Tiny Island - Big History

Peceli, of the blog Babasiga, recently travelled to the historic island of Bau (pronounced mba u) in Fiji for a Methodist Conference (Peceli is a minister).

This tiny island off the east coast of Viti Levu, near the capital of Suva, has an important place in Fiji's history and present culture. For starters, the oldest church in Fiji is located there. It was also home to many of the great chiefs of Fiji. You must have permission to visit Bau, either from someone living on the island or the Ministry of Fijian Affairs. Read all about it at Babasiga. Just scroll down their main page to the post titled: "Bau Island, pivotal role in Fiji's history".

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Bau Island - click for a larger image.

I took the above photo of Bau in 2000, during a flight from Taveuni to Nausori Airport, which serves Suva. The church really stands out. Tiny island, big history.


Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

What a super photo! The hillside has changed over the years. Many years ago, the senior Methodist minister had a house right on the top of the hill, which, regarding Fijian protocol, says a lot about who thought they were the highest!
The rara is central of course for activities, ceremonies, dance performances.
It's a very crowded island isn't it?
It would be good to see a photo as it is today. The newspaper guys might not be allowed on the island. Their news stories are rather pathetic - mainly talking about the soli (fund-raising) or giving simplistic grabs of what someone - old and male - says!
Inside the church is a historical stone, once used for murder, but transformed into a new symbol of peace. It certainly is a pivotal place in Fiji's history.
Thanks for the references to our blog. Peceli is too busy having a good time to send me stories -he just writes short comments, or emails, or phones and his card cuts out!

Pandabonium said...

I was pretty lucky with aerial photos on that flight. As it happens I've been working on a post that is kind of an aerial photo tour of Taveuni. When I saw your post about Peceli going to Bau I remembered the Bau pic on the same roll of film.

I'd be interested to see how much it has changed in six years.

nzm said...

I remember when we used to drive around Viti Levu and always looked to spot Bau. It was a mystical island to us kids because our parents were always telling us about how hard it was to go there.

That's a great photo PB!

Pandabonium said...

Thanks NZM.

I've read that you need to dress well, and hang around the ferry area and express your interest in the island, showing sincere interest and respect. Hopefully, a resident will invite you to Bau. If they tell you to apply with the Ministry of Lands, it is a polite way of saying "no".

I've never been. It would be interesting.

FH2O said...

Why do i get this sudden urge to want to paddle around this island!

Pandabonium said...

FH2O - The water does look inviting. Back in the early 19th century, the shores of Bau were lined with battle canoes as this was the seat of power in Fiji and warfare was constant.

I prefer the more peaceful paddles we enjoy today.

Lrong said...

uwaaahh... what an island...

Happysurfer said...

Interesting and a very nice picture. Is it big enough to be self-sufficient in terms of having supply stores and such? How far is it to the other side, Viti Levu? What's the population like?

Needing permission to visit island is unusual.

Pandabonium said...

It isn't self sufficient at all. There is a ferry that goes to Viti Levu. In ancient times over a thousand people would be on this tiny island! Defeated enemies would be sacraficed on a big stone that is now in front of the church's altar.

I don't know the population today, but would guess less than 200. Maybe Wendy knows. It is only about a mile and a half from Viti Levu. Viti Levu is big - about 85 miles east to west.

Bau's historical importance is also demonstrated by the fact that out of the ten dialects of Fijian language, the standard Fijian language today is based on that of Bau.