Vatu Vara

NASA Geocover 2000 satellite image
Vatu Vara from west

Vatu Vara Island lies in the northwest sector of Fiji's northern Lau Group of islands, 32 km (20 mi) west of Mago Island and some 60 km (37 mi) south-west of Vanua Balavu at Lat: 17° 26'00 S Long: 179° 31'00 W.

The island is 3 km (1.9 mi) in diameter at the base of its 305-metre-high (1,001 ft) summit and is also referred to as "Hat Island" due to the summit's shape. The limestone cliffs, some 60 metres (200 feet) 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 (3.2 km) in diameter at its base. Its 1973 305-metre (1,001 ft) summit, the highest in Lau, is a massive truncated pyramid bounded on all sides by almost perpendicular cliffs up to 200 feet (61 m) in height. The crest of the pyramid is some 40 acres (160,000 m2) in extent, and is generally flat, although pitted with holes and depressions from 6–30 feet (1.8–9.1 m) 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 (7.6 m) 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 Vanua Balavu.

The island is privately owned by Jim Jannard, and is currently uninhabited.[1]

Vakatawa kei Vatuvara (Guardian of Vatuvara)

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. Ratu Masiwini is the great-grandfather of current Fiji National Provident Fund CEO Aisake Taito, married to daughter of Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara.

Coordinates: 17°26′S 179°32′W / 17.433°S 179.533°W / -17.433; -179.533

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