Fiji’s Lau Group has been named among the top travel destinations for 2015 by travel writers.
A report in the Sydney Morning Herald says that while regulars will be familiar with the Mamanuca and Yasawa archipelagos – the island chains that lie within a few hours’ cruising of Port Denarau near Nadi, the Lau Islands are a different kettle of fish.
The report on the Lau Group says, “This string of islands dangles to the east of the Viti Levu “mainland” – and is so close to Tonga that Tongan influences have shaped some island traditions. Reaching the archipelago and its Listerine-blue waters isn’t quick but it’s now possible to saunter from one pristine island to the next thanks to Captain Cook Cruises. After lengthy negotiations the cruise line launched a Lau itinerary with the full blessing of the islanders. The no-frills MV Reef Endeavour will sail to the Lau islands three times next year (in April, August and November).
“So why bother cruising all that way? Firstly, passengers head well off the beaten track (and the grid, with no Wi-Fi for much of the 11-night cruise). It’s such virgin territory that while developing the itinerary, a crew member was lost for two days on uninhabited Vuaqava Island as a trail was forged past a skull-filled cave to an interior lake (he eventually followed a wild-goat track back to the beach). There’s serenity in knowing no other tourists will be flapping their fins in your face as you snorkel over extraordinary coral gardens, schools of fish and the odd turtle. There are no hotels or resorts and the only other ships that regularly drop anchor are cargo ships bringing supplies every few weeks.
“Secondly, you visit remote villages where residents aren’t suffering tourist fatigue. People are happy to chat, tell you about village life and pose for photos when asked. The ship’s visit is a big deal to these places – kids rehearse their singing and dancing routines for weeks. Some villages also hold a market stocked with handicrafts such as multi-legged wooden kava bowls, hand-plaited fibre ropes and shell jewellery.
“Thirdly, the journey to and from the Lau group includes other extraordinary sights such as witnessing the age-old ritual of turtle calling from a rocky headland on Kadavu Island south of Viti Levu. To the north is the “garden island” of Taveuni, where passengers can frolic in a secluded natural pool fed by stunning twin waterfalls.
“Yet in the end, the best thing about the Lau cruise is something far less tangible. It’s the warmth of the Fijian crew members who invite passengers to share their post-dinner kava and to boogie across the dance floor. It’s the ease with which they piggyback someone struggling through sandal-sucking shallows. It’s the sort of thing that creeps up on you, something you only realise you’ll miss as you’re waving goodbye with tears in your eyes.
“Don’t miss: Take the tender into Fulaga Island’s shallow lagoon, dotted with photogenic mushroom-shaped islets. Fulaga is also a 2015 port of call for Silversea’s Silver Discoverer, which visits in October while en route from Fiji to French Polynesia.
Insider tip: Pack clothes that cover knees and shoulders for village and church visits (such as a sulu with a bula shirt), reef shoes, seasickness medication for any rough patches, and storybooks and stationery for schools.”
Other destinations named in the report are the Cook Islands, Oman, South Africa, Belgium, Ecuador in South America, Virginia in the United States, England, Niue, Chamba Camp Thiksey in Ladakh, India, Asia’s Mekong River, Nicaragua, Sicily and Ireland.
Sydney Morning Herald