WRECK DIVING FIJI: Diving The Raiyawa at Tivua Island

Diving the Raiyawa, Tivua Island




There’s something creepy about wrecks.

I don’t know why I felt a shudder diving the Raiyawa – after all, it wasn’t like anyone had died down here.

But wrecks are often perceived as being underwater memorials to the deceased.

True, many wrecks around the world are exactly that – the remnants of a vessel or aircraft which met disaster and claimed lives.

The MV Raiyawa is one of Fiji’s newest wrecks. It’s a purpose-sunk ship off the quite delightful Tivua Island.

Tivua Island, one of Fiji’s Mamanuca Islands, is a white-sand haven, filled with coconut trees, surrounded by turquoise waters and a majestic jetty to welcome you into the sanctuary.


Tivua Island, Fiji


While naturally excited about the island escape, being scuba divers, John and I were also eager to see a rusted, decommissioned, decrepit old government ship sitting 25 metres below the surface.  


Diving the MV Raiyawa, Tivua Island




Spirit of the Pacific


Tivua Island is quite possibly my favourite of the Fiji Islands so far.

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The island is exclusive to Captain Cook Cruises, who’ll sail you out there on their impressive ship, the Spirit of the Pacific. You can even help out the crew hoisting the sails.

Like everywhere across the Fiji Islands, we were welcomed onto the ship with a Fijian ensemble strumming and singing their island vibes to all the guests.


Fijian musician onboard the Spirit of the Pacific

The skipper of the Spirit of the Pacific


Morning tea was served on the way to the island and afternoon tea on our return.

About half an hour into our trip, around 10.30am, our hosts explained the background and customs for a kava ceremony and called for volunteers.

It seems in Fiji, it’s never too early for kava.

Kava is that muddy-looking mildly narcotic substance. Made from the yaqona root, many Pacific Islanders down coconut shell of kava after coconut shell, drifting into a carefree state of bliss, while unprepared tourists cough and splutter and bite their tingling lips as they learn that it really does taste like dirty water while making your lips numb.

I am yet to hear a foreigner utter the sentiment, “Oh yum! MORE kava!”

Equally, I am yet to hear of a Fijian man who does NOT drink kava.

We politely declined to partake in the ceremony onboard but gave our full support to the tourists who’d volunteered for the occasion. 

We drifted along the ocean passing one tiny island after the next, before Tivua came into view.

A long jetty extended out from the island across the horizon line, breaking up the meeting point between sea and sky.


Tivua Island Jetty


Our hosts told us to find and secure a spot under one of the many huts around the island complete with table, chairs, beanbags and a view to the turquoise ocean.


Tivua Island Hut



We had come to Tivua with the main aim of diving the Raiyawa. This was to be our first wreck dive.

Shortly after arrival, we were told the engine of the boat that was to take us to the dive site had broken.

The situation looked grim.

We had already pre-paid for the wreck dive. We pretty much begged them to find a way to take us out. The wreck was a 15-minute boat ride from the island so it was too far away for a shore dive.

But the engine wasn’t going to be fixed today.

After further consultation between the powers-that-be, the dive team made some arrangements and agreed to take John and I out to the dive site on the island’s glass bottom boat.

Hooray! Our own private dive boat! We would be diving the Raiyawa after all. 

True to the Fijian spirit of life, the hosts were eager to please and keep their guests happy.

The MV Raiyawa was once a 30metre long government ship.

In her previous life, she was used to service marker-buoys in shipping channels in the Fiji Islands.

She was later decommissioned and holes were cut out of the vessel to open her up for diving. She was sunk off Tivua Island at the start of 2016 but Cyclone Winston in February dragged her further out to sea.  

Being such a young wreck, the Raiyawa is yet to develop the same teeming marine life as older wrecks. But we still saw some fish who had taken up permanent residence within the ship:


Diving the Raiyawa

MV Raiyawa Residents

Fiji wreck dive fish

As we floated along the hull, we could faintly make out the word “Bula!” that someone had scraped into the surface. Ah Fiji, you make me laugh. So far, our first wreck dive was pretty cruisey.




Suddenly, as we crossed over the deck in the middle of the ship, visibility vanished.

Cue internal screaming.

Our divemaster’s yellow fins faded into the greyish water. I tried to grab my torch but couldn’t get it working and grabbed onto John’s arm. He could feel my grip tightening as we struggled to see even our hands in front of our faces.

I might as well have had my eyes closed. I let John pull me along until our vision cleared.

We came back to an of semi-okay visibility where our divemaster said we could penetrate the wreck.

Naturally, John, Chief Adventurer, was as keen as mustard. But after the sudden loss of visibility, it shook my relaxed state and I lost all desire to go inside.

Plus, I get a little claustrophobic.

I decided to sit this one out.


Captain John


I left John in the hands of our divemaster while I waited on the outside at the exit point, following their bubbles through the nooks and crannies of the ship as it lay on its side.

For a few moments, I felt extremely alone.


MV Raiyawa, Fiji


I could see the ghostly silhouette of the wreck blurring into the water in the distance.

I quickly reminded myself that no one had died down here and it comforted me, knowing there wasn’t anything spooky lurking in the darkness.

Still, it felt creepy. The ship was the equivalent of being dead and the disturbing lack of life barring a few fish creates the eeriest feeling underwater I have ever experienced.

I slowed my breathing to relax and soon I felt awe, instead of unease.

At 30 metres long, that’s a lot of boat. The silhouette was hauntingly beautiful, especially watching the mast vanish into the distance.

John spent his time shining his torch through all the different nooks and crannies inside. Sediment had been disturbed but the low visibility was of no consequence to John.

It was only right for me and John to end our dive posing at the top of the mast.



Aye Aye




After diving the Raiyawa, we headed back to Tivua Island for what little remained of the day. 

It was 2pm and we were famished. The buffet lunch was at 12pm.

We went up to the bar and asked if there were scraps left. Much to our delight, they’d kept two full plates of the island buffet covered especially for us on our return.

Washed down with a cold beer, we quickly hopped back into our shade, trying to dodge the burning sand under the soles of our feet.

Our boat back to Denarau was boarding just after 3pm – so we didn’t have much time for anything else, other than a walk around the island to take some more photos.

Life is tough when you live on a tropical island.


Tivua Island, Fiji

Tivua Island, Fiji Islands


Tivua Island Water

Tivua Island, Fiji
UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY: We use the Olympus TG 860 with PT-057 housing. Find out about our full set up and underwater photography tips HERE. 

Beginner's Guide To Underwater Photography


DISCUSS: Have you ever been wreck diving? Why or why not? Do you think it’s important to do a diver speciality course before penetrating a wreck for the first time?


The MV Raiyawa is one of Fiji's newest wrecks, off Tivua Island in the Mamanucas

Set sail for Tivua Island, Fiji - quite possibly our favourite Fiji island so far!


DISCLOSURE: We received a generous discount for our trip to Tivua Island for diving the Raiyawa. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.

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  • Ok, every time I read one of your posts and look at your beautiful pictures, I think I have been living my life completely wrong! Apprently I should have live the Island life!! 🙂 #FarawayFiles

    • Ha ha, the island life is pretty good! It has its challenges though. But we make the most of living in the tropics!

  • Carol

    Wow! Your photos, both above and underwater, are spectacular! And your story-telling complement them!

  • Jordan

    Cant wait to go here! Its so close to NZ i dont really have an excuse now!

    • Exactly – it’s only 3 hours, the same distance as flying to Aussie from NZ! Do you have a trip planned for 2017?

      • Jordan

        Have been travelling for the last 18 months and no plan to stop anytime soon! Was in Yasawa’s last year which I loved and did a few dives there!

  • Subhadrika Sen

    Diving and snorkeling are common activities but when it is wreck diving there is a whole new thrill and a sense of adventure added to it.The photographs look amazing and i am a tad bit curious about this activity so maybe its being noted down on my bucket list right now. 🙂

    • Wreck diving is a totally new game underwater! Quite thrilling, mysterious, intriguing and exhilarating. I hope you get the chance to try it!

  • Whoah really cool to see the bit more adventurous side to FIJI. I only ever hear of it being a resort and vacation type of place! Love your photos as well! xx

  • Clare Thomson

    A tough life indeed! Your photos are breathtakingly beautiful. I prefer snorkelling to diving but loved reading about your adventures. Really glad this dive worked out for you in the end. Thanks for sharing this with us on #FarawayFiles

    • Thank you Clare! Some people are much more comfortable snorkelling than diving but the more I dive the more I prefer that to staying only on the surface! Thanks for stopping by!

  • Gokul

    That is a new concept to me. And what a place to do it. Really wonderful.

  • Untold Morsels

    Ah Juliette this post brought back a few memories. I did a wreck dive in Fiji quite by accident because I only found out we were doing it half way out to the site. Now let me tell you I am a complete novice diver and the dive master wasn’t exactly what you’d call attentive.. due to the aforementioned kava probably. I was in that wreck by myself at one point at it was all I could do not to panic. I’m a bit claustrophobic at the best of times. Anyway, obviously I made it out safely but I absolutely think you need extra skills for a wreck dive. Thanks for sharing the story and beautiful photos with us on #FarawayFiles

    • Oh really! Wow that would have been terrifying – that is my worst diving nightmare come true! My goodness. Well done for not panicking. I shudder to think what I have been like in your situation, especially as a novice diver. Our dive masters asked us all sorts of questions about our diving experience & wreck diving experience before agreeing to take us. There are just so many hazards. Where was the wreck dive that you did? Ha ha yes the diving is certainly a bit more “relaxed” over here than in NZ, that’s for sure.

  • Vishal

    As usual Juliette, your post is awesome and photos are stunning. I have never experienced wreck diving, but have always thought about doing so. Your post in a way inspires me and also gives me information of what to expect when I try it for the 1st time?

    • Thank you so much for your lovely feedback! Wreck diving is certainly quite different and it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but an incredible dive trip to do.

  • Its so interesting that most wrecks are in fact memorials to the dead. Glad this one is a little different as a purposely sunk ship. Also really happy to hear you were able to dive it in spite of all that drama!

    • Thanks Mike! Yes, much relief after all of that – our hearts sank when they told us about the engine! But a great team, they made provisions for us so we wouldn’t miss out.

  • Luxurybackpacking

    Wow this looks absolutely amazing! We visited Fiji a couple of months ago and are advanced PADI scuba divers! Would have loved to have dived this wreck as it looks mysterious like you said but absolutely amazing at the same time! Wonderful, may just have to pop back over to Fiji to do this!

    • Oh brilliant which part of Fiji did you visit? And did you go diving here? So many awesome dive sites, there are a few wrecks around Fiji so we hope to get to a few more!

      • Luxurybackpacking

        We visited the Coral Coast and then stayed at the Intercontinental where we dived! It was so beautiful, actually one of the best dive sites we have visited! Wish we could have wreck dived though, I’m sure it was out of this world! 😀

        • That would have been a beautiful area to dive – even snorkelling off the Intercontinental at Natadola is stunning!

  • Neha Verma

    I could feel part of the excitement looking at the pictures of the wreck and reading your account of it. It’s great you got a chance to dive and look at it..would love to at some point

    • Thanks Neha! Hope you get the chance to do something like this soon because it’s an incredible experience.

  • Abby Castro

    That looks like a truly amazing spot for diving. I haven’t tried wreck diving before, but it looks so fun!

    Abby of Life in the Fash Lane

    • Thanks Abby! Wreck diving sure isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but quite awe-inspiring when you are down there at depth and see this ghostly silhouette around you. Kind spooky but awesome!

  • Oi Meira

    It was a very scary experience to me! But yet beautiful as the water color and the fish, and also the ship down there creating strange feeling for me. I haven’t been dive. I would like to. But you know, to go down the ocean, we need the license. Before getting it, we need to take a course. First the theory, second the training stuff, and then the test. It costs my life to take the course plus they will require some more money for the test. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to dive especially getting the spooky yet unforgettable experience like this. About the discussion part, I think it is important to do a diver speciality course before going down into the sea first time.It’s not only for your safety, but also the whole things under sea. Because a lot of people who don’t understand keep ruining and killing the beauty of the sea. You’re just so lucky. Hopefully I can do just like you did in Fiji.

    • Thanks Oi! Yes you must get the dive certification & training first. It can be expensive, but it has been the most incredible investment. My husband gifted me the course one year for Christmas and now we have this wonderful activity to enjoy together. But it’s important to get good training first so you are confident underwater and protect yourself and protect the environment. Fiji is a nice place to learn to dive because of the warm waters tropical fish life!

  • Chronic Wanderlust

    I love diving! And I do agree with you that wreck diving is kind of creepy! I still don’t like it that much

    • Another diver! Yes there’s something just a bit spooky about it but awesome at the same. I like looking at them from the outside though ha ha!

  • I’ve never been diving, but it seriously looks like one of the most remarkable things to do! Do you ever feel creeped out when looking at wrecks? Or are you so focused on the sealife surrounding you? #FarawayFiles

    • A little creeped out yes ha ha! But still awesome. There’s a stillness and beauty to it as well which is a distraction. And the fish life is pretty awesome too 🙂

  • Stacey Gilkes

    Wow those pictures are unreal. The colors are stunning. What a great trip it sounds amazing

  • Oh man, my parents and I are thinking of visiting Fiji next year and i’m a diver so this makes me super keen to go! Wreck dives are one of my favourites (apart from swim throughs and caves)…

    Yea, it’s a bit nerve wrecking when visibility suddenly drops! But good to hear all was right. These photos are making me miss diving – hopefully I’ll get back in the water soon! Can’t believe how beautiful it is under and above the water!

    • Hi Caroline! That’s great you’re thinking of coming to Fiji – there are SO many dive spots here you’ll love! Best to come in the dry season between May and September. Fiji diving is so nice because of the warm, clear tropical waters and lots of colourful fish! Do get in touch if you’d like some advice, happy to help!

  • Elisa Subirats

    this diving place with the wreck looks very fascinating but I would be too scared 🙁

    • Fair enough! But when you gain enough confidence in your diving you worry less. But it takes time and wreck diving is not for everyone. Really important to have the right skills to do it. Hope you enjoyed the read!

  • Diving in FIji is amazing! Loved your pictures, they brought so many nice memories of this country and Tivua Island back. I haven’t done any wreck diving yet though, but I’ll be sure to try it soon! Where do you like to dive the most?

    • Brilliant! Glad we could bring back some memories – where did you dive in Fiji? Our favourite place so far probably has to be off Savusavu! But so many dive sites yet to tick off the bucket list before we leave!

  • Erika Bisbocci

    I almost went to Fiji two years ago, but when I saw that it was supposed to be monsoon-like weather the whole time, I switched destinations to Polynesia instead. Since then, I’ve been dying to go to Fiji and, though I’m not a diver (too scared to pop my ears under water) I’d love to snorkel and explore the underwater world. Diving the shipwreck looks fascinating and the beaches are absolutely stunning!

    • Ah yes the cyclone season does bring a lot of rain during December to March. Having said that, it’s December now and there’s not a cloud in the sky and I’m sweltering in the heat! But it is better to come during the dry season. Snorkelling is still great!

  • K Shaw

    I’ve never been diving that deep or into anything like a wreck, I think it would be important for my own peace of mind to do some kind of course beforehand. I know others might disagree, but so much can be prevented by preparedness. Your photos are beautiful! It looks like a wonderful time 🙂

    • Yes, agree, even if you are confident, wrecks bring about a certain number of hazards and its important to have the knowledge about how to deal with them. Preparation and being relaxed is key and I felt myself get nervous so decided to wait outside.

  • Natalie Tanner

    I have only been snorkeling and that made me feel super brave! I’m not a strong swimmer so I doubt seriously this is in my future. But… even when snorkeling you get that all alone feeling which is so cool. I can only imagine what it must feel like under the sea!!

    • Snorkelling is still pretty awesome! Diving is a whole other world though. The good thing about diving is you wear a buoyancy vest so you don’t really need to be a strong swimmer unless you have a long swim to the dive site but I prefer being dropped off by a boat 🙂

  • 2travellingsisters

    For armature swimmers like us diving is bit scary and we always wanted to explore the underwater sea world, hope to experience it soon! Absolutely stunning captures which reminded us of Ariel (The Little Mermaid) and her excursions!!

    • Hope you get to go diving soon because it’s a beautiful world underneath and you don’t even have to be much of a swimmer as you wear a buoyancy vest anyway which you inflate at the surface while underneath the sea you just float very slowly along. Quite relaxing!

  • Helena

    This is so amazing! I love scuba diving – especially wreck diving. I will have to add this to my to explore list. I really enjoyed reading this post.

  • Your mild panic brought mine rushing back – when visibility is murky – it is the number one trigger for me. We have done a wreck dive off Honduras and Playa del Carmen. I definitely think they are for more experienced divers. They don’t creep me out per se, but I too prefer to experience them from the outside. Your pictures are wonderful. Thanks for sharing with #FarawayFiles this week, cheers Erin

    • Ah yes I hate bad vis, even when snorkelling. It totally freaks me out! Wreck dives are definitely for the more experienced divers but it’s a good skill to learn and I’m sure the more you do, the better you get at being able to handle different situations. I just get a bit claustrophobic.

  • Diana – MVMTblog

    I can totally see how it would be really creepy wreck diving! You just don’t know what’s down there. Awesome photos though, and sounds like you had a good experience. I’m hoping to get a GoPro before my next warm weather beach trip so I can get some photos like this! And I’ve never tried kava before and hopefully won’t have to ever! We have a similar drink in Chicago called Malort that we tell all the tourists to drink, and it tastes like dishwashing detergent 😛 I guess now you know the secret.

    • It’s bizarre, because there really is only fish down there, but when you can’t see exactly what’s happening, your mind plays tricks on you and makes you panic! Ha ha that’s interesting about the Malort! I don’t know why and how they can drink so much kava here when it is so unappetising…yet tourists still want to partake the in ceremony for that authentic cultural experience.

  • Gemma

    I live the idea of wreck diving – I don’t dive yet (JR does) but we hike a lot and always find it interesting to come across old ruins and artefacts on the trail. Wreck diving is the underwater version with potentially much larger objects! Your photos are so clear and beautiful, thanks for including what type of equipment you use.

    • I hope you get the chance to get your dive certification! It’s a great way to travel around the world too. Hiking is pretty interesting especially if you find interesting artefacts on trails!

  • Adelheid Bethanny

    Such a beautiful place to dive at. I’ve never dived at a wreck before but it seems so much fun! I’m hoping to get awesome underwater pictures this December as well!

  • Michelle d.

    I’d never even heard of this island until today and I am absolutely amazed by the beauty of it! I think you’ve also converted me into wanting to try diving one day! Love it xx

    • Oh it’s such a beautiful island – even if you don’t dive! And yes, diving is an incredible activity and we feel quite lucky to be able to witness another part of this planet that so many people never get the chance to see.

  • What a fantastic dive! And dry land isn’t bad either. Nor is the boat (the one ABOVE the water). Looks wonderful all around. I’m glad that it was sunk on purpose for divers and not some deadly accidental shipwreck.

    • Thanks! Exactly – even just being on Tivua Island itself was bliss. I’d go back there again in a heartbeat just to say on the island and snorkel off the shore!

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  • Ha, life looks SO tough 😉 What an amazing experience! Beautiful photos, thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Tough indeed. But we’re happy putting our bodies on the line for this sort of adventure ha ha! Someone’s gotta do it, right?

  • I promise you there were only fish around the wreck! But the movies do put fear into you and get your imagination running beyond being rational and logical!

  • Wow this post is breathtaking, the photography is just beautiful and I held my breath when it went dark I would have panicked too, but what an incredible experience all the same. Thanks so much for linking up #MondayEscapes

    • Thanks Sarah! Appreciate your compliments regarding the photography. We love capturing the underwater world as well as the beautiful scenes above water.

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  • Sofie Couwenbergh

    That must have been scary! I only took a diving initiation once and while all went well at first, I suddenly lost my mouth piece. All I had to do was put it back in and push the button to clear the water out, but I panicked. It was such an awful feeling.

    • Scary and wonderful all rolled into one! I’d 100% do more wreck diving – but I would like to do a specialty course in it for my own comfort + confidence. That sounds terrifying about losing your mouth piece! I think anyone would panic in that situation. But SO important to stay calm so you can grab it ASAP. Will you dive again? There’s a beautiful world out there…

      • Sofie Couwenbergh

        I don’t know yet. I’d like to learn how to properly dive, but it’s not at the top of my list. There’s a ton of other stuff I’d love to do first.

        • I think proper instruction and certification is absolutely crucial to being able to enjoy yourself! It’s an incredible world but you do need to be in a good head space to make the most of it. Practice makes perfect though! Getting certified equips you with knowledge and understanding of how it all works. But it’s not for everyone!

  • Shipwrecks creep me out too! Awesome pictures by the way!

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