Vanau Levu and Taveuni: Fiji's Forgotten North
Vanau Levu and Taveuni: Fiji's Forgotten North
By the Opinionated Traveler
They call it Fiji's "Forgotten North" but once you've been here, you'll find it unforgettable.
Many international travellers are familiar with the glamorous resorts of the Coral Coast of Fiji's main island of Viti Levu, where the capital and international airport are located, and the castaway getaways on the offshore Mamanuca islands.
Unfortunately, most miss the persuasive and insidious charms of the northeastern part of the archipelago. Eco-tourism and "soft" adventure seem to be the current sweetheart notions of every third world nation-in-the-sun as the west's travel consultants hustle to provide increasingly offbeat answers to their affluent customers' increasingly strident cry: "Where is there that's new to go?
Ecotourism: More Harm than Good?
And what shall we do when we get there?" Different locations provide different responses.
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 FIJI
Maravu Plantation Resort is conveniently close (about 5 minutes) to the Matei Airstrip, which is serviced daily with a one-hour flight from Nadi and Suva.
Guests are welcomed at Maravu and within a few minutes the magic of Taveuni`s exquisite tropical garden paradise begins.
This small romantic resort accommodates only ten bures, with five thatched - roof bungalows, three secluded honeymoon bungalows, and a duplex.
All spacious bures are well appointed to ensure privacy, with ceiling fan, mini-bar, tea/coffee making facilities, large tiled bath, and secluded veranda.
Room service, housekeeping and laundry service are available daily.
Nouvelle Fijian cuisine, as well as international dishes that will tempt your taste buds, is offered at the Wananavu Restaurant.
The selection of fine international wines is renowned, and the service is personal and friendly.
Poolside dining takes on new meaning under the Southern Cross, enhanced by the house band performing Fijian melodies around the kava bowl.
Adventure treks and island eco-tours are Maravu`s specialty.
The resort offers excursions by four wheel drive, hiking tours along the coast, jungle trekking, and local village tours.
Horseback riding, croquet, tennis, mountain bikes, kayaks and plantation tours are all available for you to enjoy.
The tour desk can organize your day with trips to the International Dateline, Lavena Village, Wainibau Falls and Des Veoux Peak.
Maravu has its own private beach just a short walk from the main resort.
Some of the best dive spots in the world can be found a few minutes from the beach.
The newly formed dive facility with state-of-the-art equipment and boat, E-6 film processing, and camera rental available.
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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