Taking a trip on a traditional Drua
Disney’s version of the Pacific’s traditional sailing vessel, the drua, in the film Moana is captivating – but nothing as awesome as the real Drua Experience. The coolest history lesson of all time was to sail out of Suva Point like a true Fijian in a true traditional drua. This double-hulled craft is a piece of living history right here in Suva. Where I come from in small town Trenton in Canada, we tend to stick to our ice hockey and maple syrup, and sailing and water action isn’t as common as it is here in Fiji. Certainly nothing compares to the Drua experience. The I Vola Siga Vou is a scale replica of the drua of the past and she can be found anchored at Suva Point. The Drua project is also an attempt to provide employment to the next generation of young sailors here in Fiji. The I Vola Siga Vou operates as a charter vessel as a means of giving people a new kind of experience between the wind and the water. Chief Navigator and member of the original Pacific Voyagers who sailed across the world in the Uto Ni Yalo, Moala Tokota’a says they are trying to bridge the gap between the cultural world and business world so that they may also preserve the art of sailing and way finding. “This is an attempt to create a business out of this so that we can employ our sailors and also help instill the interest with sailing and way finding,’’ Moala says. Moala is widely known as one of Fiji’s top ambassadors of conservation. A veteran to the open seas and forests and has visited dozens of villages during his years with the Wildlife Conservation Society and also with the Coral Alliance.
He hails from Lau, which is where the boat builders of Fiji are from. “Yes we have put a price tag on it because all these things cost to operate but look at it this way – we are helping preserve it if we support such initiatives,’’ he says. My other highlight of the tour was meeting up with their only female member of the crew. Catherine Ledua 24, knows the Drua inside out as she comes from the last remaining clan of master boat builders in Fiji. She hails from the island of Moce and her grandfather was one of the people the makers of Moana consulted in order to bring to life the sailboats in the Disney flick. She lives with her family in the Korova Settlement which is near Suva Point. The people of Korova also set sail from Moce Island some 40 years ago to make a better life and education for their children. Meanwhile the original Drua built during the days of old, is housed at the Fiji Museum. Once regarded (and still considered by many) as the greatest battleship of the Pacific, British explorer and captain in the Royal Navy James Cook once said “the Drua made my boat look like an anchor”. The drua’s engineering is truly remarkable and makes its glide through the sea seem effortless. “Our forefathers were excellent engineers,’’ Moala says. “And they even had their own brand of physics – you see the Fijian sail it not only pushes the craft but also provides lift, that’s due to the design and shape of the sail.” Now that to me is something that is almost beyond our imagination – I told myself. Smaller Druas can carry up to 10 passengers and have been known to reach speeds of up to 40 knots. Back when druas roamed the ocean, vessels would carry around 200 people and be out at sea for months at a time. While my drua voyage was nothing as long as that, sailing in this beautifully crafted vessel true to it’s origins was a remarkable experience and is definitely something I will never forget. I Vola Siga Vou means The New Rising Star, and this Fijian drua continues to shine.
To find out more about The Drua Experience visit www.druaexperience.com