In this Article by South Pacific travel expert Ian Osborn
Kadavu Island — Astrolabe Reef
The southern Fiji islands offer great exploring and exceptional scuba diving with the famous shark dives around Beqa Lagoon and the soft corals of the Astrolabe Reef hugging the north and east coast of Kadavu. Although most tourists arrive with their scuba gear in tow, that's not all these islands are famous for. Beqa is home to Fiji's fire-walkers whilst some of the best and strongest kava is grown on Kadavu and both islands are excellent for kayaking with secluded bays, mangrove estuaries and plenty of coastal fishing villages.
Kadavu Island Travel Guide
Kadavu Island is Fiji's southern-most island lying about 100km south of Viti Levu and accessible on a daily flight from either Nadi or Suva. Kadavu is a large rugged island almost 60km in length and 14km wide with high volcanic peaks, rolling hills and many indented bays. There are few roads on the island and travel by small boats is the easiest and often only way to get about. The hilly interior offers good hiking trails, some nice waterfalls and several endemic species of birds including the colourful Kadavu parrot. The world famous Great Astrolabe Reef stretches for 30km off the north east coast of Kadavu. Here you'll find outstanding hard corals, cabbage patches, fans, caves, wrecks and a fantastic array of marine life due to its rich currents as well as several dive resorts.
With a rugged coastline littered with deep bays, Kadavu is the fourth largest island in Fiji, snaking 57 kilometres from east to west. The island is divided into three podgy portions, each connected by a narrow isthmus. The interior is so undulating that the only expanse of flat land is taken up by the small airstrip at the government administration centre of Vunisea. The portion of West Kadavu is laced with stunning scenery and the domineering volcanic cone of Nabukelevu makes a show from most places along the coast, with consistent reef surfing off its western tip. Central Kadavu, east of Vunisea, has the island’s best beaches as well as the fantastic Namalata Reef which are both along the north coast. East Kadavu overlooks part of the immense Astrolabe Reef with a handful of dive resorts backed by steep tropical rainforest with a sprinkling of waterfalls.
There are 75 villages dotted around Kadavu, mostly on the coast and primarily engaged in subsistence farming and fishing, making it one of the best places to experience genuine Fijian culture.
The enviable location of Matana Beach Resort fronts a long cove beach and is just fifteen-minutes boat ride from Vunisea Airport. Heading east from Matana, along the beach and past the village, a ten-minute walk around the rocky point leads to One Mile Beach, a secluded beauty with deep sand and massive coconut palms leaning out over the lagoon. A little further along this road-less coast is Papageno Resort set in 346 acres of serene tropical forests. The large endemic Shinning Parrot, with its red breast and vivid green and blue wings can usually be seen feeding in the cassava plantation behind the bures. Higher up in the forests are fantails, honey-eaters and fruit doves as well as a sweeping lookout over Daku Bay and, forty-minutes walk inland, a small waterfall with swimming pool. Diving enthusiasts have the option of diving either the Astrolabe Reef or the closer Namalata Reef and there are regular snorkelling trips to visit the manta rays at Vuro Island or game fishing off Nabukelevu.
East Kadavu & The Astrolabe Reef
Beyond Daku Bay is the heavily indented coastline of East Kadavu. Kavala Bay, on the north coast and Korolevu Bay on the south coast form great basins surrounded by steep mountains with excellent hiking tracks. Foremost though, it’s the underwater spectacle of the Great Astrolabe Reef that attracts visitors here, hugging the south east side of Kadavu all the way to Vunisea and extending forty kilometres north, wrapping around Ono Island. Ono has beautiful beaches and the cluster of small islands off its shore form a protective bay where Manta Rays congregate in numbers between May and Septemeber.
Matava Hideaway on the south coast is tucked into a small beach-less bay enclosed by rocky Waya Island, is fantastically well organised yet its village style atmosphere enhances its sense of remoteness. Apart from its own dive operation, there’s some of the finest snorkelling in Fiji just 10-minutes away by boat at Vesi Passage with soft coral gardens and thousands of exotic reef fish. The snorkelling trip is usually combined with a picnic to one of several secluded beaches around Mataikadavu Point.
Dedicated game fishing charters are available from Matava Beach Resort which boasts top of the range gear, with casting in the surrounding reefs for Giant Trevally or trawling between one and three thousand metres of water for Marlin, Tuna and Sailfish - for the casual fisherman, hand line fishing or trawling from small boats can be organised from all resorts.
Other Accommodation on Kadavu
Kayak Tours In Kadavu
It’s possible to kayak around Kadavu in nine days or Ono Island in seven days, camping on beaches, staying in villages or bedding down at a budget resort along the way. New Zealand outfit, Tamarillo Tropical Expeditions has well organised itineraries and great contacts with the local villages, with guided two-man sea kayaks and support boats. It can be hard work though, with a minimum of five hours of paddling in sometimes choppy seas working muscles you never knew existed but it’s a great way to experience the island’s remote coastlines and villages. Less strenuous overnight packages and day trips exploring the mangrove estuaries can be tailor-made and run on demand from the base camp at Korolevu Bay on the south eastern corner of Kadavu.
Kadavu Island Travel Info
Daily flights from both Nadi and Nausori (Suva) arrive at Vunisea Airport on Kadavu. With few roads, getting around the island usually involves a journey on the water, mostly within the reef. Although there are no official water taxis, every resort has its own fleet of boats and all meet pre-booked guests at Vunisea airport or one of the two ferry jetties. It takes 45 minutes to reach the west point of Cape Washington from Vunisea and an hour and a half a to reach the Astrolabe Reef on the east side of the island where most resorts are located.