Fiji’s Forgotten North

Bouma National Park, in the north of Fiji.

In some places, eco-tourism does more harm than good. The well-meaning hordes scramble across virgin territory in pursuit of elusive rarity.

But here, in a country whose population is increasingly dividing into “urban” and “rural” Fijians, is where you’ll experience what many will proudly tell you is the real Fiji. Here, the friction between Indian and Fijian that the ill-tempered Paul Theroux mistakenly claims has “destroyed” Fiji is nowhere evident.

At 5,500 square km., Vanua Levu is the second-largest island in the Fiji chain, but despite a couple of luxurious resorts it has none of the international hustle and “sophistication” of Viti Levu. Visitors are still rare enough to be welcomed as guests, and quickly become friends.

Even further off the beaten South Pacific tourist track is Taveuni, just east of Vanua Levu. About 42 km. long and 15 km. wide, dominated by a central spine of volcanic cones, Taveuni is a lushly verdant island rich in indigenous birdlife and exotic flora, deemed one of the most important of all the South Pacific islands in terms of biology and conservation. But what draws many visitors is the scuba diving and its proximity to what many claim are some of the world’s finest dive sites.

Attractions for visitors emphasize the outdoors though you shouldn’t miss the stained glass windows at the old Catholic mission at the village of Wairiki.

Maravu Plantation Resort, on Taveuni, is a boutique-style marriage of intimacy, immaculate quality and attentive, unobtrusive staff.

Each of the 10 well-appointed bures that lie scattered about the working, 54-acre copra plantation is named for a flower. Vuni Tarawau (one of three honeymoon bures) has an outside shower, made private by a stone wall surrounding a lava-rock floor and a sunning deck with its own banana tree.

The white-sand beach (where the dive team awaits to guide you to some of the world’s best coral) is a pleasant downhill walk through a grassy palm grove (signs warn walkers to beware of falling coconuts).

You are summoned by traditional drums to lunch and dinner at the recently-renovated Wananavu Restaurant beside the pool. Dinner can be local coral trout or an exotic Fijian take on international cuisine. The service, primarily by girls from the nearby village, is friendly and helpful.

The resort is also a good base for eco-exploration (bird-watching, flower-spotting, mountain hiking).

THE PERFECT PLACE TO STAY IN FIJIFiji hotels and interesting tours in Fiji.

Relax… so many things to do and explore, but if you want to do nothing, there is plenty of that, too!

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