Diving in paradise at Toberua, Fiji
Contributed by BecS
After a long haul flight from London via Bangkok, and another from Sydney,
Brisbane and Nadi, our small charter plane arrived in Suva around six o'clock
in the evening. Suitably exhausted our spirits were soon revived when we were
happily greeted by our taxi driver, which was arranged for us. We were on our
way to the boat jetty, which would in turn take us to Toberua, the island off
the eastern tip of Viti Levu where we were staying for the next seven days.
was dark by then. Not having travelled to Fiji before we were not quite sure
what our journey entailed. The boat snaked its way through dark passages, under
bridges and past thick forests of mangroves. It felt like the Mekong! It was
actually the Navuloa River. Sai, our steady, silent steersman gradually took
us into the open ocean, guided by what seemed to be sea legs and intuition.
The air was exhilarating. As we ushered past faint rims of darkness to our right,
Sai indicated to a part of the coast, which was in fact his village. We would
spend an afternoon there with the villagers later that week. Half a dozen or
so lights beckoned not long after and Sai pointed to Toberua to let us know
we were almost there. The island was so small! A tiny dot compared to all that
we had passed in our view from the plane. A little piece of paradise as it would
Our hosts greeted us warmly at the jetty: the manager, dive instructor, three
serenaders, other staff, and even some guests came down to see who it was arriving.
Both Kit and I were still jetlagged and slightly overwhelmed at the welcome.
A small kava ceremony was given to us and after a brief tour and chat we made
our way to dress for dinner. This time of evening was, we discovered, where
the heart of the island lies. The time when both guests and locals come together
to collectively spend time assessing each other's day. More on that later.
is 4 acres at high tide, and 20 acres at low tide. One funny story we heard
was of a guest who rose early on her first morning, donned in gym gear and water
bottle to power walk around the island and it took her only 20 mins at a stretch.
Part of its charm is that one never feels as though you are stranded, or have
a lack of privacy. Indeed it is quite the opposite. You may be walking along
only to discover other guests tucked away in hammocks. Not once did I feel imposed
The beaches are adequate stretches of sand with clear waters, which make it
easy to take a dip. Some days an easterly wind would be coming in and yet only
25 metres across the other side of the island still from wind and drenched in
sun. I found this remarkable. A blessing in that these South Easterly winds,
together with the excellently landscaped grounds, prevent insects from arriving
onto the island - another pleasantry. I did not see a single mosquito!
Local Fijians operate Toberua, which instantly makes you feel as though you
are staying with hospitable friends, rather than staying at an impersonal resort.
Each day a couple of activities are loosely planned for your choosing, diving
(of course), fishing, beach golf (on the 16 extra acres of reef at low tide,
and the only resort to do so), and complimentary expeditions to the Village,
Bird Island, and boat trips to reefs for snorkelling.
Daily volleyball matches with staff, and plenty of ongoing things you can do
to while away the hours like mini golf around the grounds' paths, or sailing.
Kit and I were thinking at first that we would never do all those things, but
we managed quite a lot of activities as well as a dive almost each day! Which
brings me to the scuba experience.
is important that I mention now that it had been quite a while since my last
dive. Living and working in London has prevented me from annual trips to the
easily accessible diving sites around Australia so even my Advanced status was
a bit of a laugh My last dive being in Fethiye on the south west coast of Turkey
the previous year, which actually left a lot to be desired, since the azure
waters were a delight but the sea life rare. In addition to this Kit had never
dived before, so not only was I looking forward to my first South Pacific dive,
but keen to see how Kit felt about diving as well.
we could do anything of course Kit had to do his Discover Scuba introduction
in the pool with Elli the island's dive instructor. I watched on to refresh
my own skills and knowledge (and of course to take photos that might ultimately
humiliate him later). Elli took Kit through the lessons one-on-one, thoroughly
guiding him on each task that would allow him to dive accompanied by an instructor
for the next 14 days (or the next 5 days with Elli herself) as well as the insights
that would help him personally, according to his weight, swimming style, and
conditions of the destinations we would visit
The next day we headed out. Fiji's reputation as a soft coral diving
destination is not exclusive to the better-known areas of Beqa and other islands
off the Coral Coast. The gentle islands to the east of Viti Levu provide sumptuous
outcrops of reef teeming with sea life and, thank goodness, a noticeable absence
of human traffic.
We stopped at what felt like about 10 mins to the east of the island just outside
of the channel's reef, - how amazing it was to have these sites at easy
travelling distance! This was a good beginner's dive for Kit and one I
could reacquaint myself with the equipment. One great thing for us was in addition
to the instructor, the dive master (and boat driver) was a local who knew the
waters extremely well. I was beginning to get very exciting at my first pacific
dive, and it seemed I wouldn't be disappointed.
descended along a 12 metre reef wall teeming with coral. I'd never seen walls
like this even where in Malaysia. I could see Kit taking in the view and coming
to terms with the equipment, and wanting to scan the wall in greater detail
but as we reached the bottom we made our way into the open areas and that would
be mostly the type of seascape we would experience on other dives. We moved
across bommies and table top coral for the next 40 or so minutes and took in
the life. Honestly, there were too many types of fish to remember: Parrot fish,
Trumpet fish, Trigger fish, different types of Surgeons - especially the many
bright stripy sort that remind me of Ken Done paintings, large schools of Damsels
in many varieties, Moorish Idols, schools of Batfish, and varieties of Gobies
with a strange spiked Mohawk that tickled my fancy since they reminded me of
a character from a Dr Seuss story. (or maybe it was a Blennie?). At such as
shallow level we had an abundance of light and a clear 12 metre view to also
spot the occasional Nudibranch. It was a great start to Kit's diving experience
and my return to it.
next day we went to Shark Reef (much to a slight apprehensiveness due to name
only), good for both beginner and experienced from 5m to 30m. Elli assured us
that we may not see any sharks despite its name. We were lucky to! At different
depths we saw four white tip reef sharks. Another guest came along for this
dive, which meant Kit and Elli could hang around the 12 metre mark, and David
and I could go deeper to 30 metres. David had a torch and spent most of his
time with his nose under extended reefs and swim throughs looking for larger
did see two of the sharks at this depth and later we followed Kit and Elli to
a dugout reef formation with two sharks of just over 1 metre nestling in to
hide. We managed to watch them for a while, before they swam away.
The walls and outcrops here were spectacular, with fish darting in and out
as we passed. Similar fish from the previous trip including giant parrot fish,
large schools of blue and silver Fusiliers. We did see some more wrasse, of
the black with white spot sort, and sea basses with their distinctive shape
and large spots on their fins and stripy tails. Also differing varieties of
Butterflyfish with their bright colour patches of yellow, white and black and
distinctive single spot.
next day I did an advanced dive while Kit rested. We went to a spot called The
Playground, which while it is a shallow dive, it has swim-throughs and caverns
allowing us to integrate more with the topography and explore. We saw many of
the types of fish mentioned above but the difference being it was inundated
with fish. With the name of the Playground I joked that I expected it to be
just like Finding Nemo where at the end of the film the fish are all playing,
and well, it sort of was like that. The fish were out in full force and it wasn't
hard to glide effortlessly across in clear conditions over bommies more schools
of Fusiliers that I managed to get caught up in as they sailed past either side
of me. We also saw spiral anemone and much fan coral. It was intoxicating.
last dive for both Kit and I together was at Alice in Wonderland. This spot
was much the same as the previous day, although I was grateful that Kit this
time could see it. The area was an undulating expanse of soft coral with fans
and table-tops. Again many Wrasse, Fusiliers and Moorish Idols, with additional
spotting of a Hawksbill turtle, which I chased, as flirted it with me allowing
me to catch up. I tailed him around in circles of an open sandy area trying
to catch a single photo until it sped off. I thought turtles were supposed to
I did one more dive before leaving Toberua, which was the following night.
It was my first night dive and although intrigued, it made me exceptionally
nervous! Such a clear night, we'd planned to go just out from the island, this
time about 10 minutes out towards the south west side which I hadn't been to
before. The dive was shallow (about 8 metres) following the reef along one side.
It took me a while to change the way I normally assessed underwater,
which meant adapting to a small view mode instead of wide screen! Such attention
to detail was necessary to find the gems at this time of night. We managed to
see open giant clams, shrimp feeding amongst rock, crabs, lonely damsels looking
for a home for the night, and sea urchins of ridiculous appearance with long
red spikes. I managed to accidentally startle Elli by touching her on the leg
to get her attention onto the urchins. Hilarious! At one point she encouraged
me to turn off my torch and enjoy the darkness with bright phosphorous sparkles
emanating from our hands. Such fun. Surfacing to the water to a starry night
sky after such a dive was a wondrous sensation.
Toberua offer all ranges of assistance with diving. Since it is a small island
they are able to cater for single outings with knowledgeable experience, taking
divers out to sites according to their choice, amount of people, and desired
time. I've not encountered a tailored diving experience like it. Better
still, Toberua's available activities means that if you are with those
who do not wish to dive, there are plenty of other things to be doing.
All these physical activities require the body to have sustenance, and Toberua
has a progressive restaurant with exceptional dishes. The head chef, Mala, has
been catering for guests for over 30 years and continues to update the impressive
menu. He has been trained and been attached extensively in the Australasian
region, including Cassuarina Hotel in the Hunter Valley, Australia, the Observatory
in Sydney, award winning property Huka Bay Lodge in Taupo New Zealand. As well
as at the Wharekauhau Country Estate outside of Wellington. His culinary style
is modern Fijian and Pacific delicacies with Asian influences. Each lunch and
dinner is a 3 course meal offering options for starter, main and dessert.
mentioned earlier that nighttime was where the heart of the island lies. For
Kit and myself, this was true. The food was incredible and we like to eat! The
menu is catered on a per person basis, so you choose from a select menu each
day. The lunches are 3 courses and the dinners are 4. The menu is extensive,
so there is little I can say that will do it justice, but among other amazing
dishes, meals come to mind are, cheesy seafood bake, crab chowder style soup,
Walu steaks, and beef pita stacks with Asian greens.
If you can organise being there for a Saturday night, you ought to. You won't
be disappointed as the chef cooks a traditional Fijian buffet which is such
a delicacy you can only experience it somewhere such as this (we stayed at other
places after this week and the food just didn't stand a chance). American buffet
breakfast include everything you could ever want (the papaya is delicious),
if that isn't enough, morning and afternoon tea is also served. One of the most
gorgeous things about night time at Toberua are the Serenaders. A troupe of
three (or four depending on how lucky you are that day) guitarists who 'sing
you to dinner' at your bure, and while you dine. These gentlemen are truly amazing,
with tender singing voices, song choice and adaptability to a request. My heart
soared on more than a few occasions.
became apparent that tailoring a holiday experience to different needs is what
Toberua is good at, and the beauty of the good souls on that island is that
they aren't even aware of this fact. It's innate. Toberua is a perfect place
for families or groups of people who want many different things from a trip
simply because it is without doubt a superb diving holiday destination, but
Toberua is not all about diving, they cater for enthusiasts as well as dabblers.
Indeed of all the guests staying at the same time that we were, only one other
was a diver, and this made for an intimate experience for us. Upon organising
with the instructor were able to structure our dive sites and times. Even
if we wanted to go out on a single trip, they would surely cater for that too.
Toberua is a resort dedicated to relaxation. The dictionary describes relaxation
as 'a form of activity that provides a change and relief from effort, work,
or tension, and gives pleasure'. The fact that relaxation is a form of activity
in itself adequately describes the schedule of pursuits on offer at Toberua
and appears to be inherent in daily life, and the structure to which these activities
effortlessly cling to.
Our trip to Toberua was the best holiday I've ever had. It time spent in intimate
company combined with hospitality, sincerity and gentleness exampled by our
welcome in the village and church ceremony, and extended invitations to join
the locals for after work kava treats. It was witnessed in the hospitality we
received even if we went back for seconds at the buffet, post-dinner runs to
the bar for ice in our drinks, the way they left Kit and I to take in the evening
at our table well and truly after their closing, and the informal and conscientious
conversations about what we could be doing with our time. Love it...dive anyone?
From the west travel into Nadi and from there a flight (with Air Fiji or Sun
Air) to Suva. Toberua will arrange a transfer from the airport to the boat,
which will take you to the island. From the east travel to Suva and get your
transfers there. The people at Toberua can organise the taxi and boat transfer
once you have notified them of your arrival time in Suva.
There are 15 bures available on Toberua and peak season runs from 1st April
until 31st October.
booking and rate information visit their website
or contact the resort direct via email.
Big thank you to Brendan, Tracey and Hudson for your hospitality. Elli - your
patience and humour attest to your good instruction - thank you so much, also
to Len and Sai for taking us out. Zac and the boys for the tunes, you rock.
Fiona and Maciu and the others, who indulged us in the restaurant, thank you.
Chef! Truely amazing food. Maika and Mere for making us welcome in the village.