HUNDREDS of people braved the early morning rain in the capital yesterday to welcome the crew of the seven oceangoing vaka to the University of the South Pacific foreshore.
Led by the lone Fijian vaka the Uto ni Yalo the seven vaka, or drua, as they are known in the iTaukei language, anchored out by Nukulau Island before completing their journey to Suva.
Yesterday marked the first time that all seven vaka visited Fijis largest island Viti Levu.
They were welcomed by the majestic sounds of the davui (conch shell) being blown and by the singing of the locals, all on hand to accord the fleet of the te Mana o te Moana voyage a welcome worthy of their adventures.
The crew of the Uto ni Yalo and her sister vaka were also welcomed by families, friends as well as sailors who had been on the Uto ni Yalo for previous voyages.
The crew of the drua or vaka were accorded a traditional iTaukei welcome by villagers of Kalokolevu, who performed the cere and qaloqalovi ceremonies.
In her welcoming speech to the seven vaka, reigning Miss South Pacific and Miss Hibiscus, Alisi Rabukawaqa, praised the virtue and strength of the sailors.
I take my hat off to you for your courage and bravery, I know it was not an easy journey and the challenges you have faced along the way would have built up your character, she said.
She said it was an honour to receive the crew of the seven vaka and commended them for making the journey to Fiji.
Pacific Islands Voyaging Society president Colin Philip said it was a momentous occasion for Fiji and also for the families of the sailors who had sacrificed so much.