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Vatuvara Island

Vatuvara Island, Fiji

Vatu Vara Island lies in the northwest sector of Fiji’s northern Lau Group  of islands, 32 km west of Mago Island and some 60 km  south-west of VanuaBalavu at Lat: 17° 26'00 S Long: 179° 31'00 W.

The island is 3 km  in diameter at the base of its 305-metre-high  summit and is also referred to as "Hat Island" due to the summit's shape. The limestone  cliffs, some 60 metres  in height, of the guyot  and the rest of the island are covered in dense tropical jungle.

The volcanic and limestone island is nearly 2 miles  in diameter at its base. Its 1973 305-metre  summit, the highest in Lau, is a massive truncated pyramid bounded on all sides by almost perpendicular cliffs up to 200 feet  in height. The crest of the pyramid is some 40 acres  in extent, and is generally flat, although pitted with holes and depressions from 6–30 feet  deep, some of them filled with water. At its base there is in most places a wide belt of gently sloping land, standing not more than 25 feet above sea level and forming the brim of the hat suggesting the island’s profile. On the northern and eastern edges of the island the sea breaks against the limestone cliffs, which are deeply undercut; but elsewhere the island is circled by a broad fringing reef, which, off the western coast swings sharply away from the shore to enclose the lagoon. The precipitous sides of the central mass are scored by three shallow terraces, marking pauses in the uplift of the island; but these are not readily observed, being smothered under the dense vegetation that clothes the whole towering structure.

It is a former atoll, specifically called a “Guyot”. This is an extinct volcano that has become overgrown by coral reefs to form an atoll. The flat top was once at sea level, which is why the summit is flat. Its unmistakable shape, and its massive peak like that of a vast stone hat, dominates the surrounding skyline and is recognizable over a radius of thirty-five miles (56 km) from nearby islands such as Kaibu, Yacata, and  VanuaBalavu. The island is privately owned by James Jannard .

The traditional guardian of Vatu Vara is a sea goddess (or nymph) by the name of Sakulawe. Not much is now known of the stories about Sakulawe. However, in Yadrana, Lakeba, the Turaga Vaka family have one of their elderly matriarch named after the goddess as a token of respect to one of their late blood relatives and a chief of Vuna: Ratu Masiwini.

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