Getting Scuba-Certified in Fiji Is the Best Way to Explore the Underwater World

My journey to become a PADI-certified diver started in a chilly Massachusetts pool—complete with floating hairballs—with a local instructor giving us the basics. It wasn’t quite as exotic as I’d imagined, but the certification process took a sweeping turn in Fiji last February, where I did my open-water dives.

Kokomo Private Island was about as five-star as it gets, starting with the resort’s private Otter seaplane transporting us from the airport in Nadi to the resort’s dock.

More from Robb Report

There, we were welcomed by the smiling staff, singing a traditional Fijian song. At that point, I realized this was going to be more than just a luxe holiday to get certified. It was going to be a bucket-list adventure that wasn’t even on the list.

Dive certification in Paradise is possible at the Kokomo Private Island in Fiji.
Diving with sea turtles.

That’s because there are few places on the planet that rival Fiji’s diving, with the Great Astrolabe Reef—the world’s fourth-largest coral reef—extending over 62 miles.

Kokomo has exclusivity to multiple dive sites, which let us get up close and personal with manta rays, reef sharks, turtles and dozens of fish species living in the extensive reef systems.

The resort offers the entire range of PADI certification programs—from PADI Bubblemakers and Seal Team for kids as young as eight years old, up to the highest certification levels, including PADI Rescue Diver and PADI First Responder. Guests can be PADI Open Water certified in 3 to 4 days. Other multi-day PADI certifications include Adventure Diver and Advanced Open Water.

Dive certification in Paradise is possible at the Kokomo Private Island in Fiji.
More than 60 miles of protected reefs make Fiji one of the world’s most sought-after dive spots.

The instructors were all business when it came to teaching and demonstrating the skills needed to be PADI-certified, but were also eager to introduce us to the warm, gin-clear waters around their remote South Pacific home.

The diving venues were exceptional, with names like the Grotto, which feature vibrant, mysterious caverns, or Wonderland, where bright clownfish float in and out of soft corals, or the sweeping slopes of Side Street, with its hard coral that abut a sheer cliff teeming with marine life.

Any nervousness I may have felt at the beginning quickly morphed into the confidence that comes from experience. The most common challenge new divers face is equalizing their ears. I had some trouble equalizing, but my instructor at Kokomo helped me learn specific techniques to make it easier. We settled into a pleasant rhythm that featured two tank dives on the reefs surrounding the island in the mornings.

Dive certification in Paradise is possible at the Kokomo Private Island in Fiji.
The view from the island.

The first four dives were dedicated to the skills needed for certification, but our instructors always built some time in to explore the local reefs that were only a short boat ride away.  Of course, spending post-dive afternoons floating in the pool at our private waterfront villas was a relaxing counterpoint to the mornings’ adventures.

The island has a handful of one-, two- and three-bedroom villas, as well as residences for groups or families, that share contemporary island-style interior design, with elegant stonework and artwork by Chris Kenyon. The one-bedroom villas have a large living space, master bedroom with rain shower, deep-soak bathtub and outdoor shower.

Two restaurants, the Beach Shack and Walker D’Plank, offer cuisines ranging from upscale Mediterranean and Fijian to more casual Asian street foods, sourced with local seafood and vegetables. The island’s facilities and private beaches are ideal for just kicking back after each dive.

Dive certification in Paradise is possible at the Kokomo Private Island in Fiji.
The seaplane that gathers guests from the airport and drops off at the island.

During the underwater work—we did a total of 13 dives, including one at night—I came to love the feeling of weightlessness. There’s also something calming about swimming 50 feet below the surface—including the time we encountered sharks while exploring a coral wall on the edge of an ocean shelf.

One of our dive instructors, also a marine biologist, helped us understand (both scientifically and emotionally) just how special it was to dive Fiji’s pristine reefs. She pointed out all the wildlife: black-tip and white-tip sharks, green and Hawksbill turtles, fish ranging from a Napoleon wrasse and damselfish to angel fish and clownfish, while explaining the reef’s importance to the archipelago’s eco-system.

Diving in paradise doesn’t come cheap. Kokomo accommodations, including food and beverage, cost roughly $3,000 per night. Seaplane transfers cost $1,000. The PADI open-water certification at Kokomo is $850. A two-tank dive at Kokomo’s PADI 5 Star Dive Center costs $370. So, the total price tag could be over $20,000.

Click here to see other private islands and superyachts that offer certification in paradise.

Six superyachts and resorts that offer certification courses.
Six superyachts and resorts that offer certification courses.

Best of Robb Report

Sign up for Robb Report's Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Click here to read the full article.