Imagine low-lying buildings amongst mango trees and in between lines of coconuts standing on the beach, the expansive, blue Pacific just a few meters away, twinkling under the tropical sun. Such is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Levuka, Fiki. This Historical Port Town is Asia-Pacific’s newest gem. This town earned its Word Heritage status from the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) this year.
Levuka Historical Port Town was one of the 19 latest additions announced on the 37th session of the World Heritage Committee. The whole area located within the boundaries of the town, plus a coastal margin that extend eastward, are included in the declared property. The town’s original layout including its streets, lanes, bridges “have remained substantially unchanged”despite the passage of years.
Rare, South Pacific gem
Levuka was the colonial capital of Fiji. It is located within Lomaiviti province on Ovalau Island on the eastern coast. Colonizers from America and Europe were instrumental in developing the town in the 19th century.The colonists built residences, various institutions, stores, warehouses, and port facilities. The UNESCO recognized the Port Town’s representation of the cultural interchange between the colonizers and the indigenous population.
The UNESCO inscription identifies Levuka as a rare example of a Pacific port settlement developed by colonists that was also influenced in its development by the indigenous peoples. In addition, this port town clearly manifests the integration of the building traditions of the local community by a foreign power. The result is a unique landscape and for this Levuka has secured its universal value to all of humanity.
Ready for tourists
A UNESCO designation typically results in an influx of tourists to the site. The government of Fiji and its partner agencies are now working with the locals to prepare them and the town for a greater volume of visitors. There used to be only 120 hotel rooms in Levuka and this needed to be amended to accommodate the growing interest in Levuka. An improvement in the economic situation of Levuka is to be expected as well once the tourist trade booms.
According to the UNESCO, Levuka manifests the “important interchange of human values and cultural contact that took place as part of the process of European maritime expansion over the 19th century in the geocultural region of the Pacific Islands.”
The government has pledged to ensure that Levuka is protected and preserved for the future. Levuka will remain frozen in time – a reminder of the unique history of Fiji, according to an official.