Editor’s Note: For this section, we’re indebted to our friends at Talanoa Treks who have provided us with photos and valuable tips. The beginning of this article was adapted from a story that fist appeared in first in Fiji Airways magazine. Trekking in Paradise
If you enjoy being active on your holiday, seeing more of the place you’re visiting, and getting a real feel for a country’s vibe, then Fiji has more to offer than you might think. Yes, there’s diving, snorkeling, surfing and kayaking but Fiji is also a great place to hike and visit some of Fiji’s National Heritage Park system.
A visit to a National Heritage Park could be day trip or an organized 4-day hike into the interior.
Whether you’re trekking through tall grass, swimming in the rivers, or scrambling up a hillside, you don’t need to worry about anything dangerous lurking out of sight. Fiji doesn’t have poisonous snakes or spiders, or crocs in the rivers, or anything to worry about too much. There are have pesky mosquitoes on occasion (but no malaria), but they’re not as voracious as the sand flies our friends in New Zealand enjoy!
What Fiji does have as an isolated island group is some unique flora and fauna that can be hard to spot, but that you can’t see anywhere else in the world.
Then, there’s the Fijian people you will meet.
In Fiji, longer hikes can give the opportunity to open a little window onto life in remote rural areas, whether that’s by chatting to a guide as you walk, seeing people farm, hunt and fish, or visiting villages way off the tourist track to experience their natural hospitality, and at the end of the day sit on the woven pandanus mats, share a bowl of kava, eat the food grown in their gardens and ask all the questions you can think of until your heart is content and your belly full!
Note that in this article we’re mostly covering day hikes.
For overnight trekking, we suggest you go with a professional guide through a company such as Talanoa Treks. Under no circumstances should visitors walk through tribal land or private property without the permission of the owners. (Of course national parks and reserves don’t fall into this category).
The video above, was made by a television show called Epic Trails, is a teaser for a segment that they filmed on Fiji. The host, Eric Hanson and director of photography, Lukasz Warzecha spent 6 days with Talanoa Treks’ community guides undertaking almost all of their treks.
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 an 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.
Tavoro Falls, Taveuni
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 some of 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 navigate the 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.
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 rain forest 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 must swim 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.
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. The small and largely self-sufficient villages within the park are part of a conservation project intended to protect Fiji’s only unlogged tropical montane forest ecosystem.
Abaca village is located about 15 km outside of Lautoka — centrally situated within Koroyanitu National Heritage Park.
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.
The park area constitutes the only remaining area of unlogged tropical moutain rainforest in western Viti Levu and contains a tremendous diversity of flora and fauna ranging from old growth stands of Pacific kauri or “dakua” (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.
The trails through the park wind their way through native dakua stands and grasslands.
Budget travelers and backpackers can hike the area themselves and stay at the accommodations provided at the park.
Opening Times & Costs
Koroyanitu National Heritage Park is open 7 days a week. Park entry is $20. A guided hike to Mt. Batilamu is $40pp, Savuioni waterfall $35pp and Tunutunu waterfall – $25pp.
You can overnight at Nase Lodge or a hut on Batilamu for $35pp. Cost for meals is breakfast – $10, lunch $12 and dinner $15.
To contact the Kalesi, Abaca Office call 7137282 or 7365419. You can also contact Ropate (treasurer and guide) at 7110158.
You’ll want to bring a sulu to wear within the village boundary. It is respectful to bring a sevusevu (a kava offering that can be purchased at the market in Lautoka or Nadi) but not essential if time constraints don’t allow you to pick one up.
Tavuni Hill Fort, Viti Levu
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.
Sigatoka Sand Dunes
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-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. This area was one of the first settled by the Lapita culture, who first came to Fiji around 650 BC. An extensive amount of archaeological excavation at the dunes has yielded a treasure trove of knowledge and artifacts.
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).
Interested in Trekking. Read this…
If you’re seriously considering a hike, reading these frequently asked questions from Talanoa Treks is a great way to begin your research. (Below this article is a suggested packing list).
How fit do I need to be? Is trekking hard?
Talanoa Treks itineraries cover a variety of levels of difficulty. The visit to Nabalesere and their waterfall is within most people’s ability. The track is 1.5 km each way, with some up and down, but no time pressure. Other walks are more strenuous, but are within the ability of most people with good general fitness and a familiarity with hiking.
The longer itineraries should leave you feeling satisfyingly tired after a good day’s walking and a sense of achievement. The challenge of walking in Fiji comes from the heat, humidity, remoteness and the nature of the tracks, which are not constructed paths, are uneven and can become muddy and slippery.
How much water do I need to carry when I go trekking?
A lot! The amount of water you need for a day’s walk in Fiji will depend on the heat, humidity, your own personal fitness, and how much you naturally sweat. We’ll brief you on how much you’ll need for each day of walking, but you will need up to 3 liters carrying capacity (e.g. 2 x 1.5 litre bottles or a 3-litre water reservoir) in your day pack for any of our full day walks, and should have another bottle to hydrate from before the walk starts which you can leave in the vehicles. In case of urgent need there are opportunities to replenish water bottles on some of the walks from side streams, which we will purify with tablets.
What to Bring-Packing list for trekking in Fiji
Here’s a list compiled by Talanoa Treks that will be useful if you’re going to set up a trip with them or, go on your own. If you have any specific requirements, then you should also pack with these in mind.
- A day pack or small backpack, in addition to your other luggage, for when you are walking, to carry water, sulu, snacks, camera, torch etc
- Comfortable shoes to walk in – approach or trail shoes are ideal for Fiji conditions as you can get them wet in the rivers and they dry quickly. Trainers/runners with a good grip will do, but avoid stylish trainers with no grip as well as old pairs, as the soles are liable to fall off! Hiking boots are also good on many of our itineraries, but you should be prepared to get them wet when doing knee-high river crossings. We recommend keeping your shoes on at all times, whether you’re crossing a river or even swimming.
- Lightweight, preferably quick-dry and collared t-shirts for walking
- Walking trousers or if preferred shorts (see FAQs for information on clothing)
- Water bottles or hydration pack (see FAQs for information about water)
- Personal medical kit – one of the guides will be carrying a first aid kit, but it is good practice for you to carry a small one also
- Torch – to be packed in your day bag as a safety precaution
- Dry bag or plastic bags for dry storage to keep valuables dry in case of downpour or a slip in the river
- Pac-a-mac or light waterproof – if we get caught in heavy rain, it’ll keep the wind out, even though it’s unlikely to keep you dry!
- Walking poles – if you’re used to using them, bring them along as they’ll help with the downhill sections
- Sulu (wrap-around/sarong) – will also be provided if required
- Flip-flops/thongs or a dry change for the evenings
- Long-sleeved sweater or jumper as it can get cool in the evenings
- Sleeping sheet or sleeping bag inner (blankets and where needed mattresses will be available to you, unless otherwise specified)
- Insect repellent
- Snacks – some trail mix, biscuits, muesli bars or sweets
- Emergency toilet paper
- Book / pack of cards
- Earplugs – just in case someone nearby snores!