Vanua Levu (pronounced [βaˈnua ˈleβu]), formerly known as
Sandalwood Island, is the second largest island of Fiji. Located 64
kilometres (40 miles) to the north of the larger Viti Levu, the island
has an area of 5,587.1 square kilometres (2,157.2 sq mi) and
a population of 135,961 as of 2007[update].
2 Flora and fauna
3 Demographics and economic activities
7 External links
Island of Vanua Levu
Geologists interpret the shape of
Vanua Levu as an amalgamation of
several islands that melded through successive stages of uplift. The
main part of the island is roughly shaped like a tall, thin triangle
30 to 50 kilometres (19–31 miles) in width and 180 kilometres
(110 miles) in length, rotated so that the point is to the northeast.
This point, the northernmost in the
Fiji chain, is Udu Point. From the
southeastern side of this triangle, a long peninsula stretches out
into the Koro Sea. The island is surrounded by coral reefs, and is
rough and hilly. The antimeridian passes through this island.
A rugged mountain range divides the island horizontally, forming much
of the boundary between the Provinces of Cakaudrove and Macuata. The
highest peaks are Mount Batini, also known as Nasorolevu, with an
altitude of 1,111 metres (3,645 feet), and, 16 kilometres (9.9 miles)
further north-east, Dikeva, also known as Mount Thurston, with an
altitude of 1,030 metres (3,380 feet). Vanua Levu's main mountain
ranges lie near the windward, southern coasts, making them much
wetter. Northern Vanua Levu, by contrast, has a dry climate eight
months of the year, enabling sugar cane, the island's major crop, to
Vanua Levu has a number of rivers, including the Labasa,
the Wailevu, and the Qawa. These three form a delta on which the town
Labasa stands. None of the island's rivers are navigable by large
vessels. There are also many well known rivers on Vanua levu. The
first is the most dangerous river, the Wainikoro river, known for its
shark attacks. The second is the Dreketi river, the deepest river in
Flora and fauna
A 17,600 hectares (43,000 acres) area covering much of the interior of
the Natewa/Tunuloa peninsula is the Natewa/Tunuloa
Bird Area. The
Important Bird Area
Important Bird Area covers the largest tracts of
remaining old growth forest on the peninsula, which is on the south of
Vanua Levu, and it supports a population of vulnerable Shy
Demographics and economic activities
Ferry and bus at the port of Nabouwalu
Wesleyan Chapel, Naivuki, Vanua-Levu, Feejee (p.96)
The island's main population centres are the towns of Labasa, in the
north, and Savusavu, located at the foot of the peninsula. Labasa,
with a population of almost 25,000 at the 1996 census, has a large
Indian community, and is a major centre of Fiji's sugar industry.
Savusavu is smaller, with a population of just under 5000, but is a
popular centre for tourists owing to its diving and yachting
facilities. The main industry on the island is sugar cane production,
especially in the north.
Copra is also an important crop. Tourism is
now becoming a major industry on
Vanua Levu also.
For administrative purposes,
Vanua Levu is divided into three
Provinces: Bua (in the west), Macuata (in the north-east), and
Cakaudrove (in the south-east). These three provinces also comprise
the Northern Division of Fiji. Together with the remote Lau Islands,
Vanua Levu and its outliers form the
Tovata Confederacy, one of three
traditional alliances of Fiji's chiefs. The Paramount Chief, who is
based on the nearby island of Taveuni, holds the title of Tui Cakau.
Only two population centres -
Savusavu - have been
incorporated as Towns. Each is governed by a
Mayor and a
whose members are elected for a three-year term and choose the Mayor
from among themselves. At present, normative local body governance is
in abeyance, and all cities and towns in
Fiji are being run
Special Administrators appointed by the central
The Gnauna Vinaka Passing the
Island of Tavea. Mountains of Vanua-Levu
in the distance (June 1853, X, p.67)
Vanau Levu was settled about 3,100 years ago, with the settlers living
in houses raised above the reefs on the shores. Between 1250 and 1350
the Pacific sea level fell 30 cm, exposing the tops of the reefs.
This killed the abundant sea food, it also dropped the ground water
table below the depth of the roots of the crops. The scarcity of food
caused conflict and war. In response, the people moved from seaside
villages, for mountaintop fortified villages. This forts were occupied
until about 1870, with the last clear indication of warfare about
The Dutch navigator
Abel Tasman was the first known European to sight
Vanua Levu, in 1643. He was followed by Captain
William Bligh in 1789,
en route to
Timor while escaping from the Mutiny on the Bounty, in
which his crew had forced him and those loyal to him off deck and cast
them adrift in a lifeboat. Captain James Wilson subsequently explored
the area in 1797 in his ship Duff.
Traders began exploiting sandalwood thickets in the Bua Bay area
around 1805, which had been discovered by shipwrecked sailors of the
schooner Argo. By 1815, however, the supply had been depleted and
apart from the occasional visit from whalers and bêche-de-mer
traders, the island received little further attention until 1840, when
a young sailor known as Jackson deserted his crew at
Somosomo on the
nearby island of Taveuni, was adopted by a local Chief, and explored
much of eastern and northern Vanua Levu.
New Zealand established coconut
plantations in the
Savusavu area in the 1860s. Intermarriage with
Fijian people produced a mixed-race elite, which also prospered from
the sale of copra, of which
Savusavu was a major centre, until the
Great Depression of the 1930s led to a collapse in the price of copra.
In the same period, Indians founded the town of Labasa, now a major
In 2012, the nation of
Kiribati began negotiating to buy 5,000 acres
(2,023 hectares) of the island to house its population, which is
expected to need to move as their islands are inundated by rising sea
^ "BirdLife Data Zone: Natewa/Tunuloa Peninsula".
datazone.birdlife.org. Retrieved 30 May 2017.
^ a b "Wesleyan Chapel, Naivuki, Vanua-Levu, Feejee". The Wesleyan
Juvenile Offering: A Miscellany of Missionary Information for Young
Persons. Wesleyan Missionary Society. X: 67–97. September 1853.
Retrieved 29 February 2016.
^ Patrick Nunn (June 21, 2016). "Fiji's experience with sea-level rise
600 years ago shows how climate change can inspire violence".
Slate.com. Retrieved August 11, 2016.
^ Dodge, Earnest S. (1976). Islands and Empires: Western Impact on the
Pacific and East Asia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press,.
pp. 62–63. ISBN 978-0-8166-0853-9.
^ Paul Chapman (2012-03-07). "Entire nation of
Kiribati to be
relocated over rising sea level threat". The Daily Telegraph.
Biodiversity Conservation in the Delaikoro Mountain Ecosystem, Vanua
Levu, Fiji, Rudolf Hahn FAO 2015 youtube video
Vanua Levu travel guide from Wikivoyage Coordinates: 16°35′S
179°11′E / 16.583°S 179.183°E / -16.583; 179.183
Vanua Levu Group
Islands of Fiji
Vanua Levu Group
Viti Levu Group