BUA villagers went to the rescue of 12 whale calves stranded near Nasavu beach early Sunday morning.
Villagers spent the morning trying to free the baby whales that are believed to have become stuck in the lagoon after the tide went out.
Asaeli Nawaqavolau said they worked for many hours trying to pull the whales to safety and when they did release nine of them, the whales refused to leave.
"They just swam around the lagoon, near the three that were dead," he said.
"It was as if they were waiting for the other three. They did this for several hours.
"After 2pm, they swam away leaving the dead behind."
The whales were first spotted early Sunday morning.
Villagers said they waited until 9am to enter the water.
"We worked together to pull them out one at a time and eventually by around 1pm they were all free of the sand," Mr Nawaqavolau said, adding the sight of the 12 whales beached near each other was spectacular.
"It was the first time for many of us to even see a whale in the flesh and some of us rode them. They were so tame," he said.
Villagers cut up the dead whales and shared the meat.