Coral reefs are, in a word, amazing. They’re entire universes beneath the glimmering surface of the ocean, lush with vivid and variegated hues, different textures, and an enormous variety of sea life swimming all around. These fascinating underwater ecosystems can be found all over the world, from the Red Sea to Australia to the Bahamas, and while they’re all beautiful, perhaps the most exquisite and awe inspiring of Earth’s coral reefs is the Great Astrolabe Reef.
Surrounding Fiji’s Kadavu and Ono Islands, the Great Astrolabe Reef is a full-on sensory feast for SCUBA divers, snorkelers, and underwater enthusiasts of all ages and skill levels. In this article, we’d like to tell you about all of the factors that make the Great Astrolabe Reef a must-see natural wonder, and why Ono Island is the perfect spot from which to take your big excursion to this one of a kind treasure.
First, the Reef Specs
Before describing the sheer beauty of the Great Astrolabe Reef, we should probably talk about it in terms of hard numbers. It is the fourth largest barrier reef on the planet, at about 60 miles long. Its depths range from about 15 feet to over 100 feet, but thanks to the clear waters of the South Pacific, snorkelers can see quite a lot just from the ocean’s surface. And while visibility is greater in the cooler months of July through October, divers and snorkelers can still expect to see quite far in any direction at just about any time of year.
The water temperature around the Great Astrolabe Reef is remarkably pleasant, ranging from the upper 70s to almost 90 degrees Fahrenheit (23 to 32 degrees Celsius). Wear a wetsuit, and you’ll have no trouble staying completely comfortable in the gentle waves. The ocean is typically the warmest between November and April, but the weather and visibility are both at their peak between August and October. Currents in the area are typically gentle, and the surface of the water is usually calm, especially closer to the islands. All in all, the conditions at the Great Astrolabe Reef are highly favorable for all divers.
The Numerous Benefits of Great Astrolabe
First, the remoteness of the Great Astrolabe Reef is a significant aspect of why it’s such a perfect place to dive. Fiji isn’t overly packed with tourists, and Kadavu and Ono Islands are even less crowded. This means plenty of space to dive and move around, but it also means clearer water, more schools of fish, and natural formations that are essentially undisturbed. It all translates to a more relaxed and enjoyable diving experience.
Next, the sheer volume of fish and other sea creatures you’ll see on your dive is astounding. Divers in the Great Astrolabe Reef have been known to catch glimpses of reef sharks, manta rays, barracudas, turtles, giant trevallies, pilot whales, oceanic hammerheads, and many other fish. There’s also all the coral, both hard and soft, that makes up the striking underwater landscape. It’s a true visual assault, with incredible things to see at every turn. While it’s true that reefs in other parts of the world are also beautiful, the ecological diversity of the Great Astrolabe Reef is unmatched anywhere else on Earth.
Finally, the Great Astrolabe Reef is a fabulous place to visit because of its connection to the Fijian culture. The pace is slower on the islands, and the people are friendly and hospitable. Dive groups are smaller than they are in other destinations, and there’s more freedom for divers to explore a bit farther and discover new spots. It all fits together to create the perfect diving experience and the perfect tropical vacation.
The Best Dive Sites
There’s really no bad spot in the Great Astrolabe Reef, but three locations in particular stand out as extraordinary. Here’s what you’ll find in each one.
Alacrity Rocks: If you’ve always wanted to swim through the coral formations rather than just near them, you’ll love this Kadavu section of the reef. It’s like an underwater playhouse, a veritable maze of arches, tunnels, and basins through which you can maneuver. And, thanks to the clarity of the water, the play of shadows and filtered sunlight on the hard surfaces is absolutely gorgeous.
Solo: This section of the reef is home to an abundance of fish; if you’re patient, it’s all but certain that a school of magnificent creatures will swim by. Diving here is mostly exploratory, with the depths of the Pacific nearby, but curious divers will love the freedom of discovering hidden gems.
Naiqoro Passage: The currents can be strong in this part of the Great Astrolabe Reef, but for some more experienced divers, that’s all part of the fun and excitement. Visually, the bright colors of the soft coral formations are wonderful: the area is alive with bright, practically Technicolor reds, oranges, and purples. Fish are also in great abundance, with snapper, cod, and many more that make the Naiqoro Passage home.
The Perfect Great Astrolabe Experience at Mai Dive
Since 2008, the Mai Dive Astrolabe Reef Resort has been providing world class accommodations to guests from all over the world. Located on Ono Island, which many consider to be the best spot in all of Fiji, Mai Dive is an ideal place from which to start your Great Astrolabe diving adventure. The resort is extremely close to the best reef locations; a short 15 or 20-minute boat ride will get you to any of the popular dive sites. Our dive guides are local to the island, and they have intimate knowledge of the reef to share with you. They will answer your questions and give pointers along the way, and your experience can be customized to suit your own personal skill level. Plus, the dive groups from Mai Dive are small, ensuring that each guest receives personal attention for the best possible experience.
The Mai Dive Astrolabe Resort, and Ono Island in general, is quiet and uncrowded. Guests won’t be competing with groups from a dozen other dive resorts for space, so you’ll be able to have a true, rejuvenating communion with nature and all her splendor. Come stay with us — you’ll have days of diving and evenings of utter relaxation, with all the amenities you could want and world-class cuisine included in the price of your stay. We know it will be one of the best trips you’ll ever take.