While some of Fiji’s most famous dive spots (notably around Taveuni) demand a certain level of experience (say, dealing with currents), the calmer lagoons of the Mamanucas (pronounced Mah-mah-new-tha) are a great place for would-be divers to get their fins wet. Protected by a sweeping barrier reef, the chain’s coral gardens are just as good for snorkeling as scuba diving (shark dives are available for the adventurous), and several of the islands have professional dive centers.
That dream of sailing to Tavarua and surfing Cloudbreak on a classic, double-overhead day? Forget it. Tube time comes with a price at Tavarua, where the owners of a surf camp strictly control who’s in the lineup on the island’s reef breaks – even when the reef is more than a mile offshore. If you’re not a guest, don’t expect to ride. There are other fine breaks in the chain, from the neighboring island of Namotu (also private) to beach and reef breaks on the nearby Coral Coast. Peak season is March through October, but there are good waves – if you have time to search for them – throughout the calendar.
Nadi and Lautoka are charter boat gateways to the Mamanucas, and because of the numerous reefs throughout the Fijian archipelago, bareboat charters are the exception, not the rule. April through November is the prime sailing season – and it’s good planning to pack some yaqona roots (for kava) as a gift to the local village chief before spending time ashore on an island. If you’re short of time, day cruises to the Mamanucas operate daily.