A world away from the beach resorts of the Mamanucas and Yasawa Islands, the historically fascinating Lomaiviti and Lau groups radiate from the east coast of Viti Levu, eventually dissipating before a massively deep ocean trench separating Fiji from Tonga. Those who visit these enchanting islands step into the Fiji of old, where islanders fish the lagoons as a matter of necessity and travel the open seas in small boats.

As a tourist destination, the inner islands of the Lomaiviti Group are relatively developed, particularly Ovalau, home to Fiji’s charming former capital, Levuka. In comparison, the Outer Lomaiviti and the entire expanse of the Lau Group offer few facilities but will captivate the minds of the most curious of travellers. The area has a rich Tongan heritage and is popular with visiting yachts drawn to its spectacular limestone islands and bays. With over sixty islands to visit across a wide expanse of ocean, virtually no accommodation and limited transport, time and patience are the main requisites for successfully exploring this region.

Brief history

The Lomaiviti and Lau islands played a key role in the struggle for supremacy over the Fijian archipelago. By the mid-nineteenth century the ruthless Ratu Seru Cakobau, high chief of Bau, had brought much of Fiji under his control. However, the Tongans held a long association with the Lau Group, which in most parts are closer to their islands than Viti Levu. In 1848, Enele Ma’afu, a Tongan prince, was sent to Lakeba in Lau under the guise of protecting the missionaries established there. By supporting Cakobau’s enemies and plying his own brand of fierce warfare, Ma’afu soon began to dominate the region, even gaining control of Vanua Levu and Taveuni. By the 1870s, Cakobau concluded that Ma’afu had the upper hand. Fearful of a direct confrontation he decided to cede Fiji to Britain, which he believed would halt the Tongan’s conquest. The British were reluctant to accept Cakobau’s terms as he didn’t represent the united people of Fiji. So, in 1871, Cakobau rallied a few white settlers in Levuka, and, with the backing of his allied chiefs, announced himself King of Fiji. After much debate and tension, cession to Britain was completed on October 10, 1874 and Levuka became the administrative capital of the new colony. Ma’afu, his aspirations of control of Fiji halted, reluctantly accepted administration over the Lau Group.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Fiji features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Island paradise: the best resorts in Fiji

Island paradise: the best resorts in Fiji

Fiji is about as close to paradise as you can get. This South Pacific archipelago, over three hundred islands lying around 2000km east of Australia, has some of…

29 Dec 2014 • Helena Smith insert_drive_file Article
The best of the world's smallest countries

The best of the world's smallest countries

Qatar Jutting northwards into the Persian Gulf, Qatar is one of the world’s smaller nations (about the size of Yorkshire, England), but it is also the world…

29 Oct 2014 • Greg Dickinson camera_alt Gallery
10 of the best GoPro videos

10 of the best GoPro videos

Since GoPro was founded in 2004, they’ve inspired photographers to capture the world from a new angle. Today there’s a huge range of small and versatile wa…

03 Oct 2014 • Eleanor Aldridge insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook