When you land at the small airstrip on the island of Kadavu, this is just the beginning of your adventure to Matava. We were met at the airport by the Matava team, who loaded our not insubstantial luggage onto the back of a pickup truck, and via local shops for provisions, we headed to the coast just a 5 minute drive away. Here the guys loaded our bags onto one of Matava’s metal boats, but there was a problem. Low tide had grounded the boat, and so we had to wait for more water to come into the bay, before wading out, with our shorts rolled-up, to deeper water. Once going, the journey takes about an hour (depending on how much shallow reef there is to avoid), and you really need to have a spirit of adventure to travel here! The coastline on this side of Kadavu is lush and green and the forests and mangroves alike are healthy with no roads cutting through them. The inhabitants of the tiny villages here use boats as their only form of transport, and when we arrived at the resort, there was a short wade to make it onto the boat deck, where we received a warm welcome.
Matava is one of the most eco-friendly resorts you will find. Set it the forest, the main diving and reception area, dive centre and all the rooms are made to have a traditional Fijian feel. There are solar panels providing electricity to the resort, and guests are asked to only use fans at night (there is no air conditioning) and to charge electrical equipment at a dedicated station. They also grow their own food here, so all your salad, veg and fruit are organically grown by the staff. You will not see any plastic water bottles here, either; in fact, we do not recall seeing any single-use plastics during our stay.
Once unpacked, and when our camera gear was all setup, we headed back down the short flight of stairs to the outdoor diving area. Heidi and Josh, who had arrived on the same flight as us, did not look happy. Josh was here to complete his Open Water course, and the instructor had fallen ill. In a remote resort like this one, this meant that his course would be delayed and he may miss several days of diving – not great when you have travelled from Seattle just for this adventure. So Nick volunteered to complete Josh’s course in the two afternoons we had at Matava; it was going to be a busy couple of days.
Matava is famous for its Manta Ray dive, which is about a 45 minute boat ride from the resort, on the outside of the reef. There is a cleaning station that sees mantas visit here all year around, and as we only had two days of diving, we had hoped to visit this site on at least one of the days, but it was not to be. On the first day the weather was against us, with strong winds making the journey difficult with large waves on the outer reef. Instead, we headed to a more local, yet beautiful and colourful, coral reef. Our favourite dive of the day was at Fan Dream Time, which, as the name suggests, is covered in all colours of sea fan. A quick lunch and we were back on a smaller boat heading out to a shallow, sandy bay to complete some training dives.
The food at Matava is excellent. Caroline was well catered for as a veggie, and all the evening meals were themed by country; Thai, Greek, Italian and traditional Fijian. The Fijian traditional meal is called a Lovo, where meats and vegetables are cooked in the ground, covered by banana leaves. It is accompanied by the traditional drink – Kava, which is made up of ground up root, soaked in water, to produce a drink that looks somewhat like a muddy puddle. There is a ritual to drinking Kava, and we had a village chief leading our evening, but the end result is a numb tongue and a good night’s sleep! It is a fun evening where both staff and guests mix and chat into the night.
Our next day brought bad news. We were not to dive the manta reef that day either. The dive master decided, instead, to take us to a wall dive called Japanese Reef. Our two dives were spread to cover either side of the cut, one with and one against the current. We did see whitetip sharks, who we disturbed from their slumber on the sea bed, to circle around the group before heading to deeper water. We also decided that this would be a great opportunity to do some creative photography and put the “bubble lens”, or Magic Ball, from Saga (www.sagadive.com) onto the housing for some fun images (review coming soon). Once again, back at the resort, we headed out to complete Josh’s course, which we will write about in more detail in a later post.
One of the joys of trips like this one is the people you get to meet, and we had a fantastic bunch of divers with us at Matava. There was never a dull moment and always plenty of banter and jokes, and so it was sad to say goodbye the next day as we did our wade, boat, wade, truck & flight back to the main island and onto our next adventure.
Find out more about Nick and Caroline at www.frogfishphotography.com.