Come face to face with some of the world's largest smiles!
The Fijian people are among the friendliest in the world and are characterised by their cheerful 'Bula' greetings, always accompanied with a big grin.
You will immediately feel at home among Fijians and you certainly won't find it difficult to relax into their laid-back way of life, called 'Fiji Time'. One thing you'll instantly recognise is that the Fijian way of life is based largely on their history and traditional ceremonies that are passed down from one generation to the next for centuries.
Traditional Fijian Ceremonies
Music is an integral part of the rich culture of the Fiji Islands and the 'Meke' performance embraces traditional song and dance to conjure up legends, love stories, spirits and history of Fiji through symbolic movements. Dance can vary from a blood-curdling spear dance to the graceful 'iri' or fan dance.
Blue Lagoon Cruises guests are always entranced by the Meke. The performers comprise two distinct groups. One group acts as the orchestra, the 'Vakatara', who are seated on the ground and sing or chant while the second group are the dancers, 'Mata Ni Meke' or simply 'Matana'.
Fiji's traditional musical instruments are all percussion. The 'Lali', which is a hollowed-out hardwood gong with two short hardwood beating sticks is used as the tempo regulator, while the 'Derua', a bamboo tube is a rhythm instrument which produces a lovely hollowed tone to perfectly complement the Fijian style of singing.
For the meke, each performer wears garlands of flowers, 'Salusalu', with the men dressing in full warrior costume, glistening with scented coconut oil and the women in traditional wear.
A Bilo of Yaqona (Kava)
Yaqona, also known around the Pacific as 'kava', is Fiji's national drink. Made from the pulverised root of a kava plant, it has long been known to have medicinal qualities.
The drinking of kava is a tradition, which is said to have originated with the Tongans. Legend has it that the plant sprang from the grave of a Tongan princess who died of a broken heart.
In the Yasawa Islands, Blue Lagoon Cruises guests are welcomed by local villages to be a part of a formal ceremony. The authority to begin mixing kava is normally granted by the 'Matanivanua', (the village spokesman). When mixed, the server or cup-bearer will carry the 'bilo' (cup) to the chief guest, who must 'cobo' or clap before and after he completely drinks the first cup. The order of serving the bilo depends on the status of those present, from the highest ranking Chief to the Matanivanua who drinks the second bilo and so on.
Kava drinking has proved to be a great social unifier and talk around the 'tanoa' can cover a variety of topics - just like a night at the pub back home!
This formal ceremony for special guests will be experienced during your visit to a Yasawa Island village with Blue Lagoon Cruises.
An ancient culture, still alive today
There is little doubt that the ancestors of the Fijian people arrived in these islands over 3,000 years ago. Ancient pottery pieces abound in many areas of Fiji and have been carbon-dated at 1,500 BC. Even today the Fijians continue to celebrate their colourful culture and history, which is so evident in the Yasawa Island villages. Blue Lagoon guests are fortunate to be able to be welcomed into the villages and introduced to the time-honoured rites that have been practiced for centuries – from the sharing of the ‘yaqona’ and the making of artifacts, to the enjoyment of a ‘lovo’ oven feast.
Vinaka Fiji, The Yasawa Trust Foundation
Blue Lagoon Cruises has had a long and wonderful relationship with the people of the Yasawas, since we first came here in 1950.
In 2010, The Yasawa Trust Foundation and the Vinaka Fiji Volunteer program was established as a way of saying thank you (“Vinaka”) for all the pleasure the people of the Yasawas have brought to so many people’s lives in sharing their beautiful islands with visitors. The aim of the Trust is to improve the provision of basic needs, taken for granted in modern society, yet lacking from life in the villages. The volunteer programmes cover areas of education, sustainable communities and marine conservation.
The Fiji Islands are rich in history and legend. As legend has it, Fiji’s great Fijian God-Chiefs, Degei and Lutunasobasoba landed in a giant war canoe named Kaunitoni. Lutunasobasoba established a coastal settlement at Vuda, just north-east of Nadi, while Degei moved inland to establish a village near the northern coast of Ra. This took place on Fiji’s mountainous mainland, Viti Levu. Tradition says that from these first villages the Fijian people spread out and populated the surrounding islands.
The lovo is an earth oven and an indigenous way of cooking large amounts of food at the same time. In Fiji, it is still the traditional way of preparing feasts for ceremonies and special occasions.
To create a lovo, Fijian men gather firewood and hard, smooth-surfaced stones. A hole is dug then the firewood and stones are added. Next, the fire is lit in order to get the stones red hot, then the stones are spread out evenly at the bottom of the 'oven' in order to make a platform for the food.
Foods such as cassava (tapioca), kumala (sweet potato), yam and dalo (taro), pork, ham, fish, beef and lamb are wrapped in either banana leaves, coconut fronds or the less-traditional aluminum foil and placed in the lovo.
The foil packages are arranged with the large pieces at the bottom and the smaller pieces on top and strips of coconut or banana stalks are placed over the feast until it is entirely covered. Damp sacks are then placed over the top to trap the heat and is covered with plenty of soil. The lovo takes a couple of hours to cook and creates a distinctly smokey flavour.