Diving The Great White Wall, Fiji

Posted on June 14, 2017

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The Great White Wall is described by many as one of the must-see dive sites in the world. I first heard about it last spring while I was in Istanbul. An American woman on the news planning desk asked me if that was the reason I was going to Fiji. This led to internet research and then interrogating the locals in Fiji for the last five months until now.

The wall looks like it goes on forever, it is covered in a blanket of luminescent soft white coral – it’s totally unique. Only when the current is right and there is a high slack tide will you see this underwater alpine mountain effect and in full bloom it’s hypnotising. The coral stretches well below 30m/100ft and disappears into an abyss of deep dark blue. 

When I arrived in Taveuni I was met with panic. The dive school I had found was booked up until Friday. “Aggghh what? I can’t dive for three days? No way, I can’t be on land for a week without dipping my fins into the water!” I said to myself. Then the other bombshell. The Wall had been earmarked as a dive by a variety of operators sometime between the18-20th June. But there’s no guarantee due to weather and also diver numbers. “It’ll be a miracle if I get to do this before my ferry back,” I lamented. 

And a miracle was exactly what was handed to me. By sheer good fortune I found a dive operator, again out of my budget and booked three days of dives with them starting the following day. On Tuesday morning the first site was indeed the Great White Wall. It was decided impromptu. I was bursting with excitement and I was beside myself the whole short ten-minute boat journey. 

Rainbow Reef which is where the wall is situated is actually closer to the island I was originally on (Vanua Levu), but no dive operators visit the sites along Rainbow Reef because it is difficult to get to. The centre of that island is SavuSavu where all the hotels, restaurants and shops are. It would mean an hour or more boat journey or an hour or more drive to the south east of the island and fuel is very expensive. So divers come to Tavenui and travel by boat from the west over to the other side. 

It felt strange being on a different boat with a different dive team. Everything “same-same but different”. The SomoSomo Strait is renown for the strong currents that pass through it. Some of the diving here is not for novice divers. It can panic people as I witnessed. People go through their air too quickly and struggle to get low enough and into the swim throughs. They haphazardly grab and claw at whatever is in front of them to pull themselves in and down. I wondered why people were wearing gloves? Coral should never be man-handled and gloves sadly only invite the temptation to touch things. 

Spatial awareness also goes out of the window as does etiquette when people panic and get flustered. I was kicked in the face and stomach and narrowly avoided being knocked out by a near-miss collision with a rather large lady. It was awful. 

On one of the swim throughs I hovered at the back taking in the different abilities of each diver and pondered getting involved. The team leading were extremely experienced so I floated and bobbed and was on standby if they needed another pair of hands. They didn’t. 

The wall sadly wasn’t in full bloom on this occasion but it had patches of brilliant white dotted all over the wall that glowed. In it’s full glory I can imagine it’s almost blinding. Diving in current has in the past been something I have loathed. But since my confidence in the water has grown I have embraced it and learnt to conquer my dislikes and play to my strengths. 

The whole dive was probably the shortest I have done in Fiji due to the inexperience of everyone else, but I took it in my stride and enjoyed all 35 minutes of it. I saw soldier fish hiding in the swim throughs, white tips lazing on the sand, schools of fusiliers and red tooth trigger fish and huge fan coral. Beautiful soft purple coral and teeny tiny fish hovering in branching coral. How those guys survive is beyond me. 

I can’t wait to see more of the Rainbow Reef. Plus I hear the colours are insane. I really want to see for myself if it’s still deserving of the name the Coral Garden coined by oceanic legend Jacques Cousteau. 

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