My Fiji Snorkeling Trip Report December 2017
by Ray R
I wanted to share my snorkeling trip report from my visit to Fiji in December 2017.
I am a 59 year old man and I traveled alone primarily for the snorkeling. It was my first trip to Fiji (other than cruises) so I was unsure what to choose from the numerous options available and the masses of reports available on TripAdvisor, etc.
I eventually decided to stay at one place which had, I hoped, a good house reef and offered a variety of other island trips. I chose the Sheraton Tokoriki which is in the Mamanuca Island chain and stayed for eight nights. Also on the island is the upmarket Tokoriki Resort (more later) and nothing else!
The first two days I spent exploring the house reef before going on island trips. The house reef is essentially a drop-off from 3-4 meters to about 20 meters deep with numerous different topographical features of boulders, canyons, crevices, etc. It is about 1.2km long in total and from 200m to 300m from the shore.
Beach access is an easy sand beach for most of the length with some rocky areas and then a swim through or over sea grass and other vegetation which then turns to rocky sea floor before the drop-off. This can be a lengthy swim if the waves are against you but the hotel does provide a jet ski tow service to get you to and from the drop-off. I found this very useful as I would normally swim out through the grass, snorkel the drop-off then get a tow back. The jet skis were very responsibly used, always leaving though a narrow channel and picking you up outside of the drop-off so as not to disturb the fish.
The reef itself was very nice, lots of hard coral of many varieties and colors. Some soft coral in many locations along the length of the reef and quite a few anemonefish. The fish variety was excellent with too many to list including various angelfish, butterflyfish, Clown Triggerfish, boxfish, Moorish Idol, Orange-lined Triggerfish, sweetlips, Titan Triggerfish, reef and black tipped sharks, eagle and blue spotted rays, green and leatherback turtles, cornetfish, etc.
The length of the reef meant that there was always a chance of seeing new fish every swim and there were usually some larger fish, and more sharks! to be seen at the end of the day. The other surprisingly interesting aspect was the swim out through the sea grass. When the wave action was light it was very nice to relax and watch the action in the grass, there was a surprising amount of fish in this area and the ability to get very close and watch them was great. One time I was surprised when a turtle came out of the grass a meter from me and swam around me for a few minutes – fantastic!
I did not try and explore the adjacent Tokoriki Resort house reef as it was actively discouraged! The jet ski patrol would warn you if you strayed too far!
The only negative of the house reefs (and most of the island trips) is that the drop-off and most of the fish are quite a way below you, whilst the visibility was excellent everywhere, you are not able to swim amongst the fish but rather over them and looking down on them. Most of my other snorkeling has been on Rarotonga (and a few other Pacific islands) where you are swimming with the fish and can float amongst a shoal of fish – a great experience.
After the first two days I took island trips offered both by the Sheraton and the adjacent Tokoriki Resort. All the trips were by small boats and 15-20 minutes to each destination. On my trips the boats were quite empty with a max of six people on them, they were all well done with good guides.
The locations were all quite similar, with good to excellent visibility at all locations, similar fish, etc. I have included short comments of each below:
-Tavua Island: similar to house reef but a deeper drop-off, guide spotted three or four turtles for us.
-Matamanoa Island: similar to house reef but with the best and most colorful hard corals, again the guide found turtles and Clown Triggerfish.
-Castaway Island (film location): interesting on-island tour, snorkeling was more of a steep sandy/rocky beach, still a lot of fish.
-Monuriki/Monu snorkel: very similar to house reef but the boat cruised with a pod of dolphins for 10 minutes on the return trip.
-Sandbar snorkel: Drop-off similar to house reef, two turtles, snorkeling up to the sandbar was nice and you end up swimming with the many fish as the water depth decreases.
On the whole the trip was great, the weather was good – some rain but nothing to stop snorkeling!, fish variety was great, lots of colorful hard coral, some soft coral, terrific food (although expensive) and great people.
I would definitely recommend the Sheraton for a first time visit, lots of amenities at the resort and a good house reef.
Last, a few quick comments on the stay logistics. Traveling to the islands is lengthy with boat transfers after you arrive and can often involve a “wasted” night on the main island, however it is worth looking at “fast” personal boat transfers. This enabled me to stay all my time on Tokoriki Island. I deliberately arrived out of the school holiday periods and slightly off-season. The advantage was the rates were cheaper and nothing was even mildly crowded. However the hotel was empty! to the extent that some of the four restaurant options were closed and the cultural evenings were embarrassingly empty - with the performers outnumbering the guests! Having said that, everyone was terrific and the hotel staff were without fail wonderful.