The creation of national parks in Fiji began in Bouma Village (on Taveuni) where a waterfall has been a major tourist attraction for many years. Despite the tourists, the village was poor and the inhabitants were offered money to log their communal land. It was a tempting proposition but instead of selling their birthright the villagers opted for a F$60,000 New Zealand Government grant to improve the land and create a park centered around the waterfall. With the money Bouma villagers improved access to the falls, constructed trails, BBQ pits, benches and picnic spots. The park was opened in 1993 and was a hit with visitors. What’s more, it made money for the village (which charges F$8 entrance fee). Similar infrastructure development has taken place in the other park areas around Fiji.
The following is a description of the parks which have trekking available. Note that only at Abaca or Lavena is there backpacker lodging. Camping is generally not permitted on village land.
There are a series of three falls, all easily accessible on a 3 km long hiking trail. The first falls are a ten minute walk from the road. Along someof the steeper grades there are step-like wooden levels with hand rails. Occasionally you must ford a creek but there is a rope to help navigatethe rocks. Hiking entails some serious grades but it is not strenuous and an individual in good health should have no problem.
The second falls are 30 minutes from the first. Enroute there are marvellous vistas of the coastline, the thickly wooded moutains. Benches are placed at convenient intervals (usually at the vista points). Bring towels for swimming in the pools. To get there take the local bus from Somosomo or the airport area and get off at Bouma Village or arrange a taxi from Matei or Somosomo Villages. There is no camping here, it’s strictly a day trip. Admission is charged.
One of the best hikes on the entire island of Taveuni begins at Lavena Beach which is a long stretch of powdery white sand, shaded by coconut palms. The trail follows the contours of the coastline about four km and then cuts inland to a small but spectacular waterfall. There are several rest stops with benches and picnic tables strategically placed in the shade. After the initial four kilometers (which is flat and easy to hike) the trail climbs inland along a river bank and winds through thick rainforest dripping with vines and lush with vegetation. After about one kilometer you must leave your day pack on the rocks and wade for about 100 meters up the river to a small gorge carved by the river to the waterfall. To see the falls, which is formed confluence of two streams, you mustswim the final 20 meters. To get to Lavena you must take a taxi from Matei or Somosomo. There is no camping at the beach but there is a small, spartan accommodation.(See photo on right featuring Lavena coastline).
Abaca is the first in a series of a project to develop a hiking trails and simple accommodation in the Koroyanitu National Park which is situated in the Mt. Evans Range, roughly located between Nadi Airport to the South and Lautoka, to the North. Bounded by the villages of Abaca, Korobebe, Navilawa, Nalotawa and Vakabuli, the park covers approximately 25,000 hectares which are owned by 50 mataqali or landowning units. Koroyanitu which roughly translates as `Devils Village’ is also the name of the highest peak (1195 m) in the area and the third highest in Fiji. (Cliff at right is near Abaca Village).
The park area constitutes the only remaining area of unlogged tropical moutaine rainforest in western Viti Levu and contains a tremendous diversity of flora and fauna ranging from old growth stands of Fiji kauri (which are rapidly being felled by chainsaws wielding loggers) to rare species of birds of the Fiji such as the Purple Breasted Musk Parrot or the Green Swamphen. Not only are the flora and fauna rich in biodiversity but they provide sources of building materials, food and traditional Fijian medicine.
Budget travellers and backpackers can hike the area themselves and stay at the accommodations provided at the park. Another option is a day trip with the Abaca National Park Tour Company which has a modern 4WD vehicle that will take visitors on an all-day (8 am to 4 pm) tour of the recreational area for $75. Camping is not permitted, but there is a 12-bed lodge with cooking facilities, showers and toilets for their guests. Overnight bunk accommodation costs $FJ15.00 per person. There is also a home-stay program, where a visitor lives with and becomes a part of a family in the village for $FJ27.00 per person per night.
To get there you can take a truck that leaves the Cathay Hotel in Lautoka at 9 am returning at 4 pm daily except Sundays. Round transfers cost $FJ7.00 per person. One can also take the local Tavakubu bus to the Abaca junction and walk in. Another option is to hire a small carrier along Yasawa Street in Lautoka (adjacent to the bus depot). Fares are around $FJ14.00 one way. For those who prefer to drive, Abaca is accessible by a good gravel road. There is a small entry fee of $FJD5.00 for each visitor and a charge of $F1.00 – $F3.00 for guided treks. For bookings and enquiries call (679) 661-511 or (679) 664-047.
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 $6 fee who will explain the subtleties of the fort remains. It’s also money well spent. The guide points out the 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.
The sand dunes (see photo at right), 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-metre 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 from the beach—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).