Legend has it that there is an underwater river that stretches from Soloira Village in Serea, Naitasiri right down to the Bay of Islands in Lami. The iTaukei name for this bay is Draunibota which derives its name from this underground river. It is said that the ancestral god of the traditional landowners of the Lami end of the Suva harbour, the people of Navakavu, has his yam planted in Serea and whenever its leaves turn golden (Draunibota) and fall, it mysteriously appears at the bay.
This is one of the earliest mention of the Lami area in iTaukei mythology but it was only later that Draunibota became important following Fiji's colonisation as an anchorage and shelter for ships during hurricanes.
The name later changed to Bay of Islands to reflect the many islands that lay inside this small bay at a secluded corner of Suva Harbour.
The pristine beauty of this bay made it become a favourite picnic site for Suva residents and later became the site of the infamous Tradewinds and the Isa Lei Hotels - one of the earliest forerunners of Fiji's tourism industry.
Its proximity to Suva and the majestic views of Suva one can afford from the waterfront of the Lami side of the harbour, makes it an attractive residential place.
Families like the Tikaram, the Rodans, the Shaws and the Powells made Lami their home. Others like the Philps and the Southwick also call Lami home. Areas like Nukuwatu, Wailekutu, Kalekana and Veisari became established areas of residence.
One such family that made Lami their home in these early days was the Singh family. The second generation Singh family now owns and operates Shore Buses, one of the town's iconic businesses.
Jasper Singh who now runs Shore Buses on a full time basis was also a town counsellor and mayor for 13 years. His father, the late Raghunath Singh and late cousin Johnny were counsellor and mayor of Lami Town at one time. The Singh family was there during the formative years of Lami as a town, after it was officially declared a town in 1977.
One of Jasper's favourite recollections of the town was his time as a boy growing up along Lami's beautiful shorelines and its background of rainforests.
"Since we were small, we know almost every inch of Lami, the foreshore is something that we're close to because we used to play on the beaches, running on the beaches during low tides like the kids still do these days, playing touch rugby. That used to be done during those early days. That was the best part about Lami. The beauty of its shores! We should preserve the shoreline, make all the rivers going up to the villages dredged and cleaned properly to prevent flooding and maintain that pristine condition that it should be in," Jasper says.
For many, especially from those coming into Suva, they get a firsthand introduction to the capital city with a breathtaking view from Lami and it is usually all they can remember about passing through Lami Town.
Even just a part of Suva so to speak and perhaps, lending to the city's reputation as the one of the biggest city on our side of the Pacific.
Apart from that, the name the town lent to that infamous rubbish dump somehow only made it worse for Lami's status as a municipal town.
For those looking from Suva, Lami seemed to be just another of its suburb - just an extension of the city.
"I don't think of it like that. Lami has its own unique features that Suva doesn't have. First of all, you have to enter Lami to enter Suva. Some say it is the gateway to the capital city, that's fine but I would say it is the first impression you would make as you come towards the busy central side, you hit Lami first even though it is a small town, but it's got its own uniqueness."
"It got like an industrial area we're proud of, we house some of the noxious industries that other people don't have, namely the cement factory, Lami will be hosting a few more, you would be surprised that we got an internationally renowned hotel, you would be surprised that some towns and cities don't have that. When you talk about Lami, we have got a lot of businesses, it may not look like plenty because the industrial area is inside the Wailada area because most people just zoom past Lami on the national highway but there's a lot happening there," Jasper says.
Jasper even thinks that Lami has not been recognised as one of the premier towns in Fiji which is one of the best places to live in.
"Yes, Lami is very underrated in that sense. Underrated in the sense like when people used to say that they live in Tamavua, that is fine but you'll be surprised to find out that it will be faster for you to get from Lami to Suva in less than 10 minutes then say from Samabula or from that area, Tamavua, the Ragg Avenue area to come down to say, Walu Bay.
"So in that sense it is a beautiful place to stay, you've got a lot of land available, still untouched, we can say that certain parts of Lami is still untouched not fully developed in that sense," he says.
With a central business district which is more like a one horse town setting than anything else, Lami makes up for that shortage of land by offering more than just a business hub.
It is setting up industrial parks instead, enticing conglomerates like Williams & Gosling and CJ Patel's Nestle away from busy city traffic with larger warehouses and storage space.
Already the town is planning an industrial development just opposite the old Lami rubbish dump and is now looking at tapping into the stage II of Matata as well as the Wailekutu-Veisari areas as places to set up businesses.
The Tikaram Park is currently undergoing an upgrade and levelling which will soon see the park serve as a place of culture and entertainment.
"We will also be building a podium which should be quite attractive because it will just meet the eye going in and out of Lami to Suva, its uniqueness will shine. When you get to Suva, you look at a busy, busy, busy area because it is the capital city. You cannot compare the two, but in the sense, Lami has its own features to show off to the public," Jasper says.
The old Lami rubbish dump has been rehabilitated and Lami is interested in turning this unnatural hill into a fitness and leisure track where people can enjoy a good view of Suva while enjoying the place as a park.
For a town which has branded itself as the garden town of Fiji, Lami is also doing a lot in order to retain much of its beautiful foreshore.
Part of this included Lami becoming the first town in the world to sign up for the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction programme, "My City is Getting Ready" in a bid to raise awareness on the issues of climate change.
"It used to be because at the time our forefathers were planting the Royal Palms along the foreshore all along the marine drive, I think that's where it got its name as the garden town. There's a lot of green, there's a lot of area that hasn't been touched," Jasper says.
The town is also setting an award system where the town council will give awards for the most beautiful house, the most beautiful business house, the most beautiful school and the most beautiful village or settlement which will be announced at the town's annual festival.
The Go Green policy the town has adopted also included using products that are environmentally friendly like using eco friendly street light bulbs, bio fuel vehicles and the training of the council staff with recycling and how to handle recyclable waste.
"We're leading in climate change looking at foreshore protection, planting mangrove seedling along the Lami River that is our next project. We would like to do our little bit to protect our environment. With Lami being close to the water, there are signs that it has been washed away," Jasper says.
In hindsight, Lami and its citizens do not have regrets about moving to become a town 35 years ago which was done so as the town had the infrastructure, transportation network and more importantly the will of the people to become a town.
"I don't think Lami lacks anything because development is happening as we speak, the council having recorded more than a million dollars investment in the first six months of this year alone. And yes, development is happening in Lami. If it didn't, maybe our forefathers didn't have the foresight, We would have been part of Suva as they were saying; There's talks that other towns should be developed as well, breaking away from Suva - I am saying it may happen for example like Navua, it has all the facilities. I dont think the regret is there," Jasper says.
And Lami has been working hard ever since its inception to find a way of coming out of the shadows of its much bigger, more cosmopolitan and reputable neighbour, Suva.