Kadavu and the Great Astrolabe Reef

Off the southern island of Kadavu (pronounced Kan-DA-vu) is a small corner of paradise on Ono Island called Jona's Paradise Resort. We each have our own definition of paradise and if yours is simple pleasures afforded by warm and friendly native Fijians on a tropical island, Jona's is the place for you. The resort sits on the world famous Great Astrolabe Reef.

We flew from Nadi to Suva and then on to Kadavu on Air Fiji. You can fly direct by using Sunflower Airlines. Ono Island is a long water taxi ride from the airport but brings you very close to the best diving. It can get wet, so the staff coverd our gear as we settled in for the ride. Arriving at Jona's, we were greeted but the entire staff singing a welcome.

The beach front bures were small but very cozy. These thatched huts were handcrafted by Jona's father, Villame, the local bure master. They are spread along the white sand beach only a few feet away the colorful corals begin. The deep water beach allows for easy entry and snorkeling.
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The scuba diving at Jona's is in association with Dive Kadavu. Divemaster Willy will lead you through the many passageways and tunnels that make up the Great Astrolabe Reef. Only minutes from the dive sites, it is not necessary to have a large dive boat. The number of divers generally does not exceed five.

For our first dive, we dropped in to Purple Wall where we saw a good sized bronze whaler shark, some lobster and a hawksbill turtle. Hard corals covered the area with patches of soft corals. Anemone and clownish are scattered around the reef. Schools of fairy basslets abound.

The large number of shallow reefs and the warm waters of e'nino have unfortunately caused severe coral bleaching. Our last report was that the corals were making a strong come back and if we do not have another few years of warm water, will have recovered completely.

The Great Astrolabe Reef reaches from the southside of the island of Kadavu, east and to the north around Ono Island and a cluster of smaller islands. There are a few channels including Usborne Passage in the North and Naingoro Passage in the South. The southern passage is conveniently close to Ono Island and a favorite diving site.

Cutting through the reef with only a moderate current, the passage is home to schools of fish. Purple and yellow soft corals adorn the walls which are also home for a wide variety of nudibranchs and flat worms. Branded sea snakes search the crevasses for small fish. There also have been several occasions when sailfish or even hammerhead sharks have been seen.
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The protected waters behind the Great Astrolabe Reef offers many other activities including ocean kayaking. Weather permitting (mild winds), kayaking around the small island of Ono can be done in a day. Paddling together in our sleek two-person kayak, we passed rocky points and isolated beaches. There were villagers on the beach and birds overhead to wave to. We found a deserted beach to rest, picnic and swim in the warm shallow waters. The stealth craft cut nearly effortless through the water as we returned from a sparkling day in paradise.

One day a brightly colored boat arrived at our beach with the island's Chief. We were introduced by Ledua, Jona's wife. The Chief invited us to visit her village which we went the next day. After a village tour we were invited to join in the festival and drink from the ceremonial Kava bowl.

The best part of Jona's Paradise Resort are the native Fijians. They are warm and sincerely friendly, making you feel part of their extended family. Each day, Ledua prepares traditional Fijian meals rich in fresh fruit, seafood and locally grown vegetables, There are served family-style with fresh hot bread.

The experience at Jona's is very difference than most of the other major resorts on the larger Fiji islands. This is a far less crowded and more traditional experience offering wonderful diving. Many parts of the Great Astrolabe Reef have yet to be explored. As we explored one of these areas, Willy asked us to name the dive site. Remembering the many passageways that meandered up then down then up again, we suggested that it be called "Roller Coaster." Who knows, maybe you too will be the first to dive a reef and be honored to name it.