Tavenui is known as the Garden Island. Forested mountains, shrouded with cloud, cascade into the ocean. The turquoise blue waters of the Somosomo Strait envelope the colourful Rainbow Reefs. When Terri and Alan set up Paradise Tavenui they took a run-down backpackers and turned it into an exceptional resort.
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Paradise Taveuni feels like a village. That's the capacity of the resort (16 bures), plus a few visiting yachts moored outside. From the moment you arrive you're part of the family. Snorkelling, diving lovo (barbecue in the ground among banana leaves) meals, luxury spa ... it has it all. And the cost? Including flights to Fiji, about the same as a week on Heron Island in the Great Barrier Reef. If you love snorkelling and diving, this is a place you need to go!
It is essentially a dive resort but it's also perfect snorkelling. If diving is not your thing, you can stay anyway, and swap diving for lots of great day-trip options such as waterfall and village visits, birdwatching etc.
Or maybe learn to dive with a qualified PADI instructor.
But no trip would be complete without a snorkel or two. The currents are very mild here so it's a great place for kids and beginners to explore and see an exceptional variety of sea creatures.
The most important feature is the resort's house reef. This means a reef situated right on the doorstep. There are no other resorts on Taveuni that have this. Turtles, reef sharks, ribbon eels, octopus, pipefish, garden eels, frogfish and more. All of these we saw within seconds of snorkelling off the steps just below the restaurant.
The reef itself is in really good condition. It descends from about 1.5m deep to 20m and beyond. But there are substantial areas of reef top near the surface along a good few hundred metres of coastline. All along the coastal edge are holes with lionfish, octopus and morays.
Daily boat trips take divers and snorkelers out into the Somosomo Strait. Many of these visit the world famous Rainbow Reef. For divers the drawcard is the great 'White Wall'. The reef tops are a deluge of colour and fish abundance.
The laughter is the thing that will stick in your mind most of all though. The staff are delightful. Within minutes of guests arriving, as the staff put on a 'Fiji night', concierge Flo recited the names of all 65 guests.
We had a simply wonderful time.
There are several flights a day to Matei from Nadi. From there you are picked up. For the more adventurous, there is an early morning ferry from Natuvu jetty on Vanua Levu that arrives in Waiyevo. Most of the journey is on dirt roads and if it's wet, you'll need a driver with 4WD. We got a taxi because it was dry, but that's not common as there are frequent tropical downpours.
Writer, photographer and founder of Wildiaries
Simon has been studying and observing wildlife for over 40 years and for about 30 of that, writing stories, taking photographs and making short films. His observations and experience extend to travelling extensively through Australia and eastern Indonesia discovering new and exciting travel opportunities, as well as contributing to science and conservation. Simon is passionate about conservation and the impact travel can have on the lives of people in remote places.