The sand dunes, near Kulukulu village, rank as among the most beautiful sights in Fiji. Looking like something out of the Arabian nights, the undulating dunes hug the coastline for several km, their soft sand as fine as flour. The tops of these 30 to 45-meter sand hillocks afford a beautiful vista of green mountains to the east and the ocean to the west. Some of them have been planted with vegetation to resist erosion, while others near the roadside are being stripped of their sand for building materials. Occasionally you may see shards of ancient pottery poking through the sand. If you happen to find some, do not remove them—they are protected by law. There are no real trails or tracks on the dunes and it’s difficult to hike up but worth the effort. If you get too hot (and it can be exceedingly hot) the beach is quite near. Bring water with you. To find the dunes look for the turn off which is marked by a visitors center (about two km west of Sigatoka town).
Situated on a bluff overlooking overlooking the Sigatoka River, the Tavuni Hill Fort is a National Archeological Site, which once was the site of a fortified village. Long abandoned, the area has been extensively landscaped and cleared so that ruins are easily viewed. Prior to entering the park, there is a small museum worth seeing. One of the displays is a lovo (underground oven) where humans were once cooked. (When the land was reclaimed and made ready for a park, human bones were found in the oven). You can also hire a guide for a fee who will explain the nuances of the fort remains. It’s money well spent. The guide points out the remnants of 56 structures such as home foundations, a lookout tower, fortress walls, the chief’s bure, and the temple. It takes about one half hour to hike the old hill fort but you can easily spend several hours wandering through the labyrinth of trails. Tavuni can be found 4 km west of Sigatoka on the inland side of the road and is clearly marked by a sign.
Just east of Bedarra, perhaps two miles away is Kula Eco Park -- a cross between a zoo and a natural history museum. This roadside attraction will offer you a glimpse of Fiji’s natural world. There’s no venue like it in the country and it consistently wins awards for excellence in Fiji.
There are numerous exhibits, from very (dead) insects to very live indigenous birds in a zoo like aviary. There’s also an ingenious aquarium that is really a self-contained eco system that features live coral along with fish, hermit crabs, snails and other creatures to simulate a reef system. Located in another room is a tiny replica of a mangrove swamp that’s an integral part of the aquarium. This is critical to the set up because it provides the nutrients that the critters need to survive. The nutrient laden swamp water circulates via pipe to the mini coral reef and keeps the flora and fauna very healthy. The result is a closed system, an experiment that management says, has held up for several years running. The manager of the park, Ramesh Chand, told me that this mini ecosystem is incredibly difficult to replicate and attracts aquarium freaks world wide.
There are also a variety of other indigenous fauna such as parrots, owls, bats, frogs, turtles and snakes. The park serves both as an educational tool for the country’s youth and as a breeding zoo for endangered species such as the crested and banded iguana which are tame enough to be placed on your shoulder. You can also hold a boa constrictor if you like—yet another indigenous species.
One of the goals of the park is to breed enough numbers of the endangered species to allow other zoos to keep them as “insurance”. Unfortunately there are rows of iguana cages with reptiles patiently awaiting their exit visas. For some reason the Fiji government won’t let them out of the country. Located on about 4 hectares of intact rainforest, the Kula Eco Park is also one of the last refuges for traditional Fijian medicinal flora. Ramesh said that villagers living nearby harvest the medicinal plants because there’s not much rainforest left. There’s also a small section of the park filled with plants that specifically attract butterflies.
Admission fee is $20 each for Adults and $10 each for Children below 12 years. The park opens for visitors at 10 am and closes at 4 pm. It takes at least one hour to tour the park—give yourself more time that that. Turtle feeding is at 11 am, 1 pm and 3.30 pm, where guests can actually hand fee the turtles. The park is exclusively funded by gate receipts and donations. Rob says check it out.
This valley, the ‘salad bowl’ of Fiji, ranks with the Nausori Highlands as among some of the most magnificent scenery on the island. Follow the main road into Sigatoka town, then turn left and follow the river valley road for about 20 km. The Sigatoka River is second in size and importance among the rivers of Viti Levu. It rises near Nadarivatu in the Nausori Highlands and flows some 136 km to the coast.
The Sigatoka River divides the rich valley into two distinct agricultural areas. The government stipulates that half the valley must be used for growing dalo (taro root), tavioka (cassava), corn, tomatoes, lettuce, green peppers, tobacco, cabbage, passion fruit and other vegetable or fruit crops. At harvest time the crops are transported down the river on handmade bilibili, on small boats or carried by truck to Sigatoka, where they are sent to other markets around the country. The eastern side of the valley is utilized for sugar cane. The government’s reasoning is that, if left to the farmers, all the rich valley land would be used to grow cane exclusively, or whatever crop fetches the highest price. Fiji would thus be without other important produce because of the whims of supply and demand. Farmers are restricted to growing no more than six hectares of cane to make sure that no-one crop monopolizes the land.
Sigatoka marks the end of the cane-growing region. From here onwards precipitation begins to increase and the foliage becomes greener and denser.
Traveling along the valley road, you should first stop at the agricultural station (about seven km from town) and the nearby pottery village of Nakabuta. Continuing for another five km or so, the road takes a turn to the east at Raiwaqa and heads towards the Yalavou Beef Scheme, acattle ranch which makes for an interesting detour. About four km along this route is an accessible bat cave. Ask around for directions. Back on the main road there are several other options. You can follow the valley road another 35 km up to a northern junction (a left-hand turn) a few km past the village of Tuvu. This will take you to the major junction at Bukuya village. At this point, you can continue north to Ba or west to the Nausori Highlands and back to Nadi. Give yourself a comfortable five to six hours to travel from Sigatoka to Nadi. Both rides are magnificent. The northern route is a bit rougher and would be better negotiated with a 4WD.
The second option is to continue along the Sigatoka Valley Rd (sticking to your right) to the bridge beyond the village of Keiyasi. Past the bridge are two interesting points. The first (and much closer to the bridge) is a cave about an hour’s hike from the village of Natuatuacoko. Ask around and the villagers will probably be happy to show you this cave, which was used as a fortress by local tribes during the Colo Wars of 1876. If they take the time to show you around, you should offer them a suitable gift of money or groceries. The second point of interest is reached by taking the road to the end of the line, beyond the village of Korolevu. From there you walk to Namoli – an old-style, thatched-roof community. When visiting the area you should not just barge into the village, but should wait until you’re invited and come with suitable gifts. At this point you can simply turn back to Sigatoka or double back to the junction described earlier and continue along the interior.
The turn-off for this WW II battery is 24 km from the airport, and should be clearly marked. Follow the signs about 10 km along the dirt road(bearing to the right) to the Momi Guns site which is maintained by the Fiji National Trust. The road to the battery is part of the original Queens Rd. There is a small museum cleverly created inside an old bunker. The walls are filled with historic photos showing Fijian soldiers in WW II battle dress and others illustrating the restoration of the Momi Guns site from decrepitude to its full camouflaged glory.
The six-inch cannon were originally British Naval guns manufactured at the turn of the century and reputedly used in the Boer War and in the relief of Mafeking during WW I. The guns were brought to Fiji with the idea of protecting the capital and were installed in the Suva Battery of Bilo. When Bilo was updated in 1944 the cannon were brought to their current location to protect the strategic Navula pass in Momi Bay. The guns were fired only in practice. The only occasion they were discharged for ‘protection’ was when a shot was fired off the bow of an unidentified ship which subsequently gave a sharp about turn and identified itself as a New Zealand vessel. The guns had a range of about 19 km.
As one might expect, the Momi Guns are placed on a hill and have a glorious view worthy of a picnic lunch. (Note that in the hills, cane land is beginning to be replaced by pine.) The park is open six days a week and admission is 20 cents. There are toilets, drinking water and plenty of parking space. Unfortunately the site is seldom visited.
This is the best beach on Viti Levu, isolated from any resorts and thus seldom visited by tourists. (This will change in the near future—several major resorts are planned.) There is some surfing here and, the beach is sometimes used surreptitiously by campers. Swimmers should be advised that large waves break on the beach, which is great for body surfing but dangerous if you’re not a strong swimmer. Hunting for shells and snorkeling here is excellent. In theory you can camp, but there have been problems with thefts by unruly locals and even a recorded instance of rape. I definitely do not recommend that you camp here – better to picnic instead and even picnickers should not turn their back on their belongings while frolicking in the surf. Lock away all valuables.
The beach is accessible by public transport from Nadi or Sigatoka; however, from the bus stop on the Queens Rd to the beach is a three-km hike. If you have your own transport, take the Queens Rd until you reach the large Maro Mosque on the left (45 km from the airport). About 200 meters past the mosque, take the next right (Maro Rd) and follow it to the end (eight km); you’ll pass Tuva Indian School and cross two narrow bridges along the way. Turn left at the "T" junction and follow the road for another 1-1/2 km.