Crystal Divers. History.
Fiji Islands - Visiting Fiji - History - Fijian Phrases
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. There are about 65 Fijians on the island and about 10 Europeans in full time residence. Legend has it that Nananu-I-Ra was one of the last strongholds of cannibalism in the area.
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 School.
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.
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.