Location: Lomaloma Village,
Vanua Balavu, Northern Lau
Group, Fiji Islands
17° 17′ 32″ S 178° 59′ 12″ W
It’s always an exciting time
when an established adventure
cruise operator announces
something new. Longstanding
Fiji small ship line, Blue Lagoon
Cruises, announced earlier this
year they would conduct the first
ever cruise visit to the Northern
Lau Group, way out east of Viti
Levu, Fiji’s largest island.
The usual small ship stops of Taveuni, Kioa, Rabi, Levuka and Qamea now includes the
island of Vanua Balavu with village visits at Sawana, Lomaloma and Daliconi, places all
but unheard of on the tourist map. More than 100 little islands and atolls are spread
throughout the group, but less than one third are inhabited.
The little school at Daliconi has our 50 passengers and crew clapping wildly as the kids
put on a performance of traditional dances that they’ve been rehearsing for weeks. When
the formalities are done, carton after carton of donated books are hauled up to the
school house while passengers hand out caps, t-shirts and toothbrushes.
Even for adventure cruises the experience is pretty raw, but the excitement of locals at
the school and later at the Tongan village of Sawana is palpable, with the later turning on
a lavish morning tea and mini Polynesian dance festival.
The sparsely populated Lau Group is historically significant for several reasons. It is the
birthplace of Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, the first prime minister of Fiji and founding father
of modern Fiji. It also has a tradition of trade and ‘diplomacy’ between Melanesian Fiji
and Polynesian Tonga. That ‘diplomacy’ includes several episodes of war and was the
hideout for the famous Tongan chief and warlord Ma’afu in the mid-1850s.
Credit to Blue Lagoon Cruises (BLC) for quietly whittling away at a long-standing policy
of non-engagement with the corrupting influences of tourism established early on by
Kamisese Mara. I’d say that tourism as we know it will take a long time to establish in the
Lau Group, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Currently just one or two modest guest
houses and homestays are serviced by a single 18-seater aircraft weekly. The ferry? The
word brings both bemusement and resignation. It apparently almost never calls.
Newly installed BLC CEO, Tim Stonhill, has picked up the cruise line and given it new
vigour after drifting slightly off course a couple of years ago. Immediately noticeable is the
quality and consistency of the food and dining experience – a quantum leap from my
Now on the longer voyages is the monohull MV Mystique Princess, a 1996-built, 57m
vessel with 36 spacious twin cabins.
She travels well at sea and is holding
up despite her age yet Stonhill is keen
to get a refit and refurb under way for
the BLC glamour flagship as part of
his fleet-wide upgrade plan.
The Historical and Cultural Cruise
runs again on 15 August and 14
See your travel agent or
Blue Lagoon Cruises to New Islands by Roderick EimeMay 24, 2011
Location: Lomaloma Village,