By Ray R – (New Zealand)
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 ways 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.
Comments Moved From Previous System
Nicole & Galen – Feb 13, 2018 – Thank You!
Ray, thank you for your great report about and pictures of snorkeling the Mamanuca Islands in Fiji. Looks like a great time! We have another Fiji snorkeling trip report with info on the Yasawa Islands on the site too.
Muffin – Feb 22, 2018 – Trip of a Lifetime!
Beautiful! Every year my daughter and I travel somewhere to snorkel and this is our dream trip! Thanks for sharing your experience! We plan to go in a couple of years… this year is St. Lucia.
Years past we have spent time in St. Thomas and St. John, USVI due to the easy access of snorkeling right off the beaches… We are expanding our horizons due to the hurricanes last year and many of the hotels and residences are not open still. I was hoping to go and support the recovery but we cannot find suitable accommodations there…
Ray R (NZ) – Feb 26, 2018 – Fiji Trip
Hi Muffin, glad you liked the mini report. I hope you have a great trip this year and let us know how it goes. My son and I have also done quite a few Pacific Island snorkel adventures and they are great moments.
Hope you can make it to Fiji sometime, plenty of places to chose from and I hope to do a few more in the next few years….
Joe – Mar 12, 2018 – Fiji Snorkeling
Thank you Ray, for a great article. I have been to the Mamanucas and also the Yasawas. I always enjoy reading positive Fiji experiences.
Ray R (NZ) – Mar 15, 2018 – Fiji Comments
Thanks Joe, sounds like you have been to Fiji a few times, I will be looking at another trip in the future and was thinking of the Yasawas this time – any comments on locations?
Joe B – Aug 20, 2019 – Ray R
What a great piece of work you did on this Sheraton Tokoriki trip report. I have been thinking about that resort for all the same reasons you mentioned. Thanks Ray.
Ray R – Aug 21, 2019 – Fiji Repeat 2018
Hi Joe B, glad you found the report useful.
I visited Fiji again in September 2018 but have been a bit lazy in writing it up! In summary I visited Barefoot Manta Island for a couple of days and had a wonderful time swimming with Manta Rays and snorkeling, although the logistics and weather were a bit challenging.
After that I went back for four nights at the Sheraton Tokoriki, again the Sheraton ticked all the boxes (and they remembered me as a returning guest!). The snorkeling trips visited some different places which was good and the house reef did not disappoint. I definitely recommend the Sheraton if that type of experience is what you are looking for. I would also recommend the Barefoot Manta for the unique experience but it is totally different!
Nicole and Galen – Aug 21, 2019 – More Fiji Snorkeling Ideas
Check out this page with more Fiji snorkeling ideas in the Yasawa Islands.
Gina – Nov 20, 2019 – Snorkeling Advice?
Hi Ray, I’ve just come across your very informative submission, while researching options for a Fiji snorkeling holiday. I was wondering if you could give me some advice? I’ll be traveling with my 10 and 12 year old boys – they have snorkeled a lot in Mexico (Akumal) and Thailand (Koh Ngai)- but that was in a bay, with the reef very close to shore. Do you think the house reef at the Sheraton would be suitable for kids like mine?
We prefer not to have to take boat trips if possible – that way the kids can return and play on the beach if my husband and I want to stay in the water.
We’re also open to other destinations. You mentioned Rarotonga, for example. Our two priorities are good snorkeling from the shore and a good pool (actually make that three priorities because my Canadian husband can’t last long without air conditioning!).
Thanks in advance Ray, for any advice you might have.
Ray R – Dec 1, 2019 – Fiji Snorkeling Further Comments
Hi Gina, thanks for your comments and hope you come up with a good trip plan! Sorry for the delay I think I submitted it incorrectly the first time.
As far as advice, the more snorkeling I do the more it seems to depend on your perspective as to what the information means to you. So here are some additional comments of mine, sorry if they are repeats or obvious to you!
As I mentioned the reef drop-off (where the best fish are) is 200 to 300 meters from the shore so depends on how comfortable you are with that. The jet ski patrol was good and can always give you, or your children a tow. Some days the water was very calm and would expect no issues but on others I would guess it would be challenging for that age of children. There is interesting sea life directly off the shore but smaller and not as varied as the actual reef.
I was going to add more items but they all ended up being subjective to me, but if you have anything else specific feel free to ask.
For other destinations I personally really like Rarotonga, in the Cook Islands, and have been there twice this year for snorkeling, and relaxation! For me Rarotonga has a really nice blend of island feel with a substantial amount of other activities available and many excellent restaurants, etc. It is not hotel or resort centered at all compared to the Fiji Islands. I would recommend the Rarotongan Resort for your priorities.
Snorkeling at Rarotonga is very easy with many beach areas that have some fish and hard coral but, in my opinion, only two very good areas – I enjoy these two areas a lot and continue to go back to them. Read Rays’ details about these spots on the Cook Islands snorkeling page.
However one of the areas appears to be very susceptible to sediment buildup and recent pictures are noticeably worse than two or three years ago. Whether that is temporary, seasonal or permanent I don’t know.
What did you think of Koh Ngai? I would like to go to Thailand for a mixed trip but have seen very varied reports of the snorkeling there.
Hope this has been of some help.
Kerry – Jun 22, 2020 – Honeymoon
Hey Ray, I hope you’re still out there as it’s been a few years since this post. I’m looking at going to Fiji for our honeymoon. The private couples only resort adjacent that you describe, was there a problem snorkeling there? I just wondered as you describe being advised against it? I’m close to booking and from the pictures and videos it looks like the Sheraton has a better reef. Thanks!
Ray R (NZ) – Jun 26, 2020 – Snorkeling Tokoriki Resort
Hello Kerry, sorry for the delay, I submitted a few days ago and must have made an error!
Congratulations and I am sure you will enjoy the Tokoriki Resort; it is very nice and a step or two above the Sheraton.
As for the snorkeling the reason they separate is I suspect twofold. First it is protection of their own beach and reef areas as their clientele are different, second is probably a safety issue. If you look at Google Earth there is a point between the two beach areas which is actually quite a large hill so to swim from one to the other you have to swim around this and the beach patrols would lose sight of you for some time which has some safety concerns.
The other option is you could walk to the Sheraton and use their beach but the two properties are split by a wall and there is usually an attendant on the gate. Transfer both ways is allowed for booked dinners and snorkeling trips or other water sport trips (which is worth it as they go to different islands and reefs). I’m sure if you really wanted to you could arrange to snorkel at the Sheraton.
On the snorkeling itself I would think they are very similar, to me YouTube videos can be very deceiving. From Google Earth both appear to have some nice similar drop-offs and the Tokoriki appears to have more topographical variation which could be good. The other point in the Tokoriki’s favor is that their dive shop runs a guest only guided snorkeling trip around their own property.
I hope this helps and have a great trip.
TimO – Jul 29, 2022 – Thanks for Your Write Up!
Very helpful to get a real customer’s experience for snorkeling in this area and the excursions available from the Sheraton as info is lacking on the hotel website.