It was a very exciting day for Waitabu village on Taveuni when the Lindblad Expeditions/ National Geographic ship Orion came to visit.
Their visit was a recognition of the unique character of these projects, and their significance as examples of true community-managed eco-tourism, where the visitors’ financial contribution directly supports conservation of rainforest and reefs, and brings immediate benefits to the community.
However, the benefits of this visit were not just financial. In order to pharmacy host these 85 VIP guests, Waitabu and its two satellite “settlement” communities, Wai and Vurevure, had to come together to prepare and carry out craft demonstrations and traditional ceremonies, uniting the community and reinforcing the value of both their traditions and their efforts in creating a “Tabu area” marine park.
Guests were treated to a traditional welcome ceremony, a village tour, a demonstrations of Lovo pit cooking, Bure thatching, Masi cloth making, Pandanus mat weaving and preparation of traditional medicinal herbs.
The ladies of the village prepared refreshments using their natural resources: lemon leaf tea, coconut water, fruits and baked goods using local root crops were enjoyed by all.
Their trip finished off with some Fijian tunes from the Waitabu band, and a little Snake (conga) and Tara-la-la dancing.
The following day, special interest groups went diving with Taveuni Ocean Sports and Nakia Resort, or bird watching (very early) to the top of Des Veoux peak, while the others went to the Waiyevo Catholic Mission, and visited Tavoro falls for a hike and a swim.
The NG Orion travels the world, giving its passengers unique and authentic cultural and natural experiences. The villagers were very interested to see videos of their travels in Indonesia and Melanesia in the weeks prior to their Fiji visit.
The ship proceeds to Tonga and Tahiti, but after their very positive experiences in Fiji, is likely to return in future years.