Local History

Illustration of Sabre Squirrelfish

The history of Fiji begins about 1500 B.C. with the landing of giant war canoes of the prehistoric Lapita people. Fijian legend speaks that when the early Fijians arrived, they first touched ashore a small group of islands just off the main Viti Levu (big land). These islands are now known as the Sacred Islands, and lie North West of Tokoriki. Finding no fresh water, they sailed on, eventually settling on the beaches of Viseisei, about 13km (8 miles) from Nadi Airport on the island of Viti Levu.

The Mamanuca Islands were unknown to the outside world until the 1840’s when the United States Exploring Expedition, which circumnavigated the globe between 1838 and 1842, charted the Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands under the command of Commandant Charles Wilkes. After an intensive period of surveying, the squadron amassed enough data to allow compilation of the first complete chart of the Fiji Islands, which would be published in 1845.

Wilkes’ surveying mission to Fiji is also significant in that it was the first and only time that a foreign western power landed a military force uninvited on Fiji soil. Wilkes ordered his men to attack and destroy a village that had killed two crewmen of his sailing vessel.

Although Fiji was fortunate to avoid the conflict during the Second World War Allied servicemen were stationed on Malolo Island to watch over the approaches to Port Lautoka and the Nadi Airfield. Many of the smaller islands were used as target practise by the Navies and Air Forces.

Tourism came to the Mamanucas in the 1960s. Beachcomber Island was the first day trip island, with Castaway Island Resort offering the first accommodation. Since then, although tourism has expanded in the area, the islands have lost none of their charm. Many of them remain uninhabited, whilst on others the locals live very much as they always have done. The reefs are vibrant and the seas warm and clear.