Apr 9, 2010

LOVE MATAVA - Can't wait to return! - Review of Matava - Fiji's Premier Eco Adventure Resort, Kadavu Island, Fiji - TripAdvisor

LOVE MATAVA - Can't wait to return! - Review of Matava - Fiji's Premier Eco Adventure Resort, Kadavu Island, Fiji - TripAdvisor

I was looking for a dive trip to the western Pacific and did a lot of internet searching, Tripadvisor searching and talking to people. After much research, I decided on Matava, both at the suggestion of South Seas Adventures (a travel agency I highly recommend) and from the internet info. I was not disappointed. I am a biologist with a keen interest in outdoor activities that have some learning component, such as diving, bird watching, bicycling, hiking, etc. I was traveling solo so I didn't want to end up in a typical tropical resort situation with lots of newly weds only, lots of folks mostly interested in sunning by a pool and sipping expensive drinks and so on. There are places for that, but that's not what I wanted. Matava EXCEEDED all of my expectations.

It does take some effort to get there; it took fully 26 hours from start to finish from California. The overseas flight is only 10 hours, but the various other transfers take time. Still, for some reason, I had no jet lag, either direction. The final leg of the trip is a marvelous boat ride from the airport at Vunisea, Kadavu to Matava. This offered me the first view of that incredible blue and blue-green water, wow.

Matava is a small eco-friendly resort on the eastern (SE) part of Kadavu, perfectly located for easy access to the world-renowned Astrolabe Reef. The grounds and bures are simple and clean and perfectly comfortable. They have everything I needed for a great stay including excellent beds with mosquito netting, great pillows and hot showers. There is some electricity, augmented with gas lanterns. There is however ample electricity to recharge your batteries, laptop, etc.. The staff are incredible at Matava. They really go the extra mile to make you feel welcome and relaxed; I can't say enough about everyone that works there. A particular thank you to Maggie, Lou, Jen, Drex, Tay and I know I'm forgetting people, so please forgive me if you read this! I also enjoyed talking to Richard, one of the owners, as he is an amateur fish taxonomist and helped me out with some of the various fish intricacies I ran across. The resort has a fairly extensive field guide collection too, so you may not need to bring your own.

I have an Advanced Open Water dive card, but hadn't dived in over 10 years; I did take a refresher course at a local dive shop 2 weeks before the trip. Still, I was rusty to say the least and our divemaster was extremely patient and accomodating to my needs; a big thank you to Lou for that! The dive shop carries equipment for rent which is all in very good condition. You might bring your own dive computer though as those are not for rent (at Matava nor in the local dive shops so far as I could tell).

It was March, Fiji summer, and I brought a 3mm wetsuit, booties and mask and snorkel. I rented the rest and that worked fine. I would bring additional neoprene such as a hooded vest to go under the wetsuit as I did get a little cold on the 2nd dive each day (water temp was about 81 deg F, a little cooler than normal possibly due to El Nino). The divemaster was kind enough to loan me her vest and I was comfortable in the water after that.

Now, the best part: the diving is spectacular! I have dived in the Cayman Islands, Hawaii, off California and in Baja and had always wanted to dive the western Pacific. I knew this ecosystem was the richest in the world but you really have to see this in person to know what that means. The coral diversity is amazing - hard corals galore, amazing leather corals and lots of softies as well. The Dendronepthya (carnation corals) are unbelievable in color and abundance. I was really stunned. Our divemaster knew the sites aboslutely cold as she has several years of experience diving this area, so she was able to show us big things, small things and all things in between. She found lots of great nudibranchs, flatworms, small fish, and so forth in addition to the sharks and mantas everyone hopes to see (me included, and we did too). I can't say enough about the quality of the diving and the leardership of the staff. It seemed like every dive was the "best I'd ever had."

The resort is very remote with no roads whatsoever - only boat access. There are no town lights to ruin the sky and the stars are as you'd expect, incredible. Are there other things to do aside from diving and star gazing? There are, but diving was my main goal. There is world-class fishing to be had and I was happy some fishermen were there while I was as it meant some great fresh fish on the table at night! One can snorkel right from the resort into a mix of seagrass beds and hard coral formations mixed with rubble fields further out. Lots of habitats to explore and creatures to view there. There are also a few hikes, both up the hill behind the resort and to local villages nearby, which are very interesting. There is a nice waterfall in the closest village from which many of the staff come as well. There are some endemic birds, though they can be alittle shy and hard to see. The Kadavu parrot, kingfisher and honeyeater were the easiest to see for me. My trip included a kava ceremony which was very low key and interesting. I hadn't had kava before and found it very relaxing and in the low dose I tried, not negative in any way. Very nice.

You may be wondering about the food: in a word, GREAT! Fresh fish, organic vegetables and fruits every day and home made bread. All that diving makes you hungry and the food is plentiful (they keep bringing plates of it until you say stop), varied and delicious. I may bring my own french press and coffee next time though as there is only instant coffee (personal thing, not a big deal).

In short, I cannot wait to go back to Matava. If you are seeking a small resort which caters to divers and fisherfolk and can live without the, imho, overbearing luxuries and attitude sometimes found in other resorts, Matava is for you.

LOVE MATAVA - Can't wait to return! - Review of Matava - Fiji's Premier Eco Adventure Resort, Kadavu Island, Fiji - TripAdvisor

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