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A Guide to Levuka – Fiji’s First World Heritage Site

admin December 9, 2016

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While on our seven-day Colonial Cruise around Viti and Vanua Levu, you’ll have the opportunity to visit Levuka, the first seat of colonial power in Fiji.

Named Fiji’s first World Heritage Site in 2013 by UNESCO, Levuka combines natural beauty with 19th century architecture, and contains a fantastically preserved hamlet overlooking gorgeous ocean views under the shade of coconut and mango trees.

The town has played a major role in relatively all major political and social changes in the last 200 years and as such, it has relics and buildings ranging from its position as the capital of the Fijian Tui Viti, to housing one of the first Christian churches of the islands. In its modern form, it is a tourist destination, historical and cultural site, and a major economic outlet for Tuna fishing in the South Pacific.

Trader Island and Capital of the King

Levuka was founded near the start of the 19th Century as a trading post and respite for traders and explorers sailing the South Pacific.

Europeans were welcomed to the island by the local chief, known as the Tui Levuka, whose great-great-great-grandson, Ratu Jope Roko Tuinaceva, still holds that position today. Settlers were given land and were able to soon operate a bustling trade port that grew to house about 800 permanent residents, as well as establishing Fiji’s first Catholic church (which still stands today).

Since then, the area has gone through many changes. As one of the few islands that weren’t openly hostile and were willing to trade, Levuka escaped most of the violence that plagued Fiji in the form of brutal tribal wars, culminating in the rise of the crowning of Ratu Seru Cakobau, Tui Viti (or king) of Fiji

Establishing Levuka as his capital, Cakobau ruled with his government for only four years before signing it over to the British Empire. Since then, it’s gone from a sleepy town to a popular tourist destination.

The sights

As part of the eroded volcanic island of Ovalau, the landscape around Levuka is high and mountainous.

In the town, you’ll be able to witness sights from across Fiji’s storied history, from the very spot of the signing of federation in 1874 to the first newspaper, hospital, and post office. Nowadays, there’s a stable population of about 3,500, many of which work in either the tourism sector or in the large deep-sea tuna facility on the island.

Outside of the historical waterfront and numerous landmarks, the town itself affords many modern luxuries. If you’ve had your fill of the lush combination of 19th century European architecture and traditional Fijian stylings, you’ll be able to grab a bite to eat at one of the town’s restaurants, send off a letter at the post office, or catch up on some emails at one of the internet cafes.

Levuka Community Centre

If you’re interested in the history of the island, you can simply take a trip to the Levuka Community Centre, which is home to a division of the Fijian Museum. There’s plenty of historical artefacts on display, as well as some stories and explanations for the many buildings around the island. If you’re feeling a bit lost, heading over there will also let you pick up an annotated map of the town to aid your exploration.

Guided historical walk

If you’d like to experience history by walking through it, rather than reading about it, the Centre also provides a daily historical walking tour around the waterfront with the island’s resident historian. This is heartily recommended for anybody looking to really delve into the specifics and relive the colonial past of the island.

Cession Site and Government House

To simply be in the presence of history is sometimes all that one needs, and there’s no greater place than the very spot in which Fiji became a member of the Commonwealth of nations and the hill that housed the government of the first and only king.

Cession Site is a simple plaque, inlaid over white land, overlooking the waterfront. It marks the exact spot where the Tui Viti signed over his monarchy to Queen Victoria.

Nearby is Niukaube Hill, and while the government buildings of Tui Viti Cakobau are no longer standing, it instead houses a memorial to those Fijians killed during World Wars I and II.

Handicrafts Market

If the history gets to be somewhat overwhelming, or you’re looking for a chance to escape and unwind after some reflection, then to the south of Niukaube you’ll find the local Handicrafts Market. If you’re lucky enough to be swinging by while they’re open, you’ll find a plethora of locally sourced traditional Fijian art and knick-knacks for sale.

With Captain Cook Cruises

If you’re coming as part of our Colonial Cruise, we’ll be taking you around the promenade and famous Beach Street, allowing you some time to soak in the local sights and sounds for yourself, as well as have an opportunity to revel in the history of colonial Fiji.

In the afternoon, we’ll be heading around to the Marist Convent to meet up with some of the children of the island at the attached Primary School. There, you’ll be able to catch a glimpse of life in the town and spend some time with the children.

Try not to tire yourself out too much on this amazing experience, as it only lands on the second day of our seven-day trip! The following morning, you’ll be able to briefly relax on Makogai Island, before we whisk you away for another day of adventure.

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