Deborah Dickson-Smith is dazzled by the beauty of Taveuni island.

More than 18 months after tropical cyclone Winston flattened many of the villages (and resorts) on Taveuni in Fiji's north, the island has fully recovered. The so-called Garden of Fiji is as beautiful as ever - with rainforest walks leading to triple waterfalls and diving that rivals the best in the world.

Working out what to do each day is dead easy on Taveuni - you simply look out of the window. If it's sunny go for a hike through the National Park rainforests in search of waterfalls, and if it's not, go for a dive on the famous Rainbow Reef.

Our first day here is sunny so we head off for Tavoro Falls in Bouma National Park in the northeastern corner of the island.

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From the road, a clearly-marked trail starts with a stroll along a neatly manicured garden path lined with tropical flowers, and ends at the bottom of the biggest of the three waterfalls - an impressive torrent falling 25m into a large pool.

For many, the cool refreshing pool is too tempting, and their hike stops here.

The kids too are happy just to clamber among the rocks and caves behind the falls and dive into the clear deep water, challenging each other to swim through the waterfall.
If you want to explore a little further however, the path that winds to the top starts from here. It's not really that arduous, though the warm, tropical Fijian air makes it seem so.

There are plenty of lookout points along the way where you can stop to admire the view over the forest and beyond to the sparkling sea, providing an excuse to rest a while and catch your breath.

The second and third waterfalls are 40 and 90 minutes' hike from the lower pool.

Though less impressive, the views get more spectacular, and each has its own little pool where you can cool down while admiring the magnificent views out to the ocean as the water rushes madly past in its desire to join it.

In this heat, I can't wait to join it myself.

The coral reef off the coast of Taveuni is famous for having the most magnificent soft corals in the world.

It's called the Rainbow Reef for good reason - it has literally every colour of the rainbow, including indigos and purples not often found under water.

Every patch of rock is covered in coral of one type or another and Fiji has 300 types of hard coral alone.

Add to this the soft corals, leather corals, sea fans and anemones and that's before you even get started on the fish.

The reason for the massive biodiversity is the reef's location in the Somosomo Straits - a relatively narrow channel between two islands where nutrient-rich waters from deeper areas are brought to the surface and over the reefs, providing a constant food supply for the ecosystem of marine life living there.

Fiji has about 1200 species of fish, and every one of the 27 species of butterfly fish found in Fiji is found on the Rainbow Reef.

Diving at Fiji's Tavenui Island. Photo / Deborah Dickson-Smith
Diving at Fiji's Tavenui Island. Photo / Deborah Dickson-Smith

There are more than two dozen separate dive sites on the Rainbow Reef, and combinations of many coral species are found together.

One exception though, is the Great White Wall which is special for a different reason - it is blanketed with soft white corals (dendronephthya) from top to bottom, down to about 40m. As you peek over from the colourful reef top, it looks like it's been snowing - a winter scene in tropical Fiji.

Taveuni's land and seascapes - above and below water - are extraordinary, taking my breath away from the tops of waterfalls to the depths of the ocean, and the colourful reef society that exists there.

Fact file

Getting there

Fiji Airways

has direct flights daily from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch to Nadi, with daily connections to Taveuni's Matei airport.

Staying there
Taveuni Dive Resort