An evening at the Whale’s Tale

Photo by David Lansing.

Photo by David Lansing.

Everything about Levuka makes you feel as if you are on a Hollywood set for a movie about life in the South Seas during Britain’s colonial heyday. Walking around my hotel, the Royal, with its century-old billard table in the bar, you half-expect to find Somerset Maugham wearing a tropical suit and lounging on the wicker furniture drinking a tumbler of Holland gin, neat.

There’s only a few other people staying at the hotel at the moment. One of them is a young chap who I’ve noticed at breakfast every morning. We nod to each other when passing in the dining room, exchanging tight, constrained British smiles but never saying a word to each other. It’s very odd.

For some reason or another we’ve also ended up dining at the Whale’s Tale about the same time every night, sitting at separate tables in a room where there are only four or five tables to begin with. Again, we never speak to each other. Until last night, that is, when we happened to catch each other’s eye as we were digging into our walu and chips and he says, in a stiff-upper lip accent, “So…how long do you expect to take in the local cuisine?”

Anywhere else in the world the person dining next to you would say, “How long are you on vacation?” but not on Ovalau. Here it’s “How long do you expect to take in the local cuisine?” Which sounds like an old movie line, doesn’t it?

So I gave him an old movie line in return: “Haven’t the foggiest.”

And then he went back to his fish and chips and I went back to mine without another word being exchanged.

Most nights at the Whale’s Tale there are only three, maybe four diners. All evening. Yet every few minutes, the front door opens, the old dog, lying on his side, tips his head up to have a silent look, and whoever has come in goes to the front counter holding a few bills in their hands. Without a word, the old Fijian momma who works the front takes the money and comes back with a little bag of something. I’m guessing it’s kava, that nasty tranquilizing stuff made from the dried root of a certain pepper plant. Obviously the old woman and her daughter, who cooks up the frozen fish and chips, don’t make any real money on the food side of the Whale’s Tale. Most of their income, I suppose, comes from the steady parade of kava buyers. Well, one has to do what one has to do on a tiny island like this, don’t you think?

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  1. Sonia’s avatar

    I think this place sounds like heaven. No responsibilty to the world except your own. Set back in time…Do they farm or raise anything there. What do they do there for trade?


  2. Kelsie’s avatar

    Bula Vinaka!
    Its great to see a little piece of my home here. Arnold, Julia, Lisa and the whole gang, seeing this piture of “Whales Tale” makes me miss you all all over again!

    Apart from the great awesome weather, great food, there is nothing like sitting around and not feeling pressured about getting anything done..although when you’re the one running the restaurant that is another story.

    Great work on the article Mr. Lansing.

  3. Mike Lukanchoff’s avatar

    I visited Ovalau and Levuka in 1997. We stayed at the Royal Hotel for 3 nights, we ate at the Whales Tale and the whole flavour of Levuka was charming ,making it very difficult to leave. I highly recommend to anybody who is thinking of traveling to Fiji, Levuka is a “must see”.

  4. Doreen Kumar’s avatar

    I was born and bred in Levuka. Infact, my parents stii live there and I am so looking forward to visiting them this Christmas. A nice picture indeed and it just brought back memories of Levuka. How can I forget. It is such a tranquil place, you as the boss of your own time and there is absolutely no pressure to meet any deadlines. A place to relax and unwind and the best of the best places in Fiji. A must to see and visit to all of you thinking of visiting Fiji.
    Levuka here I come.
    Doreen Kumar (Formerly: Doreen (Pinky) Prasad.

  5. Civil Attorneys’s avatar

    I agree with you Sonia. Having a vacation in these type of places make you feel like heaven. Aside from its natural environment, the place seems to be friendly. I have heard stories of this place before and it was really good to stay.

  6. Robert Sharp’s avatar

    These are a great place to have a vacation at. Love the restaurant and it is nice having the hotel close by.

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