Scuba Diving off Savusavu: An Honest Guide

Scuba Diving off Savusavu: An Honest Guide

When we decided to take a scuba diving holiday “somewhere in the Pacific” Fiji immediately ranked high on our list and one island called out to us in particular. Diving off Savusavu boasted frequent hammerhead sharks, the world class Namena Marine Reserve and hints of having the soft coral capital of the world. Being only two hops away sealed the deal and we were soon booking flights from Auckland straight into the heart of the tropics.

 

What we didn’t expect was although we were on the doorstep of these magnificent places we would find ourselves facing a battle. Our dive shop (pre-booked) preferred to force us onto the bombed-out vacant house reefs rather than take us to the holy places (even if we were willing to pay!), and they did this by using the excuse that cyclone Winston had destroyed them.

 

That was crap but the house reefs do possess a hammerhead shark dive which is an epic consolation… for a day or two. After that we pushed and pushed and found out that Winston had done little destruction and an extended day trip to Namena and the Somosomo Strait lives up to the legend. It is certainly worth the wait, and even the hassle.

 

So here’s our honest view of diving off Savusavu, how it ranks compared with other dives we’ve done and a few tips thrown in for good measure.

 

‘Dreamhouse’

‘Dreamhouse’ is Savusavu’s local blue water dive that we were eager to drop into. It’s the only decent local dive site and is barely 15minutes putter from the dive shed. Within its football field shaped reef is a school of 250+ scalloped hammerheads who are year round residents. What’s incredible is that if they happen to ascend from their depths to 30m you are likely to get a good sighting. You’re not guaranteed to see them of course but you’ve got great odds if you are prepared to give it a couple of tries. The owner of our dive operation didn’t seem confident in reading his tide charts but we get the gist that an outgoing tide will give you the best hammerhead sightings alongside schooling pick handle barracudas and a heap of predatory fish too!

 

Note: Our dive team have even seen tiger and bull sharks here but it’s not common.

 

Diving off Savusavu fiji - hammerheads Dreamhouse

 

We spent 3 dives at ‘Dreamhouse’ and were incredibly fortunate. On one dive we saw no hammerhead, on one a rogue solitary hammerhead was extremely agitated and curious and on another the school rose up from the depths to 30m and we were circled by 20-30 hammerheads for over a minute. During the dives at ‘Dreamhouse’ we regularly saw big reef sharks and large school of barracuda. It really is a very special place.

 

Note 2: Push for a double day dive at ‘Dreamhouse,’ our dive operator didn’t want to waste the time on a longer surface interval and took us to a terribly barren place. The following day, when we had local dive staff they were keen and our second dive at dream house gave us the schooling sighting of hammerheads! Yes, we are pushy gremlins 😛

 

Currents: Mild

Depth: 30m

Dive style: Blue water dive

Visibility: Varies between 15m-30m

Prue and Becks Score: 9/10

 

Diving off Savusavu fiji - Hammerheads, Dreamhouse

 

‘Namena Marine Reserve’

Namena Marine Reserve is the closest dive Becks and I have ever had to swimming in the film set of Finding Nemo. ‘That was like massaging the soul’ Becks confessed as she surfaced from the longest, most beautiful safety stop at ‘Grand Central.’ Namena Marine Reserve is 21 Nautical miles south of Savusavu requiring a 1.5 hour boat ride. Some of the coral fringes of Namena Island was horrifically blasted by the recent cyclone as was, bess it, the entire island. There were rumours while we were here that its reefs had been destroyed and so it was tough to convince our dive company to take us out there but I am glad we pushed. Honestly we can tell you that Namena Marine Reserve, despite what damage it has endured by the cyclone, has one of the best, most colourful and vibrant ecosystems we’ve ever seen.

 

Diving off Savusavu fiji - Namena Marine Reserve

 

Descending down onto a sheer wall with 40m+ visibility was the dramatic entrance that welcomed us to ‘Grand Central.’ It’s dive site name describes the hustle and bustle of fish compared to Grand Central station. The name couldn’t be more fitting. Damsels, wrasses, basslets and anthias zipped about the wall which plummeted far beyond our vision. Pink, purple and yellow soft corals adorned the wall which housed shy gobies, nudibranchs, hawkfish and many other things I know I didn’t have the chance to spy. I have an excuse, I was constantly distracted by the 5 reef sharks patrolling the ledge of the wall and one of the divers even spotted a scalloped hammerhead off in the blue. Huge tuna scoured the depths and mackerel lurked close by ready to strike at any unsuspecting fish. We’re told mantas frequent the area and to be honest, it’s a dive site that at peak tidal change would explode into a feeding frenzy. I would definitely like to come back for that. As our bottom time whittled down our course changed away from the wall and up onto the sandy plateau where huge coral pinnacles protruded towards the surface. These bommies were extremely vibrant and active so we spent the rest of the dive slowly circling upwards to finish on top for our safety stop. An awesome dive!

 

Diving off Savusavu fiji - Namena Marine Reserve

 

Rumour had it that ‘Chimneys,’ a renown dive site in Namena Marine Reserve, had been destroyed but as we dropped in on the first of the two chimneys everyone relaxed. It was spectacular. Each of the chimney’s is like a Christmas tree which has been indulgently decorated by a bunch of over excited children with unlimited supplies. Soft corals dripped from every ledge, gorgonian sea fans protruded from bumps and whip corals grew out from all the nooks; it was as if the chimney’s had celebrated Holi and had held on to all the vibrancy and colour. In all the nooks there would be anemones, nudies, pipefish, sea spiders, squat shrimp, cleaner shrimp and all the other eyes that poke out from the dark holes. The sea life close to the bommie was playful with pinks, blues, purples and oranges of flashing colour darting to and fro. Further from the wall rainbow runners danced, silversides whirled and the iridescent fusiliers frolicked in the soft surge. Beyond that small silver mackerel and blue fin trevally were continually playing chase creating a momentum and liveliness to the schools of colourful fish. Exploring the two chimney’s was an absolute delight and will go down as one of the prettiest and most healthiest ecosystems we’ve ever seen.

 

Currents: Mild-Strong

Depth: 15m-40m

Dive Style: Walls, coral pinnacles

Visibility: Varies between 15m-30m

Prue and Becks Score: 10/10

Similar dives on a 40m visibility day: 1. Richelieu Rock, Similan Islands, Thailand. 2. Manta Point, Pemba, Tanzania. 3. Keruo Channel, Raja Ampat, Indonesia

 

Diving off Savusavu fiji - Namena Marine Reserve

 

 

‘White Wall’ and ‘Fingers’ in Somosomo Strait

Off the shores of Taveuni lies ‘Rainbow Reef,’ an elongated reef system which claims the ‘White Wall’ as it’s premier site. If you speak to anyone about diving in Fiji, the ‘White Wall’ will be on the tip of their tongue as it’s known to house the best soft coral in the world. With an introduction like that, it was obvious that we we’re willing to fork out a little extra for fuel to get us the 30 nautical miles east from Savusavu. Convincing our dive centre was tough but with an extra diver wanting to joint plus an added $50AUD each we were on our way to the shores of Taveuni.  

 

Diving the ‘White Wall’ requires a little planning on current. Too much and you’ll whip through the dive too quickly, too slow and the soft coral polyps would have already retracted. Jumping into the stunning azure reef system, we were immediately guided to a wide chimney passage leading down to the max depth of 30m. The swim through was fantastic and we were surprised how intact the gorgonian sea fans were and how abundant the soft corals were in such a well dived area. This was the favourite part of my dive and better yet, it’s often you get to do this passage twice.

 

Diving off Savusavu fiji - Somosomo Strait, Rainbow reef, the white wall

 

We were a little late arriving and reached the wall at slack tide so at the beginning we got to see the magnificent purple, white and red corals fluffy catching the last of the nutrients from the passing water but by the end most of the polyps had retracted leaving an astonishingly stark wall behind. Off in the blue we saw a few big grey reefs, barracuda and tuna while up close it’s all about enjoying the abundance of soft coral. Very very pretty indeed.

 

Note: One of the divers we met on our way out to Namena dived ‘White Wall’ a few days before us and saw a 4.5m tiger shark. HOLEY MOLEY!

 

Currents: Mild-Strong

Depth: 15-30m+

Dive Style: swim throughs, wall dive

Visibility: Varies between 15m-30m

Prue and Becks Score: 8/10

 

 

Diving off Savusavu fiji - Somosomo Strait, Rainbow reef, the white wall

 

 

‘Purple Garden’, ‘Turtle Alley’, ‘Dungeons and Dragons’, ‘Cathedral’, ‘Devils Hideout’

These are all local dive sites, a 10-20minutes drive from Savusavu. I’m not sure what the dive sites were like before cyclone Winston but these are extremely bombed out and we seriously wouldn’t recommend them. The fish life is poor, the coral cover is poor and other than a couple of leaf scorpion fish and some anemone’s there isn’t much to see. Although we must admit, Turtle alley offers an almost guaranteed sighting of Hawksbill and green turtles- we saw loads!

 

Note: I’ve never aborted a dive before due to boredom. I did at ‘Devils Hideout’ – Shocking diving!

 

Currents: Mild-None

Depth: 8m-25m

Dive Style: swim throughs, sloping reef, rock pinnacles

Visibility: Varies between 15m-30m

Prue and Becks Score: 1/10

 

 

STRAIGHT ON DETOUR WARNING:

We dived with KoroSun Dive, after 5 days of diving we did get to do everything we wanted but were exhausted from fighting the management every step of the way to get us to the places we wanted (even if we were willing to pay extra!). My experience diving with this company was terrible and I’ve never seen a more disorganised, uninspired, unsafe and RUDE dive centre. No joke, there was no oxygen nor first aid kit taken on any of their boats, owners yelled at staff in front of us but then again, barely spoke a pleasantry to us either. I have been fun diving for 7 years, have worked in the industry for 4 years and have never seen anyone else come close to their lack of respect for guests nor lie about the state of the reef because they couldn’t be bothered to go.

 

Diving off Savusavu fiji - Somosomo Strait, Rainbow reef, the white wall
White Wall, Rainbow Reef

 

STRAIGHT ON DETOUR ADVICE:

My advice for anyone diving off Savusavu is to book your accommodation and diving separately. Approach all the dive companies in the area and accompany the trips that suit you and the dive sites you want to visit. Even better, go to the local pub and meet up with other divers and approach a company as a group for bit of muscle. Oh and avoid the local reefs bar ‘Dreamhouse’ at all costs.

 

How much does it cost Diving off Savusavu?:

For a 2 dive day the cost is upward of $270FJD for local house dives incl. ‘Dreamhouse.’ For 3 days of 2 tank dives at the local reefs it’s $770FJD. Be prepared to pay upward of $350FJD per day to get out to Nemena Marine Reserve or Somosomo Strait for a double dive.

 

 


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Written by

Prue Sinclair is a twenty-eight year old Aussie who for the past seven years has been exploring the furthermost reaches of the World. Living anywhere but her homeland, she now resides somewhere in the UK where she writes about the adventures of her Ultimate British Road Trip. Her message is simple: You can get anywhere on any budget, you just need to think outside the box. You can trust she's finding her way to somewhere lesser-known and writing a 'How To' guide.

16 Comments
  • Wira says:

    Hi Guys,

    I came across your website when researching about fiji n savusavu, we’re going there this coming july and august and will spent about a week in savu savu. At the moment i’m deciding on who to go with for diving there. Recently I have been writing articles of my trips for the local publications and really want to maximised my chance of seeing hammerhead and the coral reefs of Namena marine reserve and somosomo strait (is this a totally different divesite altogether or is a part of the Namena marine reserve ?) . Did u also go with other dc than the one you went with in savusavu or hear experiences of others going with other dc there ? Thanks for the info. This is a very helpful and comprehensive article, thanks for sharing !

    • Hey Wira,
      I’m sorry I haven’t got back to you sooner we’ve been road tripping without wifi the past few weeks.

      Yes the hammerhead dive is a local blue dive called Dreamhouse. Namena marine reserve is a 1.5hr boat ride from these local dives but is totally worth every penny. So if you would want to incorporate both areas you would need at least 2 days diving. 1 day at the local reefs to try and catch hammerheads (ask for the possibility of doing a double dive at dreamhouse) and then one day out at Namena marine reserve (weather permitting of course). The Somosomo strait is different again and is 30NM from the local reefs at Savu savu and takes a good few hours to get there by boat. If you have a bit of time I would recommend catching the bus to Taveuni which is the local area around Somosomo. There is lots of incredible diving to be had in this area and if you come all the way from Savusavu in one day there is only a possibility of 2 dives due to time and the current change.

      Hope I’ve cleared up a few things for you,

      Have fun diving Savu savu!!!

      xx

  • So glad I’ve found this article! We are off to Savusavu this weekend and were looking at Koro Sun so this is very helpful advice! We can’t wait to explore the area though, definitely taking on board what you have said. I know Cyclone Winston has done a lot of damage in certain areas so we hope to be able to get to some great dive sites in the area. Thanks for this!

    • Juliette, we are super jealous you are going diving off Savusavu this weekend! We really did have some INCREDIBLE dives despite the company and the oomph we needed to push them to get us out to the good spots. Have a ball and let us know if you loved it as much as we did.
      P.s glad we could write something that you found useful 🙂

      x Prue and Becks

  • lisamay says:

    Thanks for the great post. I snorkled Namena reef a few years ago and now that I’m certified it’s been on my short ‘bucket list ‘ to get back to for a dive. Very helpful…thank you.
    Where did you stay?

    • Hey Lisamay,

      Thanks for getting in touch. What a place to have snorkelled. I can seriously see why you loved it so much out at Namena, it’s a perfect spot to snorkel. I’m not exactly sure what is was like before cyclone Winston but we found the reef truly magical and would recommend you get back there to dive. How exciting!

      We stayed at Daku Resort. It’s ~USD$140 per night and it was only a 15min walk to town which was handy. There are cheaper options in town eg. a budget lodge for $50 a night and some home stays but for a simple bungalow with a handy location we felt Daku was pretty good going.

      x Prue

  • Awesome post. Love your very honest evaluation of the dive company. And I know if you guys said it, it has to be true. Hope to go to Fiji soon.

    • Thanks for reading. WE’ve got a little more we want to write about SAvusavu as a whole. It really is a dive destination. I hope you get to Fiji soon too. How’s the southern hemisphere plans going? Fancy joining us in Tonga?

      X Prue and BEcks

  • agnesstramp says:

    I did diving once, but girls, I really wanna do it again! Thanks for awesome tips!

  • Wow, that kind of attitude from a dive center is inexcusable! Are they intentionally chasing away business? Or trying to get extra money out of you?

    • I know right?!!! We were thinking the exact same thing. They new we were upset and instead of working with us on what we wanted they were just filthy that we wanted something different from what they were offering…. It wasn’t was if we weren’t offering more money to pay either! Geez, crazy crazy people.

      The best part is we’ve heard reports that they have been back out to the good reefs a couple of times after we left and are raving about how unaffected from the cyclone it is!! At least their next customers might find it easier stetting out there. haha

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

      Prue

  • Kristi says:

    Amazing pictures and a solid facts. Thanks for the adventure ladies!

  • I think you’ve very brave to not be terrified of the hammerheads… I’ve never swum with big sharks like that. I love Becks’ soul massage comment- I know exactly what she means with that one. Sorry about the shoddy management, it sounds like a nightmare. The people are generally super friendly on Fiji, but we did have an issue in our hostel in Nadi- i broke a pipe somehow, told the manager, he was watching the rugby and it resulted in the flooding of the entire top floor. There was a waterfall down the stairs! Anyway, a story for another time. I’m glad you had a holiday! Sounds like you’ve deserved it. 🙂

    • I don’t think you would be Katie! I’m afraid of big sharks too but when you’re actually with them, you notice how uninterested they are in you and it makes things easier. When we were surrounded by hammerheads not once was I afford, I just wanted to keep up with them as I watched on in Awe.

      What a story you have there Katie, hahaha I love how the manager was adamant to stay and watch the Rugby! hahaha. Yeah it was a bit of a shame about the management but we got to the spots we really wanted to go so that’s really all that matters. I was so excited to take Becks to Fiji, I was there many many years ago for a while and fell in love with the future, people and the food. She loved it!

      How’s Calais? Heading back?

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Hi we're Prue and Becks, travel writers and photographers who have been travelling the world together since 2012. Without taking ourselves too seriously, we divulge the lesser known, out of the way places and give you the tools to replicate it. Want to know more? Click on our pic.