The journey east along the Kings Road from Tavua to Rakiraki passes through the vast cattle farmland of Yaqara. The scenery here resembles a mini Wild West, with cowboys rounding up the herds and the rugged mountain scenery of the Nakauvadra Range in the background. Further along the coast is the small market town of Rakiraki, also known as Vaileka Town. Nearby is the pretty coastal setting of Volivoli Point and the beautiful offshore island of Nananu-i-Ra, both featuring some lovely holiday cottages.
The Nakauvadra Range and around
Around 25km east of Tavua is the turn-off for the impeccably sterile bottling plant for Fiji Water (w fijiwater.com), which since its inception in 1996 has become Fiji’s most recognized global brand. The company was set up by Canadian billionaire David Gilmour and sold for a massive profit in 2004 to an American investor. Water is sourced from an artesian well fed from the legendary Nakauvadra Range, said to be the home of Degei, the most powerful of Fijian gods.
Seven kilometres before Rakiraki is a fabulous roadside viewpoint overlooking the rocky volcanic plug of Navatu Hill with an ancient fortification perched on its summit – there’s a rough trail on the east side of the hill leading to the top with its panoramic view. The multi-unit hill fort was used as a defence from the fearsome Udre Udre, a chief from Rakiraki who folklore recalls ate nothing but human flesh. You can see Udre Udre’s grave beside the Kings Road, 100m on the right before the Nadovi Police Post – the 872 stones placed here supposedly represent the number of people he ate.
Rakiraki (Vaileka Town)
Vaileka Town, usually referred to as just RAKIRAKI, evolved from a tiny village site with the expansion of the Penang Sugar Mill, the oldest of Fiji’s four working mills, built in 1880. The town of around 1500 residents remains dominated by sugarcane farming and, apart from a small market, it has little to entice tourists.
The placid hills of Volivoli mark the northern point of Viti Levu and look out on the offshore islands of Malake and Nananu-i-Ra. Taking advantage of this serene landscape are two small resorts, both with good scuba diving operators. The beach at Volivoli Point at high tide is non-existent but as the tide retreats, an 80m-long sand spit emerges with a small area for sunbathing and bonfires.
Fifteen minutes by boat across a choppy passage from Ellington Wharf takes you to delightful Nananu-i-Ra, a small hilly island surrounded by beautiful white sandy beaches. There are plans for luxury holiday homes and a Hilton resort development on the northern side of the island but until these appear it remains blissfully down to earth, with just three family-owned budget resorts.
The long curving palm-fringed Lomanisue Beach fronting the east side of Nananu-i-Ra is accessible along a two-minute trail from behind Charlie’s. Swimming on this side of the island is good but it’s constantly buffeted by winds; while this may not suit sunbathers, it’s probably the best spot in Fiji for windsurfing.
North side of the island
From the north end of Lomanisue Beach, you can walk around the rocky headland at low tide to the secluded bay on the north side of the island – the centuries-old stone wall formations lining the shore here were built to catch fish on the outgoing tide. From the bay several walking tracks lead up the lightly wooded hills and head back to Sekoula Point.