Want to experience the real Fiji?
Not interested in fancy resorts?
In search of adventure?
Let your Fiji vacation start here!
Tevita and Carolyn Fotofili (and daughter Moana) operate Moana's Guest House near Sawana village on Vanua Balavu Island, 300 kilometers east of Fiji's capital city Suva.
Vanua Balavu lies in the Northern Lau Islands - one of Fiji's least visited island groups. Many of Sawana's 400 inhabitants are of Tongan descent.
Moana's Guest House has two large traditional bure (bungalows) on the beach, a leisurely 15-minute walk outside the village. Both of these simple thatched units are equipped with mosquito nets and solar power, private facilities, and mats cover the cement floors for comfort and cleanliness.
Basic accommodations at Moana's cost F$95 per person a night (half price for children under 12), including three hearty meals, snacks, and tea. Moana's beach bungalows are popular among those who want to relax in a natural setting. A colorful reef will be just 100 meters from your door.
You'll be well fed, with lots of local produce, seafood, and fresh fruit:
- Breakfast might consist of homemade bread with bananas and papaya, served with tea, coffee, and lemon grass.
- Lunch could be sandwiches, or perhaps a rice dish or spicy soup, accompanied by more fruit. Picnic lunches are supplied upon request.
- For dinner you might get curried chicken or baked fish in coconut cream, accompanied by green veggies and plantains. A dessert of cocoa and cakes is served some nights.
Activities at Moana's Guest House include motorboat trips to the idyllic Bay of Islands, or sailing in a Fijian outrigger canoe. You can go line fishing or trolling, and there's also snorkeling, hiking, and riding a bareback horse. Hikers can explore a hot spring, caves, hilltops, and secluded beaches.
For small groups, a Tongan-style feast can be arranged, with folkloric dancing, kava drinking, and suckling pig on a spit. On Sundays, the choral singing at Sawana Tongan Church is a real treat, and it's usually followed by a feast. (Some optional activities involve an extra charge.)
Only Fijian currency in cash is accepted on Vanua Balavu (no foreign currency, traveler's cheques, or credit cards). Currently, US$1 is worth a bit less than F$2.
"We realize that it takes a considerable effort to get here, and we accept the responsibility to make your stay as pleasant and memorable as possible. Your holiday will be as important to us as it is to you."
--Tevita and Carolyn Fotofili
Vanua Balavu is the most accessible of the sprawling Lau Group, which straddles the frontier between Polynesia and Melanesia.
It's a long, winding island with uplifted coral in the north and volcanic landforms in the south.
Hikers can obtain splendid views from the long grassy hillsides south of the airport. The coastal limestone cliffs on the north side of the island are best explored by boat.
A huge lagoon bounded by a 130-kilometer barrier reef extends east from Vanua Balavu Island.
map of Fiji
photos of Vanua Balavu
South Pacific Travel Blog
Fiji Travel Guide
Commodore Charles Wilkes of the American Exploring Expedition called here in 1840, naming Vanua Balavu and nearby islands the Exploring Isles.
Throughout the 19th century, sailing ships plying between Tonga and Fiji often dropped anchor off Vanua Balavu. European trading companies established themselves here at an early date, and in 1855 the Tongan chief Enele Ma'afu conquered the Northern Lau Group. Ma'afu's Lau Confederation soon came to dominate much of eastern Fiji, ostensibly to promote the spread of Christianity.
After 1874 when Fiji became a British colony, the economic importance of Vanua Balavu dwindled, and the island hasn't changed much in the last hundred years. There are no restaurants, bars, nightclubs, banks, or travel agencies. Shopping is limited to a couple of village general stores. The word unspoiled sums up Vanua Balavu.
Fiji's domestic airline, Pacific Sun, flies from Suva to Vanua Balavu once a week. The cheapest roundtrip fare is F$414.
It's also possible to arrive on the local supply barge Sea Link, which sails from Suva every couple of weeks. The trip can take anywhere from one to four days. The much larger car ferry Suilven plies between Taveuni and Vanua Balavu once a month. Other supply ships also pass this way occasionally. Inquire about the current schedules at Suva's Muaiwalu Wharf.
If you own your own yacht, there's good anchorage here. A bit of paperwork is involved in obtaining permission to sail a private yacht to Vanua Balavu, and the folks at the Royal Suva Yacht Club are familiar with the routine. Yachts arriving from Samoa or Tonga must clear Fiji Customs at Suva, Levuka, Savusavu, or Lautoka before calling at Vanua Balavu.
Moana's Guest House
P.O. Box 11, Lomaloma, Vanua Balavu, Lau, Fiji Islands
Tel: 679-820-1125 or 679-822-1148
Email: moanas AT connect.com.fj