inside the barrier reef, where the water is gentle and predominantly shallow. Manta Rays return regularly to the lagoon from the open seas to visit “cleaning stations” to let cleaner wrasse (a marine fish) remove small parasites from their skin and gill cavities. Divers can also observe juvenile fish, sea turtles, acropora gardens, spinner dolphins, sea cucumbers, sponges and colorful Christmas-tree worms along with a plethora of other marine life.
Soft corals don’t build reefs like hard corals do; they don’t secrete calcium carbonate to create the reef structure. The primary habitat for soft coral is in reef passages or channels, which lead to and from extremely deep water and where the nutrient-rich current is moderate to heavy. Big fish, like marlin, dolphin fish, and sharks, swim the channels to take advantage of the protective shallows for breeding. Naiqoro Passage is one of the favorite channels for seeing large fish.
The ocean-side of the reef drops steeply into deep and wavy waters. This is where you can do a wall dive or drift dive along the current to even deeper waters to see the big fish like Hammerhead sharks, Humpback whales, wahoo, and migrating yellow fin tuna.
There is much more for you to discover for yourself when you explore the reef. A rainbow of stunning living beauty awaits those who swim, snorkel and dive Fiji. The Great Astrolabe Reef and its abundant soft coral and marine life will produce memories of wonder and awe to last a lifetime.