Center for the Arts Crested Butte Fiji Trip
I was at the The Center for the Arts gala event last year in August. Francene was out of town and could not attend. During the Live Auction there was a 7-night trip to FIJI to a luxury resort destination VoliVoli offering great SCUBA diving.
Hmmm… I had never been to FIJI, always wanted to go. A great opportunity to support the Center for the Arts Crested Butte. A win-win-win scenario! I “won” the FIJI trip and surprised Francene with this as an anniversary present.
Since it is such a long flight we decided to add an extra week and venture to another great SCUBA diving destination in FIJI as well…. We consulted with others who had been and Bob and Suzanne Schutt strongly recommended we go to Paradise Resort on the island of Taveuni to dive the White Wall!
We dove more on this vacation than ever before. Generally, we will dive for 2-3 days during a week and this trip we dove 4-5 days in each destination including a night dive in VoliVoli.
Fiji is definitely a developing country and the majority of the population lives in very meager homes. Most houses are made out of corrugated metal. The economy of FIJI is primarily sugar cane and tourism. The people of Fiji are very friendly and happy.
Both resorts we visited were very nice and catered to SCUBA divers and located in close proximity to excellent diving. We had our own private bure – the Fijian word for a wood-and-straw hut, sometimes similar to a cabin, but both our bure at VoliVoli and Paradise were first class.
End of Ski Season = Seek Warm Destination
When the end of the ski season finally arrives, Crested Butte becomes a ghost town as most head to warm climates for a break from winter.
When we moved from Dallas to Crested Butte full-time in 2009 I made a promise to my wife Francene and family, that when the lifts stopped spinning we would go to a warm beach destination.
Francene and I have enjoyed SCUBA diving for many years and so we introduced this to our girls and started visiting tropical SCUBA destinations. Our girls got their PADI Open Water Certifications in Cozumel back in 2010.
Now that we are empty nesters and have a bit more flexibility in time we have been venturing out and finding more remote destinations.
FIJI Scuba Diving
Fiji has been named the “Soft Coral Capital of the World”, and for good reason. Soft corals are soft and bendable and often resemble plants or trees – most of them look like large broccoli plants but shapes vary and they come in every color. Some of the dive sites are named because of the many similar soft corals – Mellow Yellow, Purple Rain, the White Wall are examples where there were thousands of these soft corals teaming with tropical fish. God’s paintbrush – simply spectacular.
Big Stuff – Many of our dives were along a wall where the ocean floor dropped from 60 feet down to over 2,000 feet and the “big stuff” as the dive guides say will show up… “look out into the blue”. We encountered many sharks during nearly every dive. White Tip, Black Tip, Silver Tip and Reef Sharks. We had a rare sighting of a large school of Napoleon Wrasses which are 4 feet long. I was startled by a Colossal Grouper that came up from the depths, was twice my size and swam close to me for a couple of minutes before returning to the deep. We saw large Manta Rays, and many large schools of barracuda, Spanish marcels, and Gian Trevally. We also loved seeing turtles, and moray eels.
Small Stuff – One of my favorite things to do is pick any small area on a reef and stop and look closely. The small fish are super cool, every shape and literally every color. What is really interesting are the colors that appear to be neon-like or fluorescent – literally as if the fish or coral is plugged-into an electrical outlet. There are some fish that are dark purple with little light blue spots that are dots of light.
Our dive guides would search and search for very small sea horses, nudibranchs, and other really small stuff. We saw many species of translucent shrimp and popcorn shrimp, candy cane shrimp and others. We only saw a few lobsters – but one that was huge.
On one dive we saw an extremely poisonous banded sea snake.
Probably my favorite in the small stuff category are the Sea Anemones and the Clown Fish. The sea anemone has a mouth and can eat crabs and sea urchins and other fish – but they co-exist with a number of other species of fish and shrimp but the most common is the relationship with the clown fish.
Getting from Crested Butte to FIJI
We flew from Denver to Los Angeles and spent a day enjoying the quaint beach town of Hermosa Beach. We walked along the beach and the pier, and rented bikes and enjoyed riding along the “boardwalk”.
The FIJI Airways flight we took departed around midnight from Los Angeles and was an 11-hour flight to Nadi – on the Island of Viti Levu. We arrived around 5:30am FIJI time and having crossed the international date line we lost a full day (time travel). When we cleared customs, we were greeted by our driver holding a VoliVoli sign and two large bottles of FIJI brand water in the square bottles, and a big “BULA” welcome. It was a two and a half hour drive to our resort – and he stopped in a small town to say hello to his mother and another stop to get lunch from his wife.
VoliVoli Beach Resort
Once we arrived at VoliVoli we were welcomed, checked-in and shown to our hillside private bure with spectacular views.
The resort has a small beach and being tired from our travel, we retreated to the lounge chairs on the beach under the palm trees.
VoliVoli accommodations include 33 rooms (rooms, one and 2 bedroom bures), a main restaurant and beach restaurant for lunch, a pool, and a beautiful pristine setting. They have a first class Scuba Diving operation with multiple boats and about a 45 minute trip to get to the majority of dive sites in the national park area.
The snorkeling was not good here – the water was shallow and a fairly muddy bottom with a lack of water clarity and coral reefs, but we were overstimulated with the spectacular diving and so were not missing the lack of snorkeling.
We did take a 2 person kayak out one morning and paddled about 2 miles to another small island, that has about 300 residents. We had some small children run out onto the beach to greet us and were very excited to see visitors.
Taveuni – Paradise
Our one hour flight from NADI to Taveuni was on a small prop plane, and flying fairly low it is very cool to see the topography of the islands and the clear blue waters and reefs. There are not many white sandy beaches visible anywhere – the islands are made of black volcanic lava and steep vegetation and cliffs fairly steep down to water’s edge.
Taveuni is named the garden of eden because it is so green and full of vegetation. We learned that this is because it is a rainforest, and it did rain quite a bit of the time we were here… not so bad when you are under the water SCUBA diving and wet anyway, but we missed the sunny days we had at VoliVoli.
It is about a ninety minute drive from the small airstrip to the Paradise Taveuni resort over a fairly rough mountain road for a majority of the trip.
Paradise Taveuni is a really impressive setting facing west and offered spectacular sunset views. The owners and staff were first class and very friendly. The resort sits on 5 acres and they have their own PADI dive shop and a dive boat. There is a nice pool, great snorkeling right from the dock, a large dining and common area building with bar, lounge, a library with years of novels and paperback books, the dive shop and indoor/outdoor dining area.
Our bure was very nice and included an outdoor shower and bathtub!
The resort was devastated in a category 5 cyclone (hurricane) in 2016 and they did a great job re-building and improving the quality of the finishes in the accommodations. They are still finishing rebuilding some of the bures.
We had a special farewell Fijian serenade by the staff and they wished us safe travels and speedy return to come back and stay with them.
The food was very good at both the resorts we stayed at. A combination of Asian and Indian influence with unknown sauces and spices… There was always fresh fish options on the menu, and a variety of foods we never had before. They had fresh fruit – pineapple, mango, papaya, bananas, and one of my favorite fruits was the passion fruit. Francene wished there were more leafy greens and vegetable options, but she said the fabulous deserts made up for it!
Return Flight Mayhem
The return flight from any can be long and depressing… what is your worst nightmare on a a 10 hour flight? About 6 hours into our flight I realized that I may have had some bad curry chicken at the airport or flu… net net it was coming out both ends… when we landed at LAX I was in the bathroom…
About The Crested Butte Center for the Arts
The Crested Butte Center for the Arts is on the home stretch to finalize funding for the new awesome building in downtown Crested Butte! Donations can be made online as well.
About VoliVoli Beach Resort
About Paradise Taveuni
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