With the exception of the ferries listed here, often the only means of transport between neighbouring islands is by small local boats or pricey water taxis. These rarely have radio-phones or life jackets. If the weather looks ominous or the boat is overcrowded, consider postponing the trip or opting for a flight.
Regular ferry services link Viti Levu to Vanua Levu, Taveuni, Ovalau and Kadavu. Ferry timetables are notorious for changing frequently, plus boats sometimes leave at odd hours with a lengthy waiting period at stopovers. The worst thing about the longer trips is that the toilets can sometimes become disgusting (take your own toilet paper). There are irregular boats that take passengers from Suva to the Lau Group and Rotuma.
Every day a small flotilla of high-speed catamarans departs Denarau Marina to the resorts on the Mamanuca islands. All boats have a free pick-up and drop-off service between the port and Nadi Hotels. Mana, Malolo and Malololailai all have wharves; at the other islands the arriving catamarans are met by a swarm of resort dinghies that take turns to pull alongside the bigger catamaran and deposit or collect travellers.
Luggage is colour-coded with tags, but it’s a good idea to check that your bags have followed you into the dinghy. In calm weather the transfer of passengers from big boat to little boat goes smoothly, but when there is motion in the ocean, things become interesting.
Two shipping companies, Bligh Water Shipping and Goundar Shipping, connect Suva and Savusavu, often via Koro, Taveuni and/or Ovalau.
It takes around 12 hours to reach Savusavu. For those bound for Labasa, a bus often meets the boats at Savusavu and tickets can be bought in Suva that include the Labasa bus transfer. Sometimes the boats depart from Natovi Landing, a half-hour bus ride north of Suva. Two daily ferries run between Natuvu in Vanua Levu and Taveuni.
Bligh Water Shipping Has regular Natovi–Savusavu departures aboard the MV Westerland in three classes, including super-comfy cabins, double bunks and economy seats. The ferry usually arrives in Savusavu in the wee hours of the morning.
Goundar Shipping The comfortable Lomaiviti Princess departs Suva every Monday and Friday for a 12-hour voyage to Savusavu, and onwards for 2-3 hours to Taveuni. Accommodation ranges from economy seating to first-class cabins; facilities include a theatre room, kids' playground and cafe. A second ferry was due to be added to the route. Also has a branch in Savusavu.
Suva ferries actually leave from Natovi Landing, which is 90 minutes north of the city, and land at Buresala Landing on Ovalau.
Patterson Brothers Shipping Operates a daily service between Suva and Levuka. Tickets are for a combined bus-ferry through service, with a journey time of around four to five hours.
Viti Levu is connected to Kadavu by only two companies. Both sail out of Suva.
There are very few services to the Lau, Moala and Rotuma Groups. Those that run are slow, uncomfortable and erratic. Many islands only receive one ferry a month, making this an unreliable option for anyone with a fixed timetable.
Goundar Shipping currently visits Vanuabalavu and Cicia in the Lau Group, and Rotuma once a month – call ahead for the schedule. A new ship, the MV Sea Rakino, was coming into service as we went to press, offering a more regular service linking the Lau Group to Suva, with the possibility of a stop at Savusavu and Taveuni.
Yachting is a great way to explore the Fiji archipelago but remember if you wish to visit any place except a port of entry, a cruising permit from the Ministry of Fijian Affairs is required. These are free of charge and usually issued on the spot.
For more information, Yacht Help Fiji has an excellent online guide as well as a base at Port Denarau.
Only one local company so far has taken advantage of Fiji's potential as a cruise destination.
Captain Cook Cruises Offers three to seven night cruises around the Yasawas, a seven-night cruise around Vanua Levu (also taking in Levuka), and an 11-night cruise around Kadavu and the Lau Group. All departures sail from Port Denarau.