When we read the brochure from Captain Cook Cruises about their new itinerary to the very remote Lau Islands of Fiji we noticed them using the phrase “places without postcards”. Vunisea on Kadavu (not actually one of the Lau Islands but on the itinerary) is our first choice for a series of posts about these places.
Vunisea is so remote they don’t have postcards, mail comes once a month, there certainly isn’t wi-fi or generally even telephone service. They don’t have shops, hotels or restaurants for tourists. They are a small subsistence fishing village living much as their ancestors, and their ancestors before them, did.
To get to the ceremony we had to hike up a perilous trail to the top of a hill. Before we did that the crew from Captain Cook had gone ahead to go over the (considerable) ceremonial formalities with the chief and get an estimated time when he would be ready for us.
The Vunisea chief takes “Fiji time” to an extreme. We had no idea how long we would have to wait, but he got his act together in a little over an hour. (Despite having been told months earlier when we would get there.)
There are several legends that were relayed to us as to how turtle calling began on Vunisea. They all involve a variation of someone (a maiden, fishermen, or the village chief’s wife) being captured by bad guys from another village on the island. Then, as so often happens, the hostages turned into water and then turtles to escape. Heard that story once you’ve heard it a hundred times!
Because the perpetrators of the crime were from another village no one from any other village on the island or related to anyone on the island can attend the ceremony.
When we reached the top of the hill we were met by a group of smiling, dancing, singing and clapping Fijian women and children. We had been forewarned very sternly not to take photos, point at anything or speak at all.
The island women spoke, pointed and took endless pictures with their smartphones which cracked us up to no end!
They sang and clapped enthusiastically, in keeping with their tradition, but no turtles appeared (although the dive instructor thought he saw a beak or two in the water). No turtles – no problem! The chief explained that we hadn’t seen them because all of our eyes were too weak. Great explanation!
Perhaps to distract or, more likely, because they just always want to dance, the turtle calling women got people in our group to dance with them. Blonde even boogied with a teenager who must have been trying to get a badge for working with the elderly.
Asked if they do this only for tourists they said “no”, they do it on a regular basis. The last time they had tourists visit had been 7 months earlier. If they ever get access to Facebook the inquiring mind suspects this would become a tourists only event!
We are still alive because the turtle callers were kind enough to firmly lead us down the slippery hill to safety. This particular lady really liked Bruce, a nice man on our journey who kept reminding her that he was there with his girlfriend! (At least he won’t have to explain away a “Friend” request from his hill escort later.)
Disclosure: We were the guests of Captain Cook Cruises Fiji. Writing about our experiences reflects our opinions and experiences and should not be construed as a recommendation of the provider.