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

AquaTrek/Garden Island, Apr, 2003,

by Peter J Maerz, FL, USA . Report 577.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 4 stars Food 3 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving 1 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 2 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments My 10-hour direct flight to Fiji on a musty, cramped Air Pacific 747 would have been a breeze since it was less than half-booked, but for the fact that I opted for an exit row seat. Yes, it allowed for 5 feet of leg room but the seatbacks were rigid! By the time I was ready to head off to sleep and noticed this, the center section was filled with passengers lying across the seats asleep. Be warned!
After watching the sun come up at Nandi airport, by now fully renovated, I grabbed my Sun Air flight to Taveuni. It's a visually stunning flight with one stop in gorgeous SavuSavu. Once on Taveuni, the "airport transfer" is about a half-hour trip down a beautiful coastal road to the Garden Island Resort. As I stepped into the "lobby", I was greeted by a view out through the open air dining terrace that took my breath away. Beyond the resort pool was an expanse of gleaming blue water and then the lush mountains of southern Vanua Levu beyond. No beach there, mind you, but the view never ceased to fill me with wonder and pleasure during my stay.
From the moment I walked in to reception to the time I left, every clerk, server, maintenance person and dive operation employee greeted me by name at each meeting and usually enquired as to how I was enjoying my stay. I found Fijians in general to be the most welcoming, genuinely friendly, happy and loving folks I've EVER come across in my travels.
The rooms at the Garden Island are basic motel quality but more than adequate: a separate table and two chairs, a desk perfect for working on camera or laptop, LOADS of storage space in big open, bin-like shelves, the same fantastic views as from the dining terrace, nice porches, fairly large bathrooms with powerful showers. It's a short walk from most of the rooms to the AquaTrek dive shop, itself just a couple of feet from the boat ramp/dock. From there you're dinghyed to the AquaTrek dive boats, all-aluminum with plenty of room to gear up and a one-person size platform for stride entries. From day one, all gear is handled, set up and THOROUGHLY cleaned and stored by the crew. There are separate rinse tanks for cameras, masks, and wetsuits (this tank with sanitizing detergent). Again, everything is rinsed by the crew, including wetsuits. These are hung up to dry in the shop which, though locked up overnight, is well ventilated enough to thoroughly dry the suits. Booties are stored on mesh racks and dry well also. Plenty of water on board and cookies and fruit for surface intervals.
Trips to the dive sites run, on average, about 20 minutes, the longest, maybe 40 minutes. The diving in the Somosomo strait: just incredible. This was my first Pacific experience, my previous diving limited to the Caribbean, though I've dived almost all the islands there and down into Central America's Atlantic side. So, much of the fish life was new to me. Regardless, the density, profusion, color and variety of both fish life and corals was mind-blowing! As advertised, soft corals are draped almost everywhere. They come in every color of the rainbow and some that would be hard to find on any artist's pallette. Among and around them, clouds of basletts, damsels and other small fish hang in the current. Lionfish--common. Titan triggers--plenty. Nudibranchs---ranging from 2 inches to literally the size of a doormat! Coral trout, the beautiful Regal Angel, wrasses, ghost pipefish...just look in a pacific Reef Fish book and you'll find them all in the strait. Vis was great, but, as many have mentioned, look out for the currents! It's in these currents that most of the "action" is: those fish and soft corals just hover imotionless in the breeze sucking down nutrients. But we mortals must try to negotiate sometimes mild and sometimes absolutely ripping currents by descending or swimming behind an outcropping or the pinnacle itself, finning like mad or sometimes just grabbing on to something (dead of course!).
All the dives are expertly and consciensciously guided, however, and these guys (just one woman DM who didn't dive with us) know these waters, tides and currents. They try to choose sites where the current is strong enough to bring out the good stuff without sending their divers to Australia. And they know where to find that good stuff as well. They're certainly not breathing down your neck; you're pretty much free to dive your own dive, but they're there if you need them and want them and they offer very good pre-dive briefings as well. Favorite Dives: Annie's Bommie, Blue Ribbon (yes, the eel awaits you), the fabled Great WHite Wall.
Liesurely, hour-long surface intervals are taken on spectacular, Robinson Crusoe islands, usually deserted, with vast thatches of soaring palms, dense undergrowth and pristine white sand coves with plenty of shade in which to escape the soldering iron sun.
Dock departures are between 8:30 and 9:00am and you're generally back on shore by 1:30 or so, plenty of time to make it to the terrace for lunch. Food at the Garden Island, as has been reported before, is plentiful. I must say, though, that, to my pallette, the food was not so hot. Lots of gloppy sauces, cheese and a fair amount of oil. The Breakfast buffet opens at 7:00am. Don't order a cooked breakfast unless you want to risk having to rush to make the dive boat. Fiji time, as in many island cultures, is s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d o-u-t.
Don't miss the hike to the natural "waterslide". If you go on a Sunday, you'll meet dozens of extremely friendly local folks who'll invite you to "ride" with them. It's a blast!! ENJOY!

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 101-250 dives
Where else diving Bahamas, Bonaire, Dominica, Guadaloupe, Guanaja, Little Cayman, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, plus over 100 dives in Southeast Florida, where I live
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas currents
Water Temp 80-82°F / 27-28°C Wetsuit Thickness 5
Water Visibility 60-100 Ft/ 18-30 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions No Deco diving.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks None Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles None Whales None
Corals 5 stars Tropical Fish 4 stars
Small Critters 4 stars Large Fish 2 stars
Large Pelagics 1 stars

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

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities 4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 3 stars Shore Facilities 3 stars
UW Photo Comments While there is no camera rinse tank on board the boat, the crew does everything in its power to protect and gently handle cameras. As a digital photographer, I can't comment on film processing. I brought my laptop which I felt totally safe leaving in the room and a battery charger which worked fine with a good quality transformer and outlet adapter.
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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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