Taveuni, the Garden Island, is Fiji’s third largest island at 470 square kilometres and lies just eight kilometres across the Somosomo Strait from Natewa Peninsula, Vanua Levu’s southeast tip.
This long, lush, coconut palmcovered island was discovered by Abel Tasman in 1643 and has in recent years been rediscovered by those who want a more ‘natural’ vacation. Some 42 kilometres long and an average of 11 kilometres in width, Taveuni rises symmetrically on both sides to a 1000 metre high volcanic spine which attracts vast amounts of rainfall on the southeast side and reasonable quantities on the northwest side. The island is entirely volcanic in formation and its highest point is Mount Uluiqalau at 1241 metres, the second highest peak in Fiji. De Voeux Peak (1195 metres) is the highest point accessible by road.
High in the interior mountains is beautiful Lake Tagimaucia, a 900– metre–high craterlake which provides the township of Somosomo with a good supply of fresh water via a stream. A beautiful wild flowering plant named Tagimaucia grows only on the shores of the lake from which it takes its name. Legend has it that a young woman fled from her father as he wanted to force her to marry an old man. As she lay crying beside the lake, her tears turned to flowers and her father took pity on her and allowed her to marry her young lover. Other indigenous floral species also thrive in the rich volcanic soil.
Taveuni was formerly known as Somosomo after its town of that name on the west coast, also the site of the residence of the ruling chiefs, the village of Cakaudrove. The 180th degree of longitude passes through the island and, until 1879 when an ordinance placed all of Fiji west of the dateline, unscrupulous European planters were able to work their labourers seven days a week by claiming that it was Sunday at one end of the plantation and Monday at the other. As a result, visitors are no longer able to straddle two days, with one foot in yesterday and the other in today.
‘Must visits’ include the three waterfalls at Bouma which cascade 20 metres into a deep pool at the foot of the falls where you can take a refreshing dip. Lavena has another waterfall and one of Fiji’s most spectacular beaches.
Taveuni offers every ‘classic’ Fijian scenic image, as well as an abundance of tropical fruits, trees and vegetables. The main product is copra and although some of the most extensive, privately owned plantations are in Taveuni, there is still a large Fijian population living in the villages mainly on the gently sloping northwest side.
The southeast coast features plummeting waterfalls and soaring cliffs bordered by crashing surf, and is almost inaccessible. A good road stretches the full length of the northwest coast from Vuna in the south to Wainibula in the north. At Vuna, lava flows have formed pools by the ocean that fill with fresh water at low tide and are used for washing and bathing.
There are spectacular blowholes at nearby Namboundrau Bay. Taveuni is a mecca for deep-sea fishing enthusiasts and divers have access to some of the world’s best dive sites on the Rainbow Reef in the Somosomo Strait between Vanua Levu and Taveuni islands. Bird watchers will enjoy the kula parrots and orange doves and there are also many wild chickens.
Somosomo is the port for inter-island ships and there is an airport at Matei in the north making Taveuni easily accessible by air and ferry from Viti Levu.
The Taveuni Island is popular for its wide range of dive sites like the Eel Reef as well as the Great White Wall, a stunning drop-off that is covered in pure white coral. In 1990, a Marine Park became a huge attraction at Waitabu as it combines coral and fish.
The Bouma National Heritage Park serves both hikers as well as nature lovers as it offers world-class birdwatching and spectacular hiking trails. Tourists will be able to spot a variety of bird species on the Taveuni Island including Silktails, Kula Lorikeets and Orange Doves.
Matei, a residential location on the northern point of Taveuni is also a popular ‘tourist hub’. There is a scatter of hotels, rental properties and guesthouses along the long road stretch which is crowned by beautiful palm tree plantations and bordered by the beach. Tourists can engage in swimming and diving activities in this area.
One of the must-visit tourist spots in Taveuni is the beautiful Lake Tagimaucia. Situated at a height of eight hundred meters and occupying a volcano crater, it is the home to the exceptional tagimaucia flower.
The Bouma Falls, also known as the most famous waterfalls in Fiji are also located on the Tavenui Island, within the Bouma National Heritage Park.
The lagoon and Vuna village’s southern part occupy an area called the South Cape. Here, the last volcanic activity caused spillage into the waters of the sea about 500 years back.
Matamaiqi blowhole is the Tavenui region’s highlight and has geysers which are formed by the trade winds that crash against volcanic rocks. At the distance of 20 minutes (on foot) from the Waiyevo town is the famous Waitavala Waterslide.
There are 8 major villages in Taveuni and the population is primarily concentrated on the island’s more sheltered, western part.