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“Good Resort, Great Food, Exquisite Scuba Diving”

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Garden Island Resort
Ranked #8 of 11 Hotels in Taveuni Island
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed 12 August 2008

The Garden Island Resort has 30 rooms facing the sea and lovely, well-maintained grounds with a variety of flowering plants. Each room has either a balcony or a patio and comes equipped with a ceiling fan and a small refrigerator. The resort was very clean, the beds were comfortable, the furniture was in very good condition, and the decor was attractive. Our group had some minor challenges with the air-conditioning and the plumbing, but the problems were either corrected immediately or the divers were moved to another room. The dining room and lounge are open to the swimming pool, the sea, and majestic sunsets. The resort is nice as-is, but we were advised that the entire facility will soon be undergoing extensive remodeling.

Apparently a new chef had taken the reins in the kitchen several weeks before our arrival. The food served was the best food I’ve ever eaten in an all-inclusive dive resort. We enjoyed a superb bar-b-que one night and had another excellent evening meal devoted to traditional Fijian food. On the night that Fijian food was served, the staff of the resort put on a Meke Dance performance that was very entertaining. The divemasters, maids, kitchen help, and servers performing the Meke seemed to be having a really good time and they were very willing to share their culture.

The overwhelming majority of the staff at Garden Island are excellent. Many of them knew our names by the second day of our stay and often greeted us with a hearty “Bula . . . (fill in the name)!” Bula is the traditional Fijian word for “Hello” and you hear it when you come into a store, walk on the street, or enter the dive center. This is a very friendly country. Apparently the former owner had offered free diving/instruction to the resort staff and this helped to foster a special connection to the patrons of Garden Island. Two members of our group finished their open water dives at the resort after completing class and pool instruction at Ultimate Dive & Travel (Arizona) and both students commented on the positive qualities of the resort’s instructor.

The Somosomo Straits a.k.a. Rainbow Reef are at the doorstep of the Garden Island Resort. Their reputation as the “Soft Coral Capital of the World” is well deserved and the diving here was nothing short of spectacular. While the soft corals were the most amazing part of our diving, we also saw sharks on nearly every dive, spotted a few lionfish, Moorish Idol, unicornfish, many clownfish, a couple of sea snakes, eels, a turtle, many different kinds of angels & butterflyfish, and more damselfish, anthias, and other little critters than you can imagine. The reef is healthy and the dive staff work to keep it that way. Most of the dive sites are within twenty-five minutes of the resort and surface intervals are conducted at a white sandy beach that could easily have been featured in a magazine layout.

The divemasters provided a briefing that included suggested depth limits, but allowed divers to largely dive their own profiles. They paid some additional attention to divers with more limited experience.

The two 12-13 passenger dive boats are fast and have relatively new outboard engines, but the boats themselves are aging and need some repairs that are said to be planned for the coming weeks. The ladders on the boats are the worst that I’ve ever encountered and the platforms at the back of the boats have a metal tube running across the deck that must be stepped over before entering the water.

We arrived about five weeks after Aqua-Trek completed the sale of the resort and dive center to investors based in Hong Kong (Chi International?). On the positive side, the new management worked hard to correct problems with our rooms, arrange tours, and improve the food. On the negative side, they were clear that the new ownership would not allow them to honor the pricing that had been quoted when we contracted with Aqua-Trek to come to Garden Island. Neither Aqua-Trek nor the new ownership notified us that a sale had taken place until after we arrived. We found that the pricing for things like night dives, an extra day of diving, and an open water referral had jumped by as much as 50%. A extra day of 2-tank diving cost us US$126 at current exchange rates. Groups considering the Garden Island Resort would be well advised to determine the price of every activity that they are considering prior to signing the contract - get it in writing and bring the email with you.

  • Stayed: July 2008
    • Value
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Thank Doc-Diver
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 31 July 2008

The Garden Island Resort on the island of Taveuni Fiji is an ideal destination for scuba divers, snorkelers, and bird watchers. The rooms at the resort are all air conditioned, clean, and well-appointed. Each day fresh flowers are placed throughout each room. All resort rooms offer a beautiful view of ocean and adjoining islands. The resort has a beautiful swimming pool that is kept spotless. The open air restaurant serves three meals a day with a full service bar open throughout the day.
The morning continental breakfast offers fresh fruit each day along with muffins, cereals, toast, coffee, and juices. Lunch and Dinner meals are excellent and very affordable. A local accoustic
musical group plays every evening from 6 t0 10 p.m. The hotel management staff, restaurant staff, house-keeping staff, and dive shop staff are superb in every regard. The people make a habit of learning the names of all of the guests and are the friendliest people I've met any place on earth. This is not a four-star hotel but a very affordable vacation destination that we found completely flawless. No request was too small and the folks go out of their way to make every guests stay a memorable. I would not hesitate to return to this wonderful resort.

Thank Dolphin913
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 9 June 2008

I stayed for a week in late May 2008 with a dive group from America. The New Zealand manager advised us that the American owner, Aqua-trek, who had owned the resort for over 10 years, had sold it to a Hong Kong company that had other property in Taveuni. Settlement had not taken place at 31 May but when it does hopefully the new owner will upgrade the resort and tighten up the dive staff.

The resort was built about 35 years ago as the Travelodge and has 30 rooms including 2 that are bunk rooms with 4 singe beds each. The rooms are airconditioned with telephone & fridge but have no TV. The resort generates its own power and the water is safe to drink. The resort laundry service is cheap & fast.

Fiji tourism has suffered from the four coup’s since independence, the last one being in December 2006, and the recent expulsion of two Australian newspaper editors has resulted in adverse publicity and scared tourists away. This probably explains why the rooms, while clean, need maintenance. For example rusty bathroom fittings & no handle on the flywire door to the veranda. At the dive shop the signs are faded, guttering is rusted out and the boats are battered but serviceable.

The resort shop is token but there are several shops withing 200 metres from the entrance which you can buy supplies including a post office.

Internet is a very slow dial-up computer in the resort shop. No wireless internet at all. However wireless internet at broadband speed is available at the Bakery Cafe about 25 minutes walk away to the south opposite the catholic mission. Broadband internet is also available at the Indian store & petrol station at Somosomo village which is a FJD $4 taxi fare away to the north.

The staff are wonderful. The women especially will remember your name from the second day. They are very friendly and “happy go lucky’. The same lady that served you in the bar or restaurant also will massage you. The massage cost was FJD $65 which I thought was cheap for the standard of massage provided. We were on a meal plan so the cost of all our meals was included. The cost of each course for those not on a meal plan was very reasonable. Drink prices were cheap with local beer costing FJD$3.50 during happy hour and FJD$4.50 any other time. Sure if you ordered a cocktail you were slugged FJD $12 but that’s normal at any resort. The were some very good Australian & New Zealand bottles of wine for between FJD $30 & $50. A four person band with guitars played every night from 6PM to 10PM with a kava bowl available for the band members and any guests that were game to try. Because we were a group of 20 divers the resort put on a feast night for us and the other guests with singing and island dancing.

The diving sites are excellent - equal to anything on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. The Great White Wall dive is spectacular commencing with a descent though a tunnel from 40 ft to 80ft to bring you to the wall. The diving staff are too casual for my liking. We dived with 12 divers per boat which had 2 dive masters and a deckie. The plan was for each group of six to follow one of the dive masters however we were given no briefing on the underwater signals that they would use so most of us were confused with the dive master query of how much air we had left. The briefing on each site were good. And between morning dives we rested on a sandy beach of a nearby island.

Dive organisation was sloppy. On my first dive my resort regulator was faulty and I had to use that of the dive master who therefore could not dive. After the 1st dive we had to return to the dive shop to get a 2nd regulator as no spare was carried onboard. They had no pen on board to write down our names etc and had to borrow mine for the next 2 days until I donated my pen to them. On our 2nd dive we had 5 “O” ring failures. On another day we all boarded the boat but then had to wait while the dive master was taken back to the dive shop to get the boat keys that he had forgotten.

The Garden Island web site is misleading. (See http://www.aquatrek.com/taveuni_diving/taveuni_diving_faqs.cfm) They DO NOT have a photo centre nor do they rent camera’s. Nor do they have video viewing facilities and a light table for viewing slides. Perhaps 5 years ago but not now.

When I dive on the Great Barrier Reef the dive operators include a dive computer with any regulator rented. If you night dive a light stick is included in the price so that every diver has one. This helps you identify your buddy. At Garden Island they have no dive computers to rent and if you want a light stick you need to buy it. No torches are available to rent. Lucky our group were experienced divers who all had there own dive computers and torches. However a beginner would have problems.

Despite the problems of the current operator I am sure that with a new owner and a cash injection the resort will regain its status. Until then try the Paradise Resort & Pro Dive further down the coast which is more expensive but a lot better.

  • Stayed: May 2008
    • Value
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6  Thank David_Albert_Park
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
CHI_Intl, Public Relations Manager at Garden Island Resort, responded to this reviewResponded 28 June 2011

Thank you for your review. As you already know, Garden Island Resort has recently changed owners and has gone through a complete renovation from the ground up.
We have used reviews like yours to shape the new image of the Garden Island and along with our new management team, we hope to live up to our image of a world class resort in Fiji.

We would like to welcome you back to Garden Island Resort in the near future to re-review our resort and can offer you a 10% discount on stays of 3 days or more.

For more information go to http://www.gardenislandresort.com/ or send us an email at relax@gardenislandresort.com/

Thank you,

Patrick Morais
Digital Marketing Manager | CHI International
Email: patrick@chi-international.com.hk | Web: www.chi-international.com.hk

Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 2 June 2008

The hotel is between owners (a new Hong Kong based company is allegedly buying the property and planning on putting money into it) but is a great location for great diving. Because it is between owners the old owners are not putting money into the property, but the staff is great, the rooms are serviceable (with great air conditioning) and the diving great. Stay here if you are diving, otherwise you will probably be happier elsewhere. The property is right on the Somosomo Strait, no beach, never went into the pool, but the grounds nice, cheap taxi to the Somosomo Town (though not much there, and there is a a small shopping center 100 meters down the road for cheaper sodas, snacks and beer). Rooms are functional, clean, laundry service is cheap, downstairs rooms open onto property (try not to stay upstairs). Restaurant is OK, variety on the menu. Diving is great, staff take you to lots of sites (I was on a package tour with 5 days of diving, a sixth day cost FJD$148). Tours are available. Buy souveniers in Nadi Airport on way out of Fiji. Great place to be remote, meet "real" Fijians unaffected by mass tourism, and see a beautiful island. Flight to Taveuni is beautiful.

  • Stayed: May 2008
    • Value
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    • Check-in / front desk
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Thank cadence8
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 10 March 2008

BOTTOM LINE: 5-star Diving, 3+ star resort

If you're into world-class diving, don't need fancy accomodations, and are okay with long travel times and rural locations, THIS PLACE WILL BE YOUR DREAM DESTINATION

If you are looking for that out-of-the way tropical paradise but like upscale, full-service accomodations, this place is NOT for you. Also, if you don't travel well with multiple flights, hot humid airports, unreliable airlines, etc., this destination is also (so far) NOT for you.

If you're an adventurer, somewhat of a travel warrior, have never been to Fiji, like rural tropical paradise and really want to see what Fiji is like, and don't need fancy accomodations, even if you don't Scuba dive, you'll enjoy this place.

Full Review:

This resort has received glowing reviews here with many valid points, although to a degree I almost wonder if the deck is being intentionally stacked or if the exuberance about the scuba diving is skewing the overall rating of the resort? With all my reviews I like to point out it is important to provide a bit of background on the reviewer so you know their perspective (a 5-star traveller will rate place quite differently than someone user to staying in a 2-star). I look for the best value, probably spend a bit more than your average vacationer, but don't go below 3 stars - which usually gets me somewhere between a 3-star and 4-star resort.

I'm a SCUBA diver but that's one of many things I do. I typically only take one dive trip a year. Been to Caymans, Aruba, Cook islands, and Maui on recent trips. I was invited along this trip to Taveuni Fiji and for once was not the organizer of the trip. As a result I did little research on where I was going so I had no specific/high expectations (except that in general, the diving was suppose to be good, the resort decent - not fancy, and the island fairly remote).

The resort meets all three of those general expectations, but does it garner the resort a 5-star review rating here on Trip Advisor? I don't think so. I think THE DIVING GETS a 5-STAR rating, and I think many reviewers here are either use to staying at 2-3 star resorts, or they have given their opinion of the diving far too much weight when providing an overall review of the resort.

This place is NOT easy to get to from the US if you are use to going to places like the Caribbean, Hawaii, Mexico, Channel Islands, etc. From a major city other than Los Angeles, you're looking at probably at spending time in 4 airports and 25 hours of travel time total. That's a lot for a one-week stay, which most the packages are to this place. The inter-island airline service provided by Pacific Sun is TERRIBLE (in my experience) as far as being on-time when there are large groups travelling. Don't be surprised if you are stuck in the Nadi airport for 4 or 5 hours or worse, the Taveuni airport (if you can call it an airport - more like a shack with some benches) for a couple hours in the humid heat.

While I haven't traveled to an exhausted number of places to dive around the world, based on my own experience, and comments of others, this is no doubt a world-class place to dive. I'm guessing on average it would rate easily somehwere in the middle of the top 10 places to dive in the world, possibly rounding out the top 5? So the diving gets 5-stars. The health and diversity of the reefs are unmatched compared to anything else I've seen. So 5-STARS FOR THE DIVING ONLY. The adjoining Aqua Tek dive operation is EXCELLENT in all respects.

If you're there to dive, and don't have Ritz Carlton tastes, (or even Marriott/Hilton for that matter), you'll find the resort is more than adequate for your purpose. The rooms are your basic, old hotel rooms with tile floors, but they are clean, beds are comfortable, and the maid service is excellent. Telephone but no Television anywhere in the resort. No wireless Internet, and the shared Internet computer in the gift shop is like 8 years old on a slow dial-up connections, virtually useless. (There is a Cafe 25 min walk down the road with high-speed wireless.)

The rooms are showing their age and by today's U.S. 3-star standards are probably in need of refurbishment. (Tourism growth has been an uphill battle due to goverment instability in the past, but hey, considering you are on a remote Island in Fiji, these are decent accomodations considering where you are. I do agree the bottom rooms are more desireable (provided the people upstairs aren't noisy) as you can walk right out on the lawn and down to the pool - or straight to a hammock or lounge chair.

You'll found the staff is extremely friendly (as all the Fijians are) and they will be calling you by your first name within a day (amazing). By the end of the week you'll be hugging them goodbye as if you've been friends for life.

The amenities at the resort are basic, nothing fancy, but adequate and NOT in major disrepair as far as I could tell, as you might find as some resorts typically are of similar age. A small bar, small pool, and some lounge chairs and hammocks. THERE IS NO WHITE SANDY BEACH anywhere near the resort (it's a stone bulkhead between you and the water) unless you kayak for 20 minutes across the channel to a small uninhabited island or take a boat ride elsewhere. I imagine the snorkelying is superb just like the diving though.

The food is pretty much inline with the rest of the resort. Failry medicore by exotic location resort standards, but adequate. You'll be so hungry after diving, you'll be happy to have even a mediocre meal. The menu is diverse enough that you could try something different for lunch and dinner every day and they have specials. So careful menu selection is key (ask other guests and staff what's good when deciding) So along with the resort itself, the food is nothing to write home about, but it's NOT bad. I've found the South Pacific (Cook Islands was the other place I visited) don't really excel when it comes to gourmet cuisine (unless the restaurant and chef are from another country.) One major dissapointment is if you are there on an all inclusive package 1) the breakfasts are are very basic continental breakfasts (cereal, toast, fruit, corn muffins) and a full breafast (meat, eggs, fruit) goes for about $20 FJ! (About $14 US at the time of this writing). And 2) No beverages are included either. Beers are about $4-$6 FJ and Soft Drinks are $3.50 (or $2.50?) FJ if I recall. Not bad compared to places like Hawaii. But fancy tropical blended drinks are $12 FJ! Go figure?

The prices don't seem that bad considering the FJ dollar is 2/3 the US dollar, especially compared to Hawaii, but keep in mind, at the time of this writing the going labor rate for most of the staff is $2.50 FJ an hour, that's about $1.50 an hour US. Seems the owners are probably making good money if the government isn't plundering their profits with high taxes. The managers (not the owners) of this resort are friendly and run a good operation (it's a husband/wife team.)

The resort offers limited "Spa" services. Essentially massages and facials. The prices are the cheapest you'll ever see at a tropical resort. $65 FJ for a one hour massage = $47 US. Are you kidding me? And this is since the value of the dollar has plunged! Unfortunately, if you get massages a lot all the places you go, you'll conclude you more or less get what pay for. They are relaxing, especially in the cabanna by the ocean, but most likely you'll be getting a massage from the same person that cleans your room every day. You can tell them have no professional training (at least by US standards), but for the price they do an adeuqate job, more than adequate by some people's opinions I talked to. I would recommend trying one and making your own conclusion if you want more.

The highlight of staying at this resort other than the fantastic tropical scenery and diving, is the great 4-person guitar band that plays for the nightly "Kava Mixer". Kava is a powdered root they mix with water that has very mild tranquilizing effects. Much better (especially if you are diving) to drink a lot of this stuff than drinking a bunch of alcohol (or coffee for that matter in my opinion.) The problem is, most the guests are apprenhensive at taking part as they are sort of afraid of it I think because they're not sure what it is (some probably think it's some strong bad tasting drug.) Well, if you never drank coffee before and it had no cream or sugar, you'd think coffee tasted bad too. Drinking Kava is essentially like drinking water with a slightly earthy taste to it and it gives your tounque a very mild numb feeling. Drink 3-6 bowls of this stuff, you'll feel mildly relaxed and you will sleep like a baby and wake up feeling refreshed (not hungover like alcohol.) I encourage anyone to pull up a chair around the Kava bowl and socialize with the locals and band members during the break and drink Kava with them.

Note that there is very limitied options as far as shopping and dining on this island. Maybe a handful of shops and restaurants in the villages which have sort of a shanty town feel to them. Rustic is an understatement. This would be like maybe visting Kauai 50 years ago.

The other highlight of staying on Taveuni is the 9-hole par 3 golf course. You don't need clubs, (they have two sets they rent for free and a lefty set) and currently there are no greens fees. Wear your swimming suit as the clubhouse has a pool (which you will most likely want to jump into at the end of your round) and enjoing playing the unique course on a lush hilside alongside the ocean. The manager, a friendly beer-drinking Aussie, is a great host and great to strike up a conversation with. Even if you don't play golf, playing this course could very well be one of the highlights of your trip. They get less than 100 golfers here a year! Probably one of the best kept secrets of any place I've ever been. They just don't want it to be a secret anymore so it actually can get more use!

I can't say much for the snorkel/waterfall tours or the waterslide. But those that took them, enjoyed them. I was there to dive (and golf) and have seen enough waterfalls in my life. Side note: There were some mosquitos but it wasn't a problem at all, very few of them at night.

If you go in the summer, BEWARE, it is HUMID (it's their rainy season), I mean REALLY HUMID. 85 feels like 95 degrees most days (at least if you come from a colder part of the world) I would highly recommend going during their winter instead (July/August) for the slightly cooler and less humid weather.

  • Stayed: February 2008
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check-in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
    • Business service (e.g., internet access)
4  Thank jellyb
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Garden Island Resort

Address: Waiyevo | Waiyevo, Taveuni Island, Fiji
Region: Fiji > Taveuni Island
Bar / Lounge Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Pets Allowed ( Dog / Pet Friendly ) Restaurant Room Service Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
#5 Top resorts Hotel in Taveuni Island
Price Range: $195 - $284 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:3.5 star — Garden Island Resort 3.5*
Number of rooms: 30
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Wake up to beautiful panoramic views of the ocean and be lulled to sleep by the sound of the waves at award-wining Garden Island Resort on Taveuni, Fiji. With world class dive sites only moments away, and a coastal 9-hole golf course at your pleasure, there are a bevy of recreational pursuits to be enjoyed including coastal walks, bird watching, hiking, natural waterfalls and horse riding to name a few. Comprising of 15 Ocean front suites with a private patio, and 15 Ocean view rooms fully refurbished with private balconies, each room offers a private space for luxurious comfort and personalised service making Garden Island Resort your home away from home. Garden Island Resort is a PADI 5 Star Dive Resort with a fully equipped dive centre on site with professional and friendly dive crew offering PADI courses, and nitrox for advanced divers. Only 15 minutes away from the Rainbow Reef and over 20 dive sites, you are only moments away from world class diving and amazing soft coral. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Garden Island Hotel Taveuni Island
Garden Island Taveuni
Garden Island Resort Fiji/Taveuni Island

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