Whether you merely swim to a reef offshore from your resort or head out by boat on an official snorkeling excursion, when you strap on a mask, snorkel and fins for a look at Fiji’s marine life, you’re in for an underwater view like no place on earth.
Known as the “soft coral capital of the world,” Fiji is home to some incredible reefs that sway with striking neon-hued corals (pink, purple, yellow!) and positively thrum with tropical fish. And the best part is that you needn’t be scuba-certified to enjoy some of the most beautiful reefs in the world here.
Colorful wonders await just offshore in shallow waters home to over 1,000 species of fish that include bright fuchsia anthias, sea turtles and manta rays, all at home here on some of the world’s longest coral reefs.
Rainbow Reef, Taveuni
Located in the Somosomo Strait—cradled between Fiji’s second largest island, Vanua Levu, and Taveuni (the third largest island)—Rainbow Reef is an iconic spot to see the famed profusions of soft corals. Dive resorts abound in the area, as people come from all over the world to scuba dive at this legendary spot.
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Somosomo means “good water,” and tidal currents washing the strait supply the constant nutrients required to keep the coral reefs healthy. While Rainbow Reef is, indeed, rainbow-colored, the reef’s name is actually said to refer to the fact that rainbows often stretch across the skies over the bay.
Stay at The Remote Resort on Vanua Levu and you’ll be within a ten-minute boat ride of fabulous snorkeling spots.
Hidden away on the northernmost tip of Viti Levu, Rakiraki is worth the journey from Nadi (about 2.5 hours by car or shuttle transfer) for the marvelous snorkeling that awaits just offshore.
With just 32 rooms and 11 bures, Volivoli Beach Resort makes an intimate base for snorkeling right from the property’s beach. But it’s worth paying extra to hop on the resort’s boats for trips to visit snorkeling sites just offshore, where the reefs are blanketed with vibrant soft corals.
Namena Marine Reserve
Before becoming a marine protected area in 1997, the waters of the Namena Marine Reserve, located between Fiji’s main islands of Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, were at risk of being decimated by commercial fishing. Today, thanks to a total ban on fishing here, the reefs of Namena are among Fiji’s most vibrant and alive.
Snorkelers marvel as they swim atop waving corals clouded with hundreds of colorful anthias (small reef fish) painted in impossible shades of neon fuchsia and tangerine. Among the larger creatures you may spot here are grey reef sharks and schooling big-eyed trevally. The Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort, Fiji runs daily boat trips from its base on Vanua Levu to explore the reefs of Namena, located about 40 minutes from the resort.
On the south coast of Fiji’s main island, Viti Levu, Beqa Lagoon is famous for its shark dives, with bull sharks and tiger sharks, among many other species, routinely seen. A more mellow but no less thrilling experience awaits snorkelers who head out with Pacific Harbour Excursions on snorkeling trips in the lagoon.
Boat trips take you about 15 minutes from shore to reefs where you may spot chimney-like structures rising from the ocean floor and the visibility often extends to over 100 feet. Look for clouds of colorful tropical fish called fusiliers and keep an out for giant clams, with their iridescent mantles, and clown fish peeking from their anemones, too.
Moyia Reef, Yasawa Islands
You hardly need to be certified to dive to get into the water with the sharks of Fiji. Intrepid snorkelers love the chance to head out from Nadi to Kuata Island, the gateway to the Yasawa Island chain, to get into the water with white tip and black tip reef sharks at Moyia Reef.
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Barefoot Kuata Island runs day trips to Kuata Island from Denarau Marina on Viti Levu. The ferry takes about two hours, then you’ll base at a resort on Kuata Island for the day, boarding a smaller boat later for the roughly 20-minute trip to Moyia Reef to snorkel with the sharks. In between, you can enjoy kayaking, SUP and a buffet lunch at the resort as part of the day trip package before returning to Nadi later.
Easily accessible on Fiji’s main island of Viti Levu, the public beach at Natadola Bay is another prime spot to don your mask and fins for a fun Fiji snorkel session. The beach lies on the Coral Coast of Viti Levu, just an hour south of Nadi’s international airport.
As soon as you fin out from the shore you’ll likely see schools of striped sergeant major fish and big, colorful parrot fish, too. When you come across a sandy patch, looks for sting rays camouflaging their winged bodies on the ocean floor.
Base at the luxe InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa on Natadola Bay and you’ll have DIY snorkeling at your doorstep throughout your stay.
Great Astrolabe Barrier Reef, Kadavu
Colorful hard corals that look like structures dreamed up by a Seussian mind are sure to wow you when you set off on a snorkeling adventure from Fiji’s fourth largest island, Kadavu. The highlight here is the chance to snorkel along the world’s fourth largest barrier reef, the Great Astrolabe Barrier Reef, which stretches for over 60 miles along Kadavu.
Matava is an eco-resort that caters not only to divers but to snorkelers, too, with boat trips to enjoy the fringing corals surrounding the resort. Guides are adept at spotting all manner of tiny creatures, including sea horses. Do make sure to tear your eyes from the colorful reefs and peer out into the blue, where you may be lucky enough to spot a passing eagle ray or manta.
Drawaqa Island, Yasawa Islands
Fiji is among a select few places in the world where snorkelers can reliably get into the water to swim alongside manta rays. It’s an experience that will take your breath away. Drawaqa Island in the Yasawa chain has become known as Manta Ray Island, thanks to the frequent sightings of the winged animals just offshore here between the months of May and October, when they come to the plankton-rich waters to feed.
Barefoot Manta Island has a collection of bures and backpacker-style rooms and is the place to base for boat trips into the nearby channel to snorkel with the majestic creatures.
Malolo Island, Mamanucas
The barrier reefs surrounding this tropical island in the Mamanuca Chain are easily accessed via day trips from Nadi or one of several resorts on the island itself. For one of the best experiences, stay at the Six Senses Fiji and head out on the resort’s private boat to snorkel the site called Supermarkets, where the hard corals are in excellent condition and grey reef shark sightings are almost guaranteed.
Big Blue Fiji is a private catamaran operator that takes snorkelers on charters and day trips to excellent spots in the Mamanucas and beyond.
You could snorkel every day and never get bored on the house reef at Oneta Resort, located on Ono Island, a small island off the northeastern tip of Kadavu.
The Oneta Reef bustles with all kinds of tropical reef fish action. You might see reef sharks corralling fish around the coral heads, parrot fishing chomping their ways along the reef and eels and sea snakes winding between the nooks and crannies, too.
Don’t miss the chance to board one of the resort’s boats for the ten-minute trip to the nearby Manta Ray Cleaning Station, where the large animals arrive to have their gills tended to by resident cleaner wrasse.