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Dive Review of Garden Island Resort in
Fiji and Tuvalu/Taveuni

Garden Island Resort, Aug, 2012,

by James Castanino, DC, US (Sr. Reviewer Sr. Reviewer 7 reports). Report 6668.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving All over Caribbean, Indonesia, Philippines, New England (US).
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas calm, currents
Water Temp 77 to 78 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 40 to 80 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions [Unspecified]
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles 1 or 2 Whales None
Corals 5 stars Tropical Fish 4 stars
Small Critters 4 stars Large Fish N/A
Large Pelagics N/A

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter N/A Boat Facilities N/A
Overall rating for UWP's N/A Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments [None]

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 4 stars Food 3 stars
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity 1 stars
Dive Operation 2 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 3 stars
Beginners 5 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments We spent almost two weeks in Fiji, at both Garden Island (Taveuni) and Wananavu Resort(Raki Raki on Viti Levu, Bligh Waters).

Diving at both locations was excellent, quality of dive operations was dramatically different with Garden Island rating poorly.

We chose Garden Island on Taveuni primarily because it is the closest hotel to Rainbow Reef in the Somosomo Strait.

I will comment separately on the hotel and the dive operations, which in our view were of different service standards.

First, the hotel. Overall solid accommodations and incredibly nice, friendly staff. The rooms are updated and quite comfortable. We stayed in a "spa" room which is on the ground level, with a nice patio overlooking the strait. The kitchen staff does a good job, especially considering the relatively remote location. Staff, especially in the restaurant, went out of their way to learn our names, preferences, etc.

Hotel is in a beautiful location, right on the water, and watching sunset every day is a highlight. There is no beach but there is a pool and a nice sandy area with lounge chairs.

The hotel was pretty quiet while we there. This was a good thing, because our impression was that, due to the layout of the rooms (all in one building) and limited size of the restaurant, it would have felt quite crowded if the place had been full.

We spent a day hiking the Lavena coastal walk and the waterfalls at Bouma, both highly recommended (although we felt this outing was significantly overpriced at Garden Island, especially when we saw pricing for similar outings at Wananavu, a nicer overall resort).

The diving. In terms of location and access to Rainbow Reef, no question Garden Island is ideally located and we dove there every single day (15 minute boat ride to most sites). Surface interval either on beautiful beach or on the boat. Typically back for lunch around 1pm. Diving conditions ranged from dead calm with no current to a bit choppy with fairly strong currents, which were more challenging for my dive partner as a new diver.

Reefs very healthy, beautiful soft corals (make sure to dive Great White Wall) and amazing variety of small tropic fish especially in the shallower areas, nudibranchs, other small critters. White tip sharks on every dive, but aside from a single turtle over 10 dives, no "big" stuff (Zero rays, no pelagic fish. We got the sense at both Taveuni and Wananavu that the big stuff in Fiji has been fished pretty hard).

The dive operation at Garden Island was a real disappointment, and due to the way this is managed I doubt we would return.
-DM's could hardly be bothered to interact with divers. Boat was not full, max day was 6 divers. One DM in particular, with whom we dove all week, seemed annoyed to have to dive at all. Not the vibe you want on a vacation.
-Operation is advertised as "full service," which is a joke. I had to change my own tank several times. Staff couldn't be bothered to help my girlfriend off the boat with her gear, despite fact that we were often the only divers on the boat. Instead, I did it myself. Thanks, guys...
-Several instances of inadequate safety and inadequate attention to proper dive procedures:
No oxygen on boat.
Nitrox tanks being used for air.
Tanks repeatedly coming loose on the boat with regulators landing on the deck. O-rings on tanks had to be changed literally every day.
DM insisted that my dive partner, a new diver, insert 12 lbs weight zipped into her BC pockets (not a weight-integrated BCD) because they forgot to bring a weight belt from the dock (of course they don't keep any extras on the boat...). I insisted they make the 5 minute trip to the dock to get a belt and they were annoyed.
Never had a proper briefing re safety procedures. We were not confident that the staff had any idea what to do in case of emergency or were properly trained.

I rated this operation a "1" for environmental sensitivity for the following specific reasons:
-One two occasions, DM's grabbed puffer fish and made them inflate to show the divers. This is stressful for the fish and not appropriate.
-DM squeezed a sea cucumber until its guts came out. Literally.

These were two different DM's and neither seemed to have any sense that this is unacceptable behavior. Worse, the hotel manager was present and witnessed both events and seemed entertained. I mean, REALLY??? I truly regret that I didn't say anything at the time.

Also concerning: The hotel manger (mentioned above) was on our boat for two days of diving. This person is recently-certified (less than 10 dives), having just moved to Fiji. The manager seemed to have absolutely no idea that anything was wrong with the operation (how could he, it's the only operation he has known!). One has to wonder what is going on here...

Bottom line: In terms of diving, you have to decide whether the trade off in terms of location and access to Rainbow Reef is worth dealing with the Garden Island dive op. I say probably not, especially if your group is less-experienced. I have read other, positive reviews of this operations, and perhaps we were unlucky, etc., but I don't think that is the case. Other divers shared our concerns and the problems here seem to be systemic. I have seen many dive operations and this one just does not make the grade.
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Subscriber's Comments

By tarakauai at Sep 25, 2012 22:22 EST  
They must have the save DMs they did 14 years ago! Incredibly rude, not even basic diving courtesy....and I got the same, "get in the boat yourself" attitude. At lunch, and during the donning periods, the staff could not be bothered to speak with us.
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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