Trip report for Fiji - Matana - Dive Kadavu (rather long)

Trip report for Fiji - Matana - Dive Kadavu (rather long)

Post by Roger Feel » Tue, 06 Jul 1999 04:00:00

The following is my impression of the Matana resort and Dive Kadavu
based on a trip from 24-June-99 through 2-July-99.  Before I booked
the trip,  I spent considerable time looking for information on the
internet.  The report below does not try to bring all that information
together.  Instead, it attempts to fill in some of the gaps in what I
found.

This is my first trip report, so let me know how I did.

GENERAL:
The island of Kadavu (Pronounced "Kan-daw-vu" with accent on the
second  syllable) is something of a throwback to "old Fiji".
1.  The mongoose was intrduced by the British and has apparently eaten
all the birds on the other islands.  Not on Kadavu.
2.  The Cane Toad was intrduced by the British and has multiplied out
of control to the point of being a nuisance.  Not on Kadavu.
3.  During colonial times, the British found that the natives were not
all that ambitious, so they imported workers from India.  But not to
Kadavu.
4.  The Crown of Thorns starfish is killing some of the c***around
Fiji.  Kadavu is relatively unaffected.  I didn't see any.

Mantana is the resort and Dive Kadavu is the dive operation.  DK
operates dive operations at several resorts on Kadavu.

The resort can hold up to 25 people.  It consists of the bures
(pronounced "boo-rays"), a dive center and a common building that
serves as a dining room, living room, library, and bar.  The
beachfront bures are just that.  Walk out your door, go 30 feet, down
three steps and you are on a 2000 foot sand beach that is just for the
resort.  It is not unusual to be completely alone on that huge beach.
They do not dress or rake the beach so it is a great place for
shelling.  The collecting of shells from the beach is encouraged in
moderation.  The taking of anything from the dive sites is strictly
forbidden.

The resort lives in a close symbiosis with the village.  You will be
advised that the village (right next door) is off limits unless you
are invited. About 25 (our guess) villagers are employed by the resort
and they all seem to get on very well.  Other than the owners, the
dive manager and resort manager are the only non-Figians working
there.

The resort is all-inclusive and tipping is considered rude.  They have
a Christmas fund to which you may contribute that is distributed
equally each year.  They also will take donations for the high-school
fund.  In Fiji, you must pay to go to high school and on Kadavu, that
is a boarding school.

They will give you a key to your room but we didn't use ours.  We
locked up our passports and money in the office safe and left the key
in the room.  They do suggest that you bring your dive gear in at
night.  We did that much.

In a testament to Fijian honesty, the dive operation sets up the gear
for the next day's dive in the afternoon and leaves it on the boat all
night.  Never a problem.

There is no pool or hot tub.  They do have a couple of wind surfing
boards  and about 3 sea kayaks.  If you want, you can hike around the
hills.  There is a waterfall somewhere but we never went there.  Other
than that, this is a place where you eat, dive, sleep, fool around in
the ocean or the beach, and fool around in the bure. No other place to
go.

THE ROOMS:
The bures are not air-conditioned but very well ventilated.  To my
thinking, this can be an advantage because you are not always running
in and out of your cool room and are more likely to go outside.  Also,
some people get stuffed up by the constant temperature change.  Since
we were there in winter (late June) the temperature was not an issue.
I can imagine that in summer things can be pretty hot.  While there is
a breeze, you are behind a wall of vegitation that can block the
movement of air somewhat.  The view from almost everywhere is
gorgeous.  In the BVI, they transplanted in vegitation.  At Bonaire,
there just wasn't any to speak of.  Here they cut it back.

The vegetation comes with a price.  Expect some rain and insects.  We
forgot (ok, I forgot) our repellent and didn't come back with very
many bites at all.  Every bure has a can of insect spray, but we
hardly needed it.  The secret is to keep the door closed and always
leave one light on during the day and evening.  If there are any
insects, they will be drawn to that light and you can play Dr. Death.
The dining room is another matter.  You are there in the early evening
and it is very open.  While we didn't have a big problem, I would
suggest repellent before you go up for dinner.  Also, the rain can
affect the visibility.  We had a couple of days where the vis was
below 50 feet.

The bures are very large.  Ours was a beachfront bure and I didn't see
the others.  It was about 18x30 feet not including the bathroom and
veranda. The bathroom was pretty much like a locker room with a
concrete floor that didn't drain all that well.  They put out a bath
mat each day but it quickly gets soaked and just holds water.  A
wooden slatted mat might help with this.

The veranda stretches across the front with a truly outstanding view.
No hammocks but you get two chaise lounges and two Adirondack type
chairs which you can take to the beach.  

Power is provided by a 4 generators which run from 7AM to 10PM.  They
were down to just one while we were there (waiting on parts).   While
we were there they put in a 24V system to power the bedside lamps 24
hours.  They said that their next project was to put in inverters for
the ceiling fans.  A very nice idea to my way of thinking.

THE FOOD:
All meals are at set times and are announced by the beating of a drum.
Ifound it to be an excellent alarm clock.  At about 6:55, if you have
sharp hearing, you can just hear the generator start.  At 7AM, you
feel the ceiling fan come on.  At 7:30AM, the drums announce
breakfast.  Lunch is at about 1PM and happy hour starts at 6:30 with
dinner at 7.

All meals are taken together family style at just a few large tables
and you dine with other guests and the staff. This makes the
atmosphere very intimate.  We got to know some very interesting
people.  Much more personal than other, larger resorts.

The food is good.  Breakfast is a small buffet with eggs, some kind of
meat, (bacon or saugage on alternating days), and plenty of fruit and
cereal. You get two choices for lunch and dinner.  They remind you
that, if you don't like the choices offered, just say so and they will
try to accomodate.  We never had a problem but the kitchen staff are
like a bunch of mother hens and love to please.  Don't expect
expansive buffets where you stuff yourself.  The portions are very
adequete but not overly large.  You won't go hungry and you won't gain
weight.

DIVING PROCEDURES:
I have dived with Kilbrides in the BVI and Cap't Don's Habitat on
Bonaire and this operation beat them both in terms of service.
--When you arrive, you will be given an orientation to the dive
operation.  They will interview you about how you like it set up.
They will take your equipment and tag it with a number that they
assign you so they can keep it all straight.  When you get on the
boat, everything will be set up.  I was diving with a rented Dacor Rig
which has all the flotation on the back.  I was concerned with it's
tendancy to put my on my face when at the surface and inflated, so I
requested trim weights on the tank at the bottom to balance things
out.  They were there every day.  They rinse your stuff after every
outing.
--The owners are active in an organization of dive operators in Fiji
and are pushing to require that all divers wear computers.  To that
end, if you don't bring a computer with you, they will lend you one at
no charge.
--The morning dive is a 2 tanker.  You get up at about 7, eat a 7:30
and be at the boat at 8:30 with mask, fins and snorkel.  Your gear
will be set up. The boat that we used (they have two of these) is a
multihull (pontoon boat) with a double bench down the center.  To make
your entry, you stand up, walk forward one step and take your giant
stride.  Exit is by ladders on either side of the boat.  They allow up
to 12 on a boat, but we never had more than 6.  No head on the boat.
--All the dive sites are owned by the local village so DK is the ONLY
operation using them.  There are stories about villagers stripping
unauthorized boats that come back after a warning.
--For each dive, the divemaster will conduct a briefing that includes
a map of the site, they will point out where the boat is on the map
and then orient you to the c***heads in the water.
--The surface interval is interesting.  None of the sites is more than
15 minutes away by boat so they could bring you back.  Instead, they
take you to a special beach just for surface intervals.  I suppose it
is to keep from having to chase down divers.  Anyway, this is a second
1000 feet of white sand beach with a small hut where you can enjoy the
shade, a cookie and a drink.  Look out the front of the hut and you
see the beach.  Look out the back and you see *** rain forest.  If
you are very quiet, the birds and butterflys start coming out.  You
are welcome to go back into the forest a short way to look around.
There are no facilities at the hut other than the forest.  While
you are relaxing, they are changing your equipment for you.
--At the end of the trip, they rinsed and dried our equipment for us.
They took care of the outside of the bc, but didn't rinse and drain
the seawater out of the inside of the bcs and, had I known that, I
would have done it myself.  No biggie.

In addition to the 2 Tank dive in the morning, they offer a 1 tank
dive in the afternoon and a night dive.  By special request, they will
run a full day at the Astrolabe Reef with 3 tanks.  Unlimited shore
diving, day or night, is included and there is a very nice reef just
down the beach and about 30 feet off shore.

We did not rent equiment from DK but the stuff that they rented out
looked recent and we heard no complaints.  They don't do Nitrox.

THE DIVES:
Chock full of life.  There were times that I felt like I was swimming
in an acquarium.  The fish seemed to be less afraid of us than in
other places.  I could easily get within 12 inches.  Gobs of c***
(hard and soft).  We saw a few large critters: Manta Rays, Eagle Rays,
small white tipped reef sharks and sea turtles.  We had been warned to
look out for sea snakes but never saw any.

Very little current.  You just about had to stop and hover to see if
there was any.  The water was really smooth by my standards (6-9 inch
swells) and the owner told me that it was a bit choppy.

The water temperature there was between 74 and 78 (winter).  I dove
with a polarfleece and was just comfortable.  Another degree colder
and I would have had trouble.  My hands got cold, though, so next time
I will take gloves. My daughter dove with a shorty of thin neoprene
and did fine.  In summer, I would imagine that no thermal protection
would be necessary.

WOULD I GO BACK:
Yes.

Pros:  
1.  Knock down gorgeous location.  Looks like Gilligans Island wanted
us to believe.
2.  Exellent dive operation.  Valet diving makes it easy for lazy guys
like me.
3.  People, people, people.  This was more like a bed and breakfast.
We met some very interesting and entertaining folks; something that I
don't do easily.
4.  Some people might think this a Con, but we liked the modest food
portions.  Given the chance, we would have eaten too much.

Cons:
1.  The stinkin' plane flight from LAX is 10 hours and I just don't
sleep at all on planes.  If you have the miles, go for the 1st class
upgrade and get some Z's.

Note:  I am not affiliated with the resort in any way.  Just a recent
customer.  The opinions expressed above are my own and should be
integrated with other reports for a more un-biased view.

If you have additional questions, you can eamil me at

Non-spammers
please remove the "bite me".  Spammers will know what to do.