Fiji, the “soft coral capital of the world”

Fiji is a cluster of more than 300 islands and over 500 tiny islets and reefs, where snorkeling can be practiced almost everywhere. It boasts a great variety of sea habitats, including shallow lagoons, barrier reefs, current-swept passages and patch reefs.

Strong, nutrient-rich waters flow throughout the network of Fiji Islands, attracting manta rays, several species of sharks, sea turtles, dolphins and whales to the area. Known as the “soft coral capital of the world”, Fiji boasts some of the most beautiful shallow reefs and coral gardens, made up of over 390 coral species.

Fiji coral reefs support over 1500 tropical fish species, some of them unique to the region. There, you’ll easily spot clownfish, angelfish, sea snakes and butterflyfish just a few steps from the beaches.

Yasawa Islands reef life snorkeling
The Yasawa islands hosts some of the richest underwater life in Fiji (left, an orangefin anemonefish, Amphiprion chrysopterus; right, a longfin batfish, Platax teira, both photographed at Naqalia Lodge).

On Fiji’s main island of Viti Levu, Natadola Bay, just an hour drive south of Nadi, is considered the best free shore snorkeling option. This public beach, located on the Coral Coast of the island, offers great snorkeling right off the shore. Rakiraki area, on the northern tip of Viti Levu, boasts both decent shore snorkeling and short snorkeling trips to the vibrant nearby reefs. On the south coast, Beqa Lagoon is also a famous snorkeling destination.

The Mamanuca Islands, which lies some 25km west of Nadi, are easily accessed with day trips from Denarau Marina, but you may prefer to spend some days in one of the several resorts (in particular on Malolo Island) to make the most of this fantastic archipelago. Navini Island Resort, surrounded by a pristine reef sanctuary, is a renowned spot for those looking for resort island-based snorkeling.

Green sea turtle in Fiji
Green turtles encounters are frequent at Fiji’s reefs (here photographed at Naqalia Lodge).

For travelers looking for the best snorkeling spots in Fiji, don’t miss the Yasawa Chain, a small archipelago of about 20 volcanic islands laying west of Viti Levu. There, almost all islands and resorts have house reefs, but it’s worth paying extra to hop on tour boats to snorkel just offshore, where the reefs are the best preserved.

The islands of Waya, Wayasewa, Naviti and Nanuya islands are amongst the best options in the Yasawa Chain. They all give access to fantastic snorkeling spots, where snorkelers can easily encounter sharks (especially at Moyia Reef, off Kuata island) and manta rays (notably in the Manta Ray Passage, between Naviti and Drawaqa islands).

Snorkeling with sharks and manta rays in Fiji
Fiji gives fantastic opportunities to swim with big fish, like whitetip reef shark (Triaenodon obesus) and reef manta ray (Mobula alfredi) – both photographed in the Yasawa Islands.

Other exciting snorkeling hotspots in Fiji are the Namena Marine Reserve, which lies between Fiji’s two main islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. The Rainbow Reef is a wall of soft corals, located on Vanua Levu south coast. The Great Astrolabe Reef is one of the world’s longest barrier reefs, stretching for over 65km around Kadavu island.

When to go snorkeling in Fiji

Fiji can be snorkeled all through the year, thanks to a pleasant water temperature around 27°C (81°F). The wet season, from November to March, is characterized by warm temperatures (it can climb to above 30°C/86°F in December and January) and heavy, brief local showers.

A dry season, when the underwater visibility is at its best, occurs during the cooler months from May to October, but temperatures remain warm enough to enjoy snorkeling.

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