The Yasawa Islands lie in a line running north from the Mamanuca Island group, up to the north-east of the main island Viti Levu. Yasawa Islands diving is suitable for all levels of experience and all budgets: backpacker, eco-lodge to 5 star luxury.
The islands are volcanic in origin and quite dramatic looking, with peaks on the islands ranging from 250 to 600 metres in height.
This means, of course, that the subaquatic landscape is going to be equally dramatic with walls, gullies, and swim-throughs. Add in the fact that most of the islands have fringing reefs – code for colourful coral reef dives in shallowish water and typically great snorkeling too; very low populations – code for very little pollution and high vis; and deep water close to shore – code for a high chance of seeing pelagics!
Fortunately, there are resorts from ultra-luxury (yes that is a word) to locally owned, spread throughout the islands, with a number of resorts across all price brackets having their own dive centre on site, which tends to be small and personal.
The different Yasawa Islands offer their own individual style and you can do anything from snorkeling with clownfish, manta rays and sharks, to diving through caverns and swim-throughs to volunteering to remove Crown of Thorns sea stars.
There are around 20 islands in the group, starting with Kuata Island at the southern tip, a 2-hour boat trip from Denarau, stretching to Nacula, Tavewa and Nanuya at the northern most tip which are between 4.5 to 5 hours from the mainland. Almost all resorts are accessible via the Yasawa Flyer ferry which makes the trip from Denarau to the north and back every day. See the Getting There section below. For the top end resorts, seaplanes are available.
For the high-end resorts, the best way in is simply to fly directly from Nadi. For everywhere else, the best option is the Yasawa Flyer run by Awesome Adventures. The Flyer departs Denarau at 8:30 am (check-in is 8 am), arriving at Kuata/Waya Lailai 10:30 am, Mantaray 11.30am and continues heading north until it eventually turns round at Nacula Island and starts heading back along the same route. Island hopping packages are available, as is the full trip as a one day cruise simply to admire the beautiful scenery of the Yasawa Islands.
As all of the Dive Centres are resort based, they are included within the Where to Stay section. Our featured Dive Centres are shown below.
If you just want to snorkel around the Yasawas, Captain Cook Cruises Fiji offer a 4-Night Cruise, and Blue Lagoon Cruises offers both a 7-Night Cruise and a 4-Night Cruise.
Where to Stay
Throughout the group of islands, there is a wide range of accommodation which offers scuba diving. At the top end are the private, exclusive, often adult only, resorts which are 5 Stars, and the chances are you’ll be flying to those. Then, there’s the eco and locally managed resorts, ranging from ‘1 Coconut’ (backpacker dorm) to ‘3 Coconut’ (flashpacker and resort style bures). These are shown on the route map of the Yasawa Flyer in the Getting There section below, and listed here south to north, i.e., the order in which the Flyer arrives at them.
Barefoot Kuata Resort has dorms and are also introducing African safari-style luxury tented accommodation. The Dive Centre at this certified eco-resort, also offers the Shark Snorkel, which can also be done as a day trip from Denarau, Kuata being the closest of the Yasawa Islands to Denarau.
Wayalailai Ecohaven, a traditional Fijian-run resort, with its own Dive Centre, is owned and operated by the local villagers, so you’ll get an authentic Fijian experience at both.
Octopus Resort on Waya Island has diving provided by Vertical Blue Divers, who are based out of Blue Lagoon Beach Resort.
Mantaray Island Resort
There is also a 1 to 3-Coconut range at Mantaray Island Resort. The beach-facing bures are raised so that they are naturally cooled by the ocean breeze, but there are also ceiling fans if required. The toilets are of the composting type, and the water is desalinated and potable. It’s called Mantaray Island Resort, because, in season, this is one of the places where you can snorkel with Manta Rays.
Mantaray has a fully equipped SSI Dive Shop where you can get an Open Water dive certification pretty cheaply, or join a double dive to one of the many dive sites on the local reefs, just minutes away by boat.
Barefoot Manta Resort has dorms and African safari-style luxury tented accommodation. Barefoot Manta also has a great Dive Centre run by two marine biologists Dan and Heather who offer training, certified diving on their local reefs, and a marine conservation volunteer programme.
Both Paradise Cove, on Naukacuvu Island, and Navutu Stars on Yanggeta Island, has diving provided by Vertical Blue Divers, who are based out of Blue Lagoon Beach Resort.
Blue Lagoon Beach Resort, Nacula, is the end of the line as far as the Yasawa Flyer is concerned.
Coralview Island Resort, on Tavewa Island, is home to Dive Yasawa Lagoon, a PADI International Resort Association member which caters for divers of all ages, experience levels and abilities. It is not on the Yasawa Flyer route, and is accessed via another ferry – the Tavewa Seabus – servicing the Northern Yasawas that operates from Lautoka.
Top End Resorts
Finally, those three top class resorts:
Turtle Island Resort – an ultra-luxury resort where everything from scuba diving to champagne-and-lobster picnics on reserved beaches is covered in the all-inclusive price.
Yasawa Island Resort – which offers excellent in-house diving and picnic excursions to one of 11 deserted beaches. The resort offers complimentary PADI Discover Scuba Diving pool sessions. And PADI Open Water Certiﬁcation courses.
Viwa Island Resort, definitely an adults-only resort, which suggests you “ask our friendly staff at our PADI accredited dive operation for details” on arrival.
The diving is easy around the Yasawas, as those island resorts which have a dive centre also has a decent house reef, easily accessible for day and night diving. This offers the easy, colourful coral reef dives.
The volcanic terrain offers the added dimension of some steeply vertical underwater terrain, characterized by swim-throughs and canyons, and with deep water near the shoreline – a population of sharks and rays.
The Yasawas therefore offers are quite a few highlights for both snorkelers and divers, including the shark snorkel near Kuata and Waya islands, and the manta ray snorkel south of Naviti Island. The shark snorkel can now be done as a day trip from the mainland. The Yasawa Flyer will drop you at Kuata Island where you can base yourself for the day, and pick you up in the late afternoon as it returns to Denarau.
Mantaray Island and Barefoot Manta are both named after the larger ocean mantas (manta birostris) that visit the shallow bays around the islands to feed between May and October. When mantas are sighted, the beach drums are sounded and guests can catch a boat and snorkel above the mantas.