Nananu-I-Ra Island lies off the northernmost tip of the main island of Viti Levu and is within the
Ra Province, with the closest township being Rakiraki.
This stretch of water between Viti & Vanua Levu is mapped as Bligh Waters, named after Captain
William Bligh of "The Mutiny on The Bounty" fame. In 1789, Captain Bligh and his officers performed
their famous feat of seamanship and endurance by rowing their long boat between these two main islands.
When approaching the island from the Suva direction, one passes through the picturesque Wainibuka
River Gorge almost all the way to Viti Levu Bay. Here you will pass the old Catholic church of St.
Francis Xavier at Naiserelagi, on a hilltop above Navunibitu Catholic
This church was beautifully decorated with frescoes by Jean Charlot in 1962-63. This powerful
depiction of Biblical scenes is in three panels behind the altar. Father Pierre Chanel, who was
martyred on the island of Fatuna in 1841, appears on the left holding a war club, the weapon that
killed him. Christ and the Madonna are portrayed in black. Christ on the Cross wears a tapa cloth
sulu (bark cloth sarong), while Fijians are depicted offering hand-woven pandanus, leaf mats, and
ceremonial whales' teeth. Indians are seen offering flowers and oxen. There is also a kava bowl
at Christ's feet.
The Penang Sugar Mill (some say the first in Fiji) was erected in Rakiraki in 1880. An 11-km
railway once connected it to Ellington Wharf, where the sugar was loaded onto ships. Nowadays,
all the sugar from this area is shipped out of the Port of Lautoka. Ellington Wharf is now
primarily used by the residents and guests of Nananu-I-Ra Island and the inter-island ferry
between Viti and Vanua Levu.
A few kilometers west of Rakiraki stands Navutu Rock, where an ancient fortified village once
stood. Legend has it that this was the jumping off point into the hereafter for the spirits of
the early Fijians of this region. Also close by is Udreudre's Tomb, the resting place of Fiji's
most notorious cannibal. In 1849, some years after Ratu Udreudre's death, the Rev. Richard Lyth
saw a long line of stones placed together in a row. Each stone represented one of his victims
and added up to a personal tally of at least 872 in corpses (in addition to anything consumed
in his youth).
The whole area is towered over by the brooding and majestic Nakauvadra Mountain Range, the
traditional home of the Fijian Serpent God, Degei, Creator of All Islands. Degei is believed
to dwell in a cave on the summit of Mt. Uluda (866 mtrs).
It is said that the mountain people of this region were the most ferocious and warlike of
all tribes and were the last to be 'subdued'. Happily, their once famous war cry of "na ma'e,
na ma'e! ( to the death, to the death!)" is now only heard on the football field.
The translation of the name Nananu-I-Ra is "Daydream the Lower." Nananu-I-Cake, or "Daydream
the Higher", lies approximately a quarter of a mile to the south of us.