The volcanic island of Wayasewa (also known as Waya Lailai) is dominated by the towering 350m-high twin peaks of Vatuvula and Vatusawalo, with the old village of Namara sitting precariously beneath. In 1985, after heavy rain, a landslide brought several huge boulders tumbling down the hillside to within inches of people’s homes. The village was declared unsafe and relocated to the north side of the island at Naboro. It didn’t take long, though, for a few stubborn families to return and when the adjacent backpacker resort reopened, more villagers moved back. Today, over half of the houses are occupied, although most families with young children prefer living close to the new primary school at Naboro.
Dramatic Waya has a strange, contorted appearance, with knife-edge ridges, monumental rock protrusions and several unbelievably photogenic beaches. From its western coast, a giant’s face seems to peer out from the island, slanting back as though floating in the sea. Four fishing villages lie around the coast, all connected by walking trails, making it a paradise for hikers (remember etiquette codes for dress and behaviour when visiting villages). Although Waya is connected to Wayasewa by a 200m-long sand spit exposed at low tide, the islands’ inhabitants have very different roots: the people of Waya look north to the high chief of Yasawa Island, while Wayasewa is inhabited by the people of Vuda from Viti Levu.