Diving in Beqa Lagoon
Dive at the Island of the Fire Walkers
One of the best known Fiji scuba diving destinations and once christened "The Mecca of Pacific Diving", Beqa Lagoon (pronounced Benga), lies just south of Viti Levu, the main island of Fiji where international flights arrive.
Beqa Island is a popular spot for those who wish to get straight into the water without taking a domestic flight to the outer islands. When you slip below the surface from your Fiji dive resort you can visit a variety of different sites (there are said to be over 100 in the greater Beqa area) including pinnacles and bommies, fringing reefs and even a wreck or two.
While it would be fair to say that the lagoon diving at Beqa Island is not the best that Fiji has to offer, it is among the best diving around Viti Levu and many divers return there year upon year. You should not expect the array or volume of reef fish here that one might find in Nigali or the soft corals of Namena in the Koro Sea, but there is quite a variety of reef life including numerous fish as well as sharks and octopus, as well as some huge fans and healthy soft corals.
The lagoon itself consists of over 100 square miles of clear water surrounded by the protective arms of some 30 solid kilometres of barrier reef. This makes it one of the world's largest barrier reefs (read more about the Fiji coral reefs). Given this geographical feature you'll find that the water stays around 26°C for most of the year and there are only gentle currents in Beqa Lagoon.
Dive Site Descriptions
Caesar's Rocks - The legend of Caesar's Rocks spread far and wide and became top of many divers wish list when visiting Fiji. Diving Beqa Island at its best. The topography of the site will be the first thing that strikes you as you descend onto a collection of bommies dotted in soft corals. It is the diversity of colour that will strike you first here as pinks, reds and oranges all fill your view.
And it's not only on the exterior of the bommies that such colourful life proliferates. These bommies exhibit a series of channels, caverns and windows, none of which are free of a tremendous splash of vivid colouration. There are also plenty of giant gorgonians providing shelter to longnose hawkfish and trumpetfish, among others.
Photographers tend to go a bit 'Snap happy' here as there are so many great photo opportunities particularly in the amazing, coral lined tunnel that runs along at around a depth of 15 metres.
An American dive magazine once called this site "The Mecca of Pacific Diving", though it is difficult to believe that this still holds true. If the scenery and swim-throughs are not enough to keep you mesmerised then look out for nudibranchs and blennies in and around the small crevices. Larger sights here that can further add to your enjoyment of this spot include small schools of tuna, the possibility of a turtle passing through and, if you are very lucky, the odd manta ray might swoop gracefully by.
Regardless of what unforeseeable sightings you have here at Caesar's Rocks this is one of the top Beqa dive sites, and should be enough to ensure much excited chatter when back on the dive boat.
Carpet Cove - Carpet Cove is one of the better diving sites to be found in Beqa Lagoon. The site has 2 main features and it will depend where you start this dive which comes first. You are likely to descend on to the site of the Japanese fishing boat which was sunk in Beqa in 1994. The wreck sits upright, entirely intact in water ranging in depth from about 20 to 30 metres.
As you make your way around the wreck you will see it is covered in encrusting sponges and soft corals. Among the fish here are lionfish (often pretty big ones) that move slowly within the more sheltered parts of the ship, their pretty but dangerous spiny fins splayed.
Only a few fin kicks from the wreck is the wall which forms part of the main reef where the rewards of investigation are plentiful. Hard corals, soft corals and fans all speckle this reef. Also surely featuring in any set of pictures from Carpet Cove will be the wide-eyed gaping of a blue ribbon eel or two as there always seem to be a few specimens around.
You may also see brilliant purple queens, red-and-black anemonefish, 2-tone dartfish and black-spot pygmy wrasses somewhere in the vicinity. Curious batfish have also been known to circle close to divers, so don't be alarmed if one appears right in front of your mask.
Also worth looking out for in and around this reef are the many and varied scorpion leaffish - green, yellow, black and white - wafting passively with the movement of the water. Leaffish are quite common throughout the whole of the lagoon. Of course the name of the site refers to the carpet of anemones in the shallower parts of the dive so it is no surprise that plenty of anemone fish call Carpet Cove their home.
E.T. - This dive is considered to be out of this world, hence the name, and you might well be rushing to phone home afterwards. The bommie that makes this site is in fact so large that it is unlikely you will see much more than about half of it on any one dive so it may be that during your stay you can return for the sequel.
The main feature of this Beqa Lagoon dive is an enormous tunnel which you make your way along into 2 separate chambers. All the while as you cruise along here, the walls are sprinkled with soft corals, sea fans, cup corals and just about every other type of sessile flora you can imagine. Especially under torch light this is an experience of beauty. There even seem to be different floors within these bommies with tunnels stacked upon each other and running parallel to each other at differing depths.
Because you will spend the vast majority of your time in tunnels here a torch is strongly recommended, otherwise the full effect of the colour that surrounds you may not be apparent. You may also fail to spot the residents of this marine system such as the occasional nurse shark or the smaller scale nudibranchs, sea slugs and lionfish. Also worth keeping an eye out for are gaping moray eels, red rock crabs and all manners of shrimp scuttling around over the splashes of colour.
Coming up to the surface after diving here is a bitter-sweet moment since you will wish you could stay and investigate the tunnels further. Commonly post-dive conversations at Beqa Island involve resolving to return again to the site called E.T. which could equally stand for Extraordinary Tunnels.
Fantasea - Fantasea is considered one of the best dive sites in Beqa Lagoon and with good reason. There can often be strong current here so do not be too disappointed if your dive guides decide the conditions are not right since this is a site which you will want to take at your own speed.
When there is little or no current you drop down to about 14 metres and start to make your way over a coral ridge decorated with crinoids, whip corals and bubble corals, among other things. Check out the bubble coral closely as there may be a shrimps or even an orangutan crab in residence.
There are lots of big gorgonian fans here and one spot in the dive sees a narrow channel between 2 ridges positively crammed with big fans. The spot is, unsurprisingly, known as Big Fan Alley. The fans grow from either side of the channel and several are of an impressive span.
Less huge but no less impressive, are the fields of garden eels in the sandy floor nearby. The eels of Beqa seem less timid than those in other areas, and will often not duck down into their burrow until the last moment of your approach.
Making your way along the healthy reef, there is a considerable amount of life to keep you entertained including lionfish, both of the twin spot and clear fin variety, as well as blue-lined snapper and several species of vibrantly coloured nudibranchs and flat worms.
As this dive comes to an end you will find yourself off-gassing at around 5 metres atop a pinnacle which is buzzing with action. Expect to see lots of grey damselfish, Achilles tang, fire dartfish, swarms of anthias and lilac coloured fairy basslets. There are also anemones galore with their attendant Clark's and pink anemonefishes. There is so much on this pinnacle top that you will want to suck your air down to its last breath so you can enjoy all the colour and action going on.
Seven Sisters - is said to be a site with 7 easily discernible pinnacles, but it is not an easy task to identify exactly where these 7 start and end. A better idea is just to enjoy this Beqa Island dive as there is always plenty to see in this ever-changing seascape which, if conditions allow, will take the form of a drift.
As you deflate your BCD and descend into the clear waters of Beqa, keep an eye out for things happening beneath your fins as you may spot one of the several often-seen octopus here, moving over the reef before seeking shelter as the sight of you grows nearer. There are also often many flatworms to be seen making their way over the sea floor.
You will then find yourself drifting or gently finning over and around the reef, between ridges and small bommies; all the while taking in the fans, soft corals and crinoids that decorate them in a variety of colours, including bright yellow, orange and shades of pink and purple. While there may well be some shrimps and moray eels lurking in the nooks and crannies of the wall, keep an eye on the blue where both white tip and black tip sharks lurk.
After crossing a sandy flat whose chief residents appear to be co-habiting bulldozer shrimp and gobies, you will make your way into increasingly shallow water, where there is a colourful area of rock and coral, fed by shafts of sunlight. Here you can expect anemones and crinoids surrounded by legions of colourful basslets and anthias.
The Pinnacle - The Pinnacle is in fact closer to Vatulele Island than the lagoon but will likely be included in any diving package of more than a few days. Unlike many of the sites around here which enjoy sheltered areas in and around bommies and reefs, The Pinnacle stands alone in open water unafforded any protection from surrounding islands.
This site is often restricted to those divers with a bit more experience but it will be up to your guides to determine its suitability for you. In truth there is little testing here in the right conditions except for a moderate but manageable current. There will be a real buzz of excitement as you dive down to this submerged sea mount which takes on the shape of a mushroom cloud as there is a large undercut which narrows at around the 25 metre mark.
The wall has plenty of interesting features in terms of hard and soft corals but no more spectacular than you will see elsewhere. The reason to be diving here is not to gaze at the pinnacle itself but to gaze out from it into the blue for the chance of a big pelagic sighting. Plenty of grey reef sharks are almost guaranteed but add to that the likes of schooling hammerheads, nurse sharks, eagle rays and maybe a tiger shark or two and you can see why this Beqa Island dive has the reputation it has.
Considered one of Fiji's best sites for pelagic encounters, a productive dive here can include an amazing list of big fish and the kind of big fish photographs that will amaze your land-lubbing friends back home.
The Three Nuns - Just outside of Yanuca Island on the outskirts of Beqa Lagoon lie 3 huge bommies fairly close to each other and covered in colourful soft coral. The dominant colours are the yellow of the leather corals and violet from the warty finger corals.
The dive boat will usually moor up at the southern bommie where you begin and end the dive. The best way to enjoy this dive site and see as much as possible is to slowly circle around each pinnacle. There are also numerous table corals, especially on the shallow sections of the bommies as they need plenty of sunlight to allow for photosynthesis, and large red gorgonian fans that are home to a myriad of different fish species.
There's a good chance of seeing some great macro life such as colourful nudibranchs and different sized sea dragons, but you'll also notice hundreds of anthias and butterflyfish, particularly Pacific double-saddle butterflyfish, swimming around the table corals.
Coral hawkfish are very common here and you can easily take a photo as they rest on the coral, but be careful not to get too close and scare them off. More difficult to spot are the longnose hawkfish. Look in the crevices of the walls of the bommies for the giant moray eels that live here. You may even see one swimming free if you're lucky.
It's a good idea to keep an eye on the sea bed during your dive, as the site is not very far from the shark feeding area and you might spot a whitetip reef shark resting on the sandy bottom.
Once you reach the last pinnacle, take your time as you double back to the first bommie where the dive boat is moored right above you. The top of the pinnacle is the perfect spot for your safety stop as it is just 5m below the surface. It is covered in a carpet of anemones that provide cover for fire clownfish and boxing shrimps.
The shallow depth makes the dive site the perfect choice as the 3rd dive of the day after the 2 shark dives in Pacific Harbour. It's also a good site for those learning to dive at Beqa Island.
How to Dive Beqa
The lagoon can either be dived from Beqa Island itself or from nearby Pacific Harbour on Viti Levu. Anyone diving here is almost certainly going to have the chance to partake in the exhilarating shark diving at Pacific Harbour.
If you wish to stay on island of Beqa then there is really only one resort choice. Otherwise you can stay in a resort on the Coral Coast of southern Viti Levu. Either way travel times to the dive sites are about the same.
You can go diving in Beqa Lagoon all year round, although the conditions do vary. The best visibility is likely to be found during the July to September period when it tips the higher range of 20-40m. Water temperature does not fluctuate much, ranging between a low of 24°C around July and August, and a high of about 28°C in February and March. The higher temperatures coincide with a greater chance of rain.
The calm protected waters of the lagoon can generally be expected to produce calm surface conditions although there can be a little surface swell from November to January.
Creatures like turtles, manta rays and eagle rays can be spotted at various times throughout the year. Tuna proliferate in June, and February is the best month for big numbers of barracuda. Game fish that you'd be very lucky to spot when diving, such as blue marlin, wahoo and Spanish mackerel, are most numerous in the July to August period.
Good for: Sharks, soft corals, small animals, non-diving activities
Not so good for: Large animals, wall dives, drift diving, advanced divers
Depth: 5 - 30m
Visibility: 10 - 30m
Currents: None or gentle
Surface conditions: Can be choppy, but can be rough in windy season
Water temperature: 24 - 28°C
Experience level: Beginner - intermediate
Number of dive sites: >22
Distance: 14 km south of Pacific Harbour, Viti Levu
Access: Beqa Island and Viti Levu dive resorts
Recommended length of stay: 1 week