The Mamanuca (pronounced Mah-mah-noo-tha) islands lie in a majestic arc, only a short distance from the mainland of Viti Levu, curving to the north-west, and almost touching the Yasawa chain.
There are 13 islands in all, not counting those covered by the Pacific at high tide and they all share in common pristine white sandy beaches, waving palms, crystal blue waters and, at night, the cooling influence of the trade winds.
The Mamanucas are essentially volcanic outcrops pushed up from the ocean floor in a gigantic earthquake thousands of years ago. From the air you can see that the Mamanucas group is in fact two clusters known as Mamanuca-i-ra and Mamanuca-i-cake. Within the Mamanucas is the Malolo group, three miles inside the barrier reef, extending in a curve for about 75 miles. As islands, they are certainly beautiful.
We had been asked to visit to consider taking over the operations for the new Hilton development dive concession, so we considered this a possibility we both might have enjoyed and visited on a business trip.
Here's a rundown on the dives we managed to get in;
Namotu Reef: This reef is situated in a passage on the Barrier Reef itself. The day we were there, the currents were very strong and this was not well communicated on our dive briefing. There was soft coral, but nothing really to write about as being a must see location. Visibility was maybe 50 feet, so also, nowhere near what is being promoted.
In defense of the site, the day we were there, a local told us this was the strongest they had ever seen the current.. As far as marine life, we saw nothing. Nothing. And even if we had seen something, the current was too strong to stop in anyway.
Dive rating: Don't bother.
A couple of other points I really don't like to see.
Subsurface claimed all their Instructors dive Nitrox and they have Nitrox available. This is quite simply not true. I asked the instructors and was told no. There were also no tanks marked for nitrox in the dive shops.
I do have to say that the Instructors and Divemasters were all very nice to us and seemed competant in their work. They were attentive to their divers and the head Instructor on Beachcomber was very patient and professional.
Since we were there for a short period, we wanted to dive as many sites as possible. They claim to dive 44 sites but during our stay, even upon request, they continued going to the same sites over and over again.
Another point to be aware of. The dive shop at Beachcomber makes you carry your dive gear well over 1,000 feet to the boat, so be prepared. It's not that bad before you dive but a real drag after the dive. Bring some water socks or you'll have to walk across a beach that is basically sharp coral.
We would recommend Treasure Island as a resort to visit for a week or two. The resort is quite wonderful with terrific snorkeling surrounding the entire Island. It also caters to families and has much to keep kids occupied. The local Fijian staff were extremely friendly and helpful.
We also liked First Landing, which is on the mainline, as a resort which catered to couples and families. We would suggest you consider Crusoes Retreat, a resort carved into the side of the cliffs about an hour south of Nadi. We also drove to Pacific Harbour, which had what we thought was the nicest cultural art boutiques we found.
Overall, we had a good time but would not return to the Mamanucas due to the poor quality of dive experience Subsurface offers. They have a lot to learn about running a dive operation.
Our favorite spot is the Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Islands Resort.
Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Islands Resort provides award-winning facilities and is suitable for divers of all levels. Now offering Fiji dive specials and two new scuba diving packages for couples and families.
We visited Fiji in
December 2005 and dove
off the Mamanuca Islands.
The coral was spectacular
and the snorkeling was
We'll go into
more details below.