Tiliva Dive Resort: Pristine Paradise

On the north east side of Kadavu (pronounced Kan-DA-vu), very close to the Great Astrolabe Reef lies the small, intimate resort of Tiliva, named after the village next door.

Everything about this tropical eco-resort is conducive to a relaxing and magical experience of Fiji. The six bures are beautiful; ours was perched on a small hill with a balcony overlooking the ocean. The trees have grown so high that we were surrounded by a tropical forest.

We arrived at the resort by boat from the airport as there is no roads to drive and no pollution. The resort is owned by Kim Yabaki, a Fijian man from the village next door that joined the British Army and came back with his Irish wife more than 20 years later. Barbara is warm-hearted and soft-spoken and Kim's brothers are mayor and chief of the village.

Meals were always a delicious surprise comprising unusual recipes incorporating local Fijan delicacies.

Each morning we awoke to the calls of the Kadavu parrot. This brilliantly colored parrot is only found on Kadavu. They are fast flyers and like to perch high in the trees. Each morning they perched across from our balcony, just outside our camera's reach, to help us greet the Fijian day.

Tiliva Resort is located next to the world-famous Great Astrolabe Reef. Just a short boat ride through the south passage and we could choose from several dive sites in either direction along the reef. It had been a few years since we dove this reef and we were eager to learn if it had healed from the coral bleaching that we had witnessed last time. We had heard reports that the reef had come back to life and this we confirmed.

Fish Market was one of the favorite dive sites, so we chose to dive it again. The water had a slight current, choppy at the surface, and low visibility below. We immediately saw two whitetip sharks and a large grouper.

Soft coral outcrops and sea fans appeared to be healthy. Avoiding a large female Titan triggerfish that was being protective of her young, we explored a hard coral garden, which was beautiful and pristine.

The next day we decided to select another one of the numerous dives that the Great Astrolabe Reef had to offer. We dropped down 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 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 is 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 flatworms. Banded sea snakes search the crevasses for small fish. There also have been several occasions when sailfish or even hammerhead sharks have been seen.

Off Ono Island, Siwa found a large coral trout floating on the surface. We thought that this was very odd but he did not seem worried about retreiving and eating this fish. We later learned of a destructive fishing practice which uses Duva, a local weed that is crushed and squirted underwater to stun fish. The fish are then easily collected. It has been widely used in Fiji although there have been efforts to eliminate the practice. It seems that this area has not yet complied with the ban.

We dove two wonderful dive sites, Slit Rock and Broken Rock, on the westside of Ono Island. This is the island just across from the resort. After swimming through four caves, we came to a clearing where Siwa caught fish for a BBQ lunch. In the third cave, we descended ten feet into a small lower cave and found a beautiful banded sea snake more than three feet long.

Coral polyps in yellow and white decorated the cave walls. Just outside one of the swim-throughs, we came upon a pair of beautiful Oriental sweetlips.

In between dives, we stopped for lunch at Kororrao Beach on Ono Island, a long strip of pristine white sand and palm trees where Siwa made a fire and cooked the fish he had caught.
Barbara had supplied us with a large picnic in case no fish were caught, so we feasted on fresh barbequed fish, other fried fish, taro chips, rice and fruit. Lynn felt guilty that Siwa had killed some of the spectular reef fish but I reminded her that fishing was a natural part of the Fijian way of life.

After a wonderful feast on the beach, we went diving at Broken Rock. It was a very warm and pleasant dive and we explored more underwater caves.

One morning we went to the neighboring village where our divemaster showed us around and introduced us to the mayor, who sat lounging on the floor ouside the community building. Everyone was easy-going and friendly and the children ran together to have their photos taken, laughing and playing.

There is a large natural spring flowing into the sea from the hills above so the village and resort are is blessed with ample water for drinking and farming. We enjoyed a great variety of organic fruit and vegetables. Tilva Resort is one of the last unspoiled places on the planet, a pristine paradise where harmony and nature abound. The owners are friendly and enjoy the company of their guests, treating them like good friends.

After a splendid day of diving, a satisfying lunch and a short siesta, we decided to climb up the hill behind the resort to watch the sunset. It was a beautiful hike and we were rewarded with a 360-degree view of the surrounding landscape and ocean beyond.

There is a warm ambience and unlimited peace and quiet at Tiliva. We were sad to say goodbye and received a very heartful rendition of "Lsa Lei" as our boat departed with our divemaster at the helm.