Coral Coast

FJ

The Coral Coast is a well-established tourism destination that is encompassed by an 80-kilometre (50-mile) stretch of pristine beaches and beautiful shallow bays, rocky outcrops, and Mangrove forests, home to a diverse and unique set of flora and fauna and marine ecosystems.  The Coral Coast begins 15 kilometres south of Nadi Town, along the Queens Road, where the more cosmopolitan, highly populated urban centre of Nadi Town and its suburbs merge slowly into the sparsely populated surrounding villages, sugarcane fields, pine forests, and unhindered views of the South Pacific Ocean.

Table of Contents

As you circumnavigate down Queens Road, which hugs the coast and connects the two main hubs, Nadi Town and Suva City, on the island of Viti Levu, you will have a chance to visit and encounter the real Fiji and its many villages on the way, with many locals selling their wares on the roadside, from fresh fruits to selling the day’s catch.  The central town on the Coral Coast is Sigatoka Town; this is where all the main retail outlets are located and home to the vibrant and colourful fruit and vegetable Market, a delight to the senses.

Getting to and around the Coral Coast


Coastal Aerial View of Fiji Beachouse Coral Coast Fiji
Coastal Aerial View of Fiji Beachouse Coral Coast Fiji | Image: Supplied
Coral Coast: (Sigatoka)Coral Coast: (Sigatoka)
Korotoga –  7 kmSanasana – 15 km
Pacific harbour – 73 kmDenarau – 55 km
Suva – 118 kmNadi – 64 km
Nausori – 121 kmLautoka – 90 km
Ba – 126 km
Rakiraki – 197 km

The above table provides you with the distances in kilometres from the Coral Coast to the major towns and cities across Viti Levu. The first column details the distances from the Coral Coast (Sigatoka Town) to Nausouri, Suva, with the adjacent column detailing the distance from Sigatoka Town to the outer tip of Rakiraki along the Suncoast, with each major town and tourist hub detailed in between.

There are three main ways of  GETTING TO AND FROM the coral coast, catering to everyone’s needs:

  1. The first option is to hire a car for a few days; this will allow you to explore the whole of the coral coast at your own pace. We have written an in-depth, step-by-step guide providing you with all the car rental companies and specific requirements.
  2. The second option is to take a Pacific Transport or Sunbeam air-conditioned coach. These run continuously every day; the ‘stopping bus’ does exactly what it says, picking up whoever waves them down from the side of the road. Although there are also express services available, these stop only at the major towns and Tourism hubs, allowing them to keep to a tight schedule, and the final option is,
  3. If you like adventure, then give the Viti Mini Buses a whirl. A fast and furious ride from Sigatoka to Suva will cost you between $15.00 and $20.00 FJD one way, or the trip to Nadi is around $10 FJD. You can flag these down at the roadside if they have space left, and they always seem to manage to jam another person in.

As mentioned above, the best way to GET AROUND THE CORAL COAST is by private rental car, with a very close second place going to hiring a Local Taxi or taxi guide for the day. The services are very economical and provide you with an opportunity to speak to a local Fijian, enriching your journey with a lot of local knowledge as you transverse the different roads. If you ask at your reception desk, they normally have a list of established and respected companies that take pride in their profession. When you become accustomed to the area, you could also try the local bus system that operates. You will need to acquire a Bus card, which can normally be done at reception or a local convenience shop. More details on this can be found here. The bus companies across the coral coast consist of smaller coaches that provide first-class, frequent service to the different areas on a fixed timetable.

Historical Snapshot – Korolevu Beach Hotel


Left-Saturday-night-dining-on-the-beach-at-Korolevu-in-the-fifties-RIght-Korolevu-Beach-Hotel-1950s-brochure-cover
Left-Saturday-night-dining-on-the-beach-at-Korolevu-in-the-fifties-RIght-Korolevu-Beach-Hotel-1950s-brochure-cover | Image: Supplied

If you travel from the capital city Suva towards the tourism hub Nadi along the Queen’s Road, down the hill past the Warwick, and look to the left, you will glimpse the birthplace of Fiji tourism, Korolevu on the Coral Coast. A brilliant stretch of white beach dotted by copious lush vegetation, Korolevu on the Coral Coast is primarily where it all started, where Fiji’s reputation as a tourism mecca was founded and nurtured.

If there was ever a place along the Coral Coast with so much energy, history, and character, it would have to be Korolevu. This was a happening place to be, and it still is, what with the pack-packer retreats, hotels, and resorts that line its beautiful shoreline. However, these flashy establishments are mere Johnny Come Latelys.

The Korolevu Beach Hotel, built in the 1950s, was a landmark beachfront development that once lured droves of visitors, mostly colonial expatriates from Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. The resort, established in 1948 by pioneer hotelier Bill Clarke, stood on 76 acres of prime real estate that included the Paradise Point Hotel, which was established a decade later. The small, self-contained units at Korolevu, which incorporated indigenous architecture, were believed to be the first of their type in the world. Clarke admitted that he used this design out of economic necessity. Evidence suggests that great things often come from simple ideas.

A massive hurricane and a land dispute combined to put the two historical resort establishments out of business in 1983; however, you are still able to see the remnants of this once-majestic establishment peaking out from the shrouded palm trees and native fauna along the pristine coastline.

Tradition and Culture

The following articles have been given a new lease of life, they were first published in 2012 on the official Coral Coast Website, They provide you with a glimpse of the Traditional stories and Culture Heritage of this coastal oasis.

Lapita Pottery Sherds at Sigatoka Sand Dune


Lapitan Pottery Sherds at Sigatoka Sand Dunes
Lapitan Pottery Sherds at Sigatoka Sand Dunes | Image: Supplied

The Sigatoka Sand Dunes National Park is rightly famous for its rich archaeological history. The first significant clues to man’s arrival in Fiji were discovered at the Sigatoka Sand Dunes National Park in the late 1980s, when a team of archaeologists discovered an ancient burial site. So far, over 50 individual skeletons have been excavated, and their arrival in Fiji has been dated to approximately 2600 years ago. Scatters of pottery shards and other cultural materials found within the dunes have led experts to believe that these early inhabitants are of Lapita origin.

Lapita takes its name from an archaeological site in New Caledonia where similar pottery was first discovered. The Sand Dunes have produced the largest collection of complete and near-complete Lapita pots from the Pacific region. Today, evidence of the past is clearly visible throughout the dunes system as stone tools, human remains, and pottery continue to be uncovered by natural processes. Many unearthed artefacts are on display at the Fiji Museum in Suva.

Myths and Legends of the Sigatoka Sand Dunes


Degei the Snake God
Degei the Snake God | Image: Supplied

Another myth from the village of Volivoli is about a small valley in the sand dunes that they call Nadrio, which means “darkness”. They believe that this certain valley is a doorway to the underworld and that if a falling star falls into the valley, it is a sign that a villager is about to die. These stories were garnered from personal interviews by Tessa Miller with villagers, especially C. Saimoni, a Volivoli Villager. The villagers of Kulukulu also claim to hear and see the spirits of the villagers that were buried alive in the sand dunes.

Legend has it that the Snake God, Degei, was angered by the villagers and sent a huge tidal wave that hit the beach and buried the village in the sand, killing all its inhabitants. In Fijian mythology, Degei (pronounced Ndengei), enshrined as a serpent, is the supreme god of Fiji. He is the creator of the (Fijian) world, of fruits, and of men. He judges newly-dead souls after they pass through the doorway to the underworld. A few of these he sends to the Fijian paradise, Burotu. Most others are thrown into a lake, where they will sink to the bottom (Murimuria) to be appropriately rewarded or punished.

Degei is said to have at first moved about freely, but then, in the form of a snake, to have grown into the earth with his ringed tail. Since then, he has become the god of earthquakes, storms, and the seasons. Whenever Ndengei shakes himself, fertilising rain will fall, delicious fruits will hang on the trees, and the yam fields will yield an excellent crop. But Dengei is also a god of wrath who declares himself in terrible fashion. He punishes and chastens his people by destroying the crops or by floods; he could indeed easily wipe out mankind from the earth, for since he has lived in the bowels of the earth, he has been tormented with such insatiable hunger that he would like to take in and swallow the whole world.

Degei hatched an egg from which the first humans came to Earth. He is prominent in the Kalou-vu, the Fijian pantheon. The Kulukulu have reverence for the dunes and do not make lots of noise when visiting them, especially at night. The children of nearby villages love listening to the myths and legends of the Sigatoka Sand Dunes. It is part of their culture and upbringing. They do not necessarily have to believe all of them; just the fact that they are passed down from generation to generation is enough to keep the legends alive.

Legend of the Loka and the Disappearing Isles


The Loka (an unusually high tide that occurs on the coral coast), Minerva’detail, by Tessa Miller
The Loka (an unusually high tide that occurs on the coral coast), Minerva’detail, by Tessa Miller | Image: Supplied

The legend of the loka (an unusually high tide that occurs on the coral coast) and the disappearing islands, where forces of a Tongan sea deity in the form of huge waves wash over the coast to reclaim the souls of early Tongan settlers who have perished on our shores, However, the purpose of the loka was not fulfilled, and many of the returning souls were lost at sea forever. The loved ones of those lost souls were distressed by this loss and petitioned the sea deity to find these souls and return them to their homeland.

Failing to do so, the sea deity decided to make up for his shortcomings by forming the legendary Disappearing Isles. These islets were to be the resting place of the lost Tongan souls, and the surrounding reefs are said to be encrusted with jewels such as jade, amethyst, aquamarine, and gardens of pearls in the hope of appeasing the Tongans’ grief. There is much dispute as to the exact location of these bejewelled atolls, particularly within the Lau Group, with each island claiming closeness to the legend. It has been foretold that the Disappearing Isles are only visible to a select few, and it is particularly during the loka on the Coral Coast that the islands rise.

The Ancient Art of Lalava and Magimagi


The Ancient Art of Lalava and Magimagi
The Ancient Art of Lalava and Magimagi | Image: Supplied

The ancient art of lalava is the use of decorative coconut sinnet lashings (Magimagi) in the construction of canoes and houses. Magimagi is made from coconut husks in black or natural. (The black colour is achieved through soaking in mangrove mud.) The husks are boiled and soaked in water for several days, then pounded and dried in the sun. The fibres are then spun by rolling on the thigh, and the resulting string is braided.

The art of Lalava was a result of a lack of building supplies (nails and screws). Magimagi was used in place of nails and screws to connect the beams.

  • Talitali is the weaving done on horizontal beams.
  • Lalava is weaving that was done on vertical beams.
  • Malo/Lairo is the woven design insert.

Lalava is an art form practiced only by Kai-Lau people from the Lau Islands, the group of Fiji islands closest to Tonga. The origins of Lalava can be traced back to Tonga. There are two settlements of Kai-Lau along the Coral Coast. Jafau, Korolevu, and Wesei, a local settlement near Maui Bay

The Formation of Vatulele Island and the Sigatoka Sand Dunes


Vatulele Island and the Sigatoka Sand Dunes Rock, Rock carvings by Felipe Rogoruwai
Vatulele Island and the Sigatoka Sand Dunes Rock, Rock carvings by Felipe Rogoruwai | Image: Supplied

One of the best-known legends on the Coral Coast is about the formation of Vatulele Island and the Sigatoka Sand Dunes. The legend is that two-spirit gods, Tamaku and Vodovata, from the island of Kadavu came to Votua, famous for its rich clay soil and peaceful people. Tamaku brought with him a basket, and upon leaving Votua, he filled the basket with clay and quickly took flight ahead of Vodovata. Vodovata ordered him to bring back the clay he had stolen, and Tamaku, fearing the wrath of the more powerful god, dropped his basket into the ocean. The clay fell into the sea and formed what is now Vatulele Island. Sulking, Tamaku then flew onto land at kulukulu and started throwing sandstone rocks towards Vodovata, which fell all along the coral coast; this very rock is believed to be one of them.

Tamaku threw a gigantic rock that would have caused grave damage to the coastal lands, and Vodovata, with his mighty powers, stopped the rock mid-air, sent it back, and crumbled it over the Kulukulu coastline, forming the Sigatoka Sand Dunes.

Vatulele Island is known for its masi making and Tapa printing. The masi and tapa used throughout the Coral Coast are from Vatulele Island, situated about 25 Km off the Coral Coast. Rock carving is based on the local legend about the formation of Vatulele Island and the Sigatoka Sand Dunes.

Video: Sigatoka (1932 to 1935)


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