A Garden Island and the Soft Coral Capital of the World
A coconut plantation in the 19th century, Taveuni, Fiji’s lushest and third largest island, earns its nickname as the Garden Island, boasting the largest population of indigenous plants and animals in the South Pacific. The towering spine of peaks reaches 4,000 feet, some of the highest in Fiji, and its fertile volcanic soil supports and explains the thick tropical flora.
Flying north from Fiji’s more populated and developed island of Viti Levu is like flying back fifty years in time. A string of small, traditional villages along the western side is home to easygoing, friendly Fijians, who greet Western visitors (no longer a novelty) with a warm, heartfelt welcome.
But it’s the world-famous dive sites in the narrow Somosomo Straits separating Taveuni and Vanua Levu that have put this area of Fiji on the travel map, offering a riotous profusion of soft coral reefs and the endless varieties of fish they attract. Premier diving sites are the 20-mile-long Rainbow Reef and the Great White Wall – Taveuni’s Mount Everest of reefs – but local dive operators will take you farther afield to sites with no names that can be even more magnificent.
Taveuni Island Resort, a small hotel run by New Zealand couple Ric and Do Cammick, is the island’s top land operation. Their seven bluffside bures command a magnificent view of the straits, but nothing compared to what you’ll see down under. Every day, divers can gear up at one of the nearby dive operations for the dive of a lifetime. An afternoon return leaves time for a trip to the island’s 180th meridian – the international date line – where you can stand with one foot in today and one in tomorrow.