Nature at its best – The Garden Island of Taveuni

Posted on June 20, 2017


It’s been an incredible week here in Taveuni. The island is far from cheap and is unsurprisingly filled with honeymooners and surprisingly impoverished American and European students all volunteering and wearing inappropriate clothing more suited to Ibiza. 

Trying to stay here on a budget has been a challenge. Diving has been my biggest splurge but it’s been worth every penny. I am so glad I decided to get over here and the underwater world is incredible. 

Taveuni has some very advanced diving. First off the water is colder than across the Somosomo strait. Even in a 5mm I was shaking like a leaf after an hour in the water and had to wear a shortie (short sleeved and short legged wet suit) on top of my full length for my second tank dive. All the dive masters wear hoods!! Then there’s the current. It’s some of the most challenging diving I have experienced but what a thrill.  

The current brings in nutrients for the biodiversity to thrive and it does. Hard and soft coral sit juxtaposed across the ocean floor. Shades of purple, pink, yellow and red coral look like jellied sweets. Huge hard coral structures completely in tact create the most magnificent silhouettes as the sunbeams try their best to slice through the water illuminating them. Thousands of sand eels poke their slender bodies out of the ocean bed. Their heads curved like unlikely ocean umbrella handles. Then there’s the famous blue ribbon eel. The close relative of the Moray, but smaller and electric blue. The pelagic fish also thrive in these waters and they are in abundance. 

On one dive while clinging onto a rock against the current I watched in awe as sharks, giant trevelly, Spanish mackerel, and tuna circled all around me. The trevally were so large and so tame they swam right along side me which was a little freaky. Their size and speed were unbelievable. Rainbow runners in their hundreds passed me tightly-packed creating a fish-curtain that looked like it was being pulled across the big blue. I was amazed at the life everywhere. The supporting act were of course the butterfly fish, groupers and anthias which darted in and out of the coral encrusted wall i was shielded against. After the spectacle died down i let go of the rock and like a rollercoaster i was swiftly picked up and tossed over the wall like a ball. Dumping my air and angling my body I sped quickly and horizontally. Timing is everything. At the top of the wall I made a sharp turn to slow down to readjust my buoyancy and direction. The days have flown by being underwater and I can’t believe I only have two more dives left in Fiji before I leave this week. Where have those months gone? 

Getting around on the island has been an issue especially if you’re alone and can’t share the cost. Most people hire cars or use taxis. Neither of these opinions were economical for me. Everything is spread out on the island. Even though there is only one road that runs the length of the island it is long. I had contemplated walking but a three hour walk one way in the hot sun is a bit much even for me. So like in Hawaii it’s one of the few places where I have felt totally comfortable hitch hiking. I’ve turned down rides from single men and trucks packed with male workers. But happily jumped in with Fijian families, couples and the elderly. I even managed to befriend a wonderful Muslim cab driver who would on some mornings collect me while he picked up a number of rides along the way so that all our journey would be cost effective. Bonus! 

The bus here runs as slow as those in East Africa. I’ve waited up to three hours for a bus to get home. There are exactly three buses in a day – morning (7am), afternoon (2pm) and evening (4.30pm is the last). But these are approximate times. When it shows up is anyone’s guess. Patience is needed when travelling locally. It’s roughly $3 FJ a ride so you can’t complain. 

Yesterday I decided it was time to spend some time on land. I awoke early when the entire island was still sleeping and hitched a ride down to the south of the island to find the 180º Meridan Line. Taveuni is the only place other than the far eastern tip of Russia where this longitude line passes through the land. It marks the end of one calendar day and the beginning of another. I took great pleasure straddling today and yesterday simultaneously. Then after waiting with more patience than the Pope for the bus I rode it to Bouma National Heritage Park. The rainforest is breathtaking and there are no dangerous animals or insects in there to harm you. The wildlife reserve is jammed with birds and jaw dropping flora. The hike I did was to the Tavoro Waterfalls. There are three waterfalls spread out across the climb which is muddy and steep. By the time you reach the third fall you’re drenched in sweat and a swim in the clear, smooth, crystal water is extremely inviting. Even for whimps like me. I won’t lie, it’s freezing but the initial shock subsides quickly and the thunderous sound of the water is hypnotic and magical and a brilliant distraction. 

Taveuni is called the Garden Island and its nature is one of the most beautiful places I have visited in the world. I fly back to the main land in a few hours. Smoke, dust and chaos await. The bonus will be ground coffee and great food in some fab restaurants. My Fijian journey is slowly winding down and I’ll treasure my five months of living here as one friend put it, “it’s been filled with plenty of drama and beauty,”.