Welcome to Upper Sigatoka Valley
Closer to town, the remnants of Tavuni Hill Fort provide an excellent insight into the strong precolonial links between Tonga and Fiji. Although there are many forts like it scattered all over Fiji, this is the most accessible for visitors. Built in the 18th century by Tongan chief Maile Latumai, this fort was a defensive site used in times of war and is one of Fiji’s most interesting historical sights.
The eldest son of a king, Maile Latumai fled Tonga to escape a dispute during an era of political and social upheaval. He and his entourage of servants sailed all the way in a double-hulled canoe and arrived in the Sigatoka area around 1788. They originally set up in Korotogo (originally Koro-Tonga or ‘village/gathering of Tonga’) but were kept on the move by constant tribal warfare. Eventually, the local tribes accepted the newcomers and the chief was given some land and a local wife.
The steep 90m-high limestone ridge at the edge of a bend in the Sigatoka River was an obvious strategic location for a fortification. From this position, the surrounding area could easily be surveyed, both upstream and downstream, and the views are spectacular. Substantial earthworks were carried out to form yavu (bases for houses) and terraces for barricade fencing. There are also a number of grave sites, a rara (ceremonial ground) and a vatu ni bokola (head-chopping stone), as well as some beautiful curtain figs and an ivi (Polynesian chestnut tree) on the site.
The information centre here was set up in a combined effort between the Ministry of Tourism and the people of Naroro, and received funding from the EU. After some local management ups and downs, the under-maintained site was once again in the hands of capable and enthusiastic village guides when we visited.
The fort is about 4km northeast of Sigatoka on the eastern side of the river, above Naroro village. Occasional local carriers make the trip past the entrance gate but most visitors drive themselves or hire a taxi to wait while they visit.