A full day trip leaving Nadi early morning, and returning in the evening. Explore the Navua river, with highlights being a waterfall and local village visit.
For the Jewel of Fiji tour we had to set the alarm clock for 5am. Our pickup point was in downtown Nadi at 6.30am and this time the bus was only 15 minutes late (that is not too bad for Fiji). The 22 seater bus was clean and tidy, plus we could listen to Fijian music on our long three hour road trip south of Nadi. Yes - three hours on the road to the town of Navua which is sitting on the river bank of the Navua River. There was one short stop of around 15 minutes at a souvenir and coffee shop... the souvenirs were better than the coffee, but give the muffins a miss, they were very stale. I must say the toilets were clean for a change and the staff were so happy and friendly.
The jumping off point was right in the town of Navua, if you have not seen a down to earth village market this is your chance to have a look around if you are quick. You get dropped right at the Jewel of Fijis front door, no long walk in the 10 am hot sun. As we walked into the building we were welcomed with hot tea, coffee and biscuits, just what we needed after the long bus ride and the toilets were also inside.
After the safety brief we were given life jackets, a rubbish bag to put our bags etc in to keep them dry, and a rain coat. All we needed was the rubbish bag because there was a pool of water swilling around on the floor of the long boat, and at a couple of the rapids some water splashed in which helped to cool us down, it was very refreshing.
The ride in the longboats up the Navua River took about 45 minutes; there was lots to see so the time flew by fast. One interesting thing we saw was a man trying to get across the Navua River on his bamboo raft (AKA bili-bili, although some locals call them the "HMS Don't Come Back", as they are only good for a one way downstream trip). 15 minutes into the ride we passed the Navua Village, we will be stopping there on the way back from the Navua Falls for the Lovo and Kava ceremony.
There were only one lot of rapids that made a few people gasp, but it was nothing to worry about. The outboard motors kicked into full power and pushed the longboats through the rapids at a snail’s pace. Thanks to our experienced skipper the rest of the rapids were child’s play.
For those of you that are interested in such things, the longboats are locally made and are actually much more stable than they appear. The length helps with rapids, as there are always multiple points of contact with the waves, meaning less chance of being swamped.
We pulled in to a small side stream to off load and I was surprised to see a concrete walk way. When you think about 300 people walking off a cruise ship, all doing the Jewel of Fiji tour in one day, a mud track would not suffice. They do split them up into two groups of 150 people, what a nightmare that would be! We were lucky to have only 23 people divided between three longboats in our tour. The stunning 6 minute walk to the Navua falls was on the concrete walkway with hand rails to give you added support. Our first glimpse of the falls and rock pool was absolutely breathtaking; we were amazed at the size of the pool and couldn’t wait to swim in it.
We had a relaxing swim in the cool water for about 30 minutes before heading back to the longboats. You should take a look in the creek on the way back; I spotted a number of small fish swimming in the side pools.
On the way back to the Navua village we changed over to a bili-bili,(a bamboo raft) for a slow peaceful 300m drift down the river.
Back on the long boats it was a very fast ride running with the current to the Navua Village, this is where the rain coats would have come in handy. Someone started a water fight between the three long boats, it was all out war, with no quarter given.
As we stepped out of the long boats, we were surprised to be welcomed by a warrior standing at the top of the steps holding his war club, a second warrior was beating on a drum… another clan has arrived in our village.
Don’t forget to remove your hats guys. Ladies should wear a sarong. Before you walk into the meeting house you will have to pick someone in your party to be the chief of your clan. His role will be to sit in the visiting chief’s chair for the welcome speech, as well as sit up front and be the first one to receive the Kava bowl. Your clan chief will also have to make a short thank you speech on behalf of his clan at the end of the ceremony, so try to pick a good speaker.
The first thing you will want to do when you step into the village is to buy a fresh drinking coconut from the man sitting under the tree. For $3 he will open the coconut for you and even give you a straw, just what you need on a hot day. We then ambled over to the Lovo pit to watch the unwrapping of the food, afterwards heading off to the meeting house, remove your shoes and hats please. Now the fun starts, this is where your chief has to sit in his special chair and accept the welcome speech from the Navua Village spokesman. You then move to the centre of the floor to receive the kava, take someone from your group to sit with you to receive a bowl, the more the merrier.
As kava ceremonies go this one was very good. There were members of the chief’s family sitting in the meeting house as well, and after the kava ceremony we watched some exciting war dancing followed by relaxing Fijian singing. The village spokesman then took the floor for the last time to make his farewell speech; he thanked us for coming to his village and wished us a good and happy life. Our chief reciprocates by thanking the village for the wonderful day and for the tremendous welcome our clan received, how he envied the villagers in the way they live on the banks of the Navua River.
Lunch is served; we had fish and spinach cooked in coconut cream, cassava, stir-fry chicken, roast pumpkin in spices, lettuce and potato salad, deep fried chicken, and bread rolls. At the end of the table was a large platter of freshly cut fruit, to drink there were fruit drinks, coffee and tea.
After lunch we strolled outside to watch how to weave a mat and how to make real tapa cloth. This was followed by how to crack open a fresh coconut with your bare hands (the Fijian way). To finish off the day we visited the village school were we were treated to singing and dancing by four very young happy and smiling children.
Returning to the Jewel of Fiji tour building only took 15 minutes. We handed in the rain coats and rubbish bags then made a quick toilet stop. Before you leave they will ask you if you would like to buy a DVD of the Jewel of Fiji tour for $20, we did - but after trying the DVD on three different Laptops we could not get it to work. In their email reply they said "yes other people have complained about the DVD not working", all he suggested was we try it in another Laptop. Thanks a lot!
We arrived back in Nadi at 6.30pm, it took us another 30 minutes to get back to our house in Nasoso. It was a long 14 hr day, of which 6 hrs were spent in the bus. If you are staying in Suva the bus ride will only take you 40 minutes.
If you are one of the 300 people from a cruise ship you get short changed big time! To get you through in a hurry they cut out what I think are the most interesting sections of the day tour.