Rafting the upper Navua

Words: Samantha Magick Photo: Zoomfiji

It was not my most dignified moment.

Instead of ‘leaning in’, I leaned back, and quickly found myself waist deep in the rapids of the Navua river.

Fortunately, nothing was hurt except my pride. And our guide was very quick to haul me back into our raft, pulling me up like a very big, embarrassed fish.

Rafting the upper Navua River is an incredible experience, and even if you are a bit inept like me, a safe and comfortably-challenging one. 

The day starts at Deuba, where our group met to pile into the funky Rivers Fiji bus, to drive to the upper reaches of the river. Then, before walking down to the river bank, we stopped for a talk about the conservation values at the heart of the enterprise.

Rivers Fiji, in concert with landowning groups, logging companies and the Native Land Trust Board (now iTaukei Land Trust Board), established the Upper Navua Conservation Area in 2000. It is a 17-kilometer conservation corridor that excludes any logging or gravel extraction. 

 In return, Rivers Fiji compensates the landowners through lease payments, user fees, and job opportunities as guides and in other roles.

This ensures guides with deep experience and connection to the land and river, and wonderous biological diversity, which you experience from the moment you lower yourself into your raft. You’ll spy dense and diverse jungle, and numerous waterfalls and rockpools along the way. There are many opportunities to stop, for photos and for cooling swims, along the route.  A simple and delicious lunch is provided on the river bank, with the environment, fresh cool air, company and general sense of feeling incredibly blessed to be in a such a special place, making everything taste and smell better.

In Nadi recently, Rivers Fiji Director, Kasi Taukeinikoro, spoke to the values that underpin his venture. In an address to his industry, delivered with quiet power and depth, he observed that “tourism done well can reinforce cultural practices and promote the preservation of traditional knowledge.”

He shared a vision for tourism “that is shaped by our own values of community, of buying crafts from Fijian artists, food from neighbouring farms, serving local dishes, allowing visitors to see beyond the big bula smile and get a deeper understanding of our country.” 

The Rivers Fiji experience provides that and more. The more? Nothing (even repeated viewing of Eco-Challenge Fiji) prepared me for the moment we rounded a bend in the river and entered a chasm, with sheer rock walls on both sides of the river. It was, quite literally, breathtaking, and something I will remember forever.

To book and find out more: www.riversfiji.com

This article first appeared in Fiji Traveller, January-March 2023.

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