East of Viti Levu and southeast of Vanua Levu, the Rainbow Reef snorkeling is the best known dive spot in all of Fiji. While Rainbow Reef is a hugely popular scuba dive site, it has been gaining a reputation with snorkelers. As a boat-accessed site, it is usually accessed from the southeast coast of Vanua Levu, which is closest, but can also be accessed by boat from Taveuni Island.
Located in the Somosomo Strait, the 32km long Rainbow Reef is known for its colorful biodiversity among the sea fans, soft corals and hard corals. Note, the hard corals have been heavily impacted from coral bleaching. The Somosomo Strait is known for having strong currents, so beware. During Rainbow Reef snorkeling, you may encounter angelfish, triggerfish, parrotfish, butterflyfish, three species of clownfish, wrasses, turtles, stingrays, octopus, dolphins, eels, giant clams and possibly sharks.
While Rainbow Reef is quite long, most of the dive sites have deep water and are better for scuba diving. The best snorkeling dive spots include the Fish Factory, the Cabbage Patch and the Coral Garden at Nuku Reef. At the Fish Factory, there is soft coral found on the top side of the wall in the shallower waters (3m). The most popular marine life includes parrotfish, moray eels, stonefish, scorpionfish, lionfish and an occasional manta ray. At the Cabbage Patch, there is a huge outcropping of serpentine salad coral arranged in layer upon layer of plates. This region is popular with hawkfish, achilles tangs, unicornfish and banded sea kraits. Lastly, the Nuku Reef is the most popular snorkeling site where you will find a zone called Coral Gardens, which is about 3m deep. The gardens have soft corals and hard corals along with giant clams, anemone and christmas tree worms.
During Rainbow Reef snorkeling, you may encounter angelfish, triggerfish, parrotfish, butterflyfish, three species of clownfish, wrasses, turtles, stingrays, octopus, dolphins, eels, giant clams and possibly sharks.
To reach Fiji by air, you'll need to fly into the only international airport in Fiji, Nadi International Airport (NAN) on Viti Levu, which is served by Fiji Airways, Qantas, and Air New Zealand. Many of the flights arrive very late at night, so plan accordingly. When arriving in Fiji from the US, keep in mind that most flights arrive very early in the morning and Fiji is just across the international date line, so you’ll effectively land two days after departing the US.
The best access for Rainbow Reef is from the southern Savusavu side of Vanua Levu island. There are flights from Suva on Viti Levu to Savusavu on Vanua Levu, so the challenge upon arriving into Nadi International Airport is getting over to Suva airport. Alternately, there are also flights from Suva airport to Matei airport on Taveuni Island.
TIP: The Fijian cyclone/typhoon rainy season starts in November and ends in late March. There have been periodic cyclones that have caused damage to both the reefs and to the resorts, including those in 2012 and 2016. It may be worth contacting a local dive shop or resort about cyclone impacts before booking. The best Fiji snorkeling is typically from May through October during the dry winter season, but be aware that the water becomes cooler as the winter season progresses.
Overall, Rainbow Reef is the 8th most popular snorkel dive spot of all 22 snorkeling dives in Fiji.