What really makes Fiji stand apart from other beautiful isles with blue waters and skies must be the Fijian people. Hearing a loud and happy “Bula!!!” wherever we went and experiencing the warm smiles and hospitality of the Fijians made this visit so memorable!
One of the most culturally meaningful and fun activity to do in Fiji would be the Sigatoka River Safari and Village experience, a half-day river boat ride and village visit, which provides guests like us an insight into the traditional Fijian culture and way of life.
With Jess and Christina!
A group photo before our boat ride! Everyone was all bundled up in the life jackets and ponchos cuz it was a cold and rainy day buuuhuuuu. Our river safari ride was so fun though!
Meet our boat captain and guide, Captain “Magic” Mike!
Mike is a local Fijian who grew up in the villages near Sigatoka River and he enthralled us with stories of cannibals (many years ago lah) in Fiji and how a white man got eaten by the Fijians because he rudely touched the head of the chief. This poor white man was cooked and eaten, including his leather shoes because the Fijians thought his shoes were part of him!
Captain Mike kept such a straight face while telling us real stories mixed with ridiculous facts that we couldn’t tell whether he was for real or pulling our leg at times!
But the cannibal story is legit cos he said the leather sole of a shoe is still on display at the Fijian museum wtf. He also told us that the kids swim to school across the river when the tide gets high and the brides are flooded. Rubber tyres are tied together to create a makeshift boat and one kid sitting atop the “boat” takes care of their bags/books while the rest swim and push the floating contraption over!
Cruising down the river!
No time to be glamorous when you’re on a speedboat ride. HEH.
The scenery was breath-taking and would have been even more beautiful if it had been a clear day! Along the way, we saw the intriguing sights of villagers taking their horses and cows into the water, or fishing by the river-side, who waved at us merrily as we sped past.
Atop these mountains are where the cannibalistic tribes are said to have lived a couple hundred years ago!
Our boat ride took us to Mavua Village, one of Fiji’s many remaining villages where the local Fijian traditional way of village living and culture is still going strong even up til this day.
The villagers stay in simple huts and many of their houses do not even have doors, like our olden-day kampungs.
The kids were very friendly though they were shy at first!
Adorable young village kid. They were running around barefoot and had no care at all for civilization at all! One little boy just relieved himself on the ground near us and it was the most natural thing to him!
Running around with the chickens!
These villagers are making the famed “Kava” drink, which is Fiji’s traditional drink that everyone loves! It contains a strange medical property that numbs the tongue and makes the drinker feel dopey and drunk. Sounds incredible too but it’s real because we tried it for ourselves!
Apparently, you need at least x6 the amount that we had to feel the true effects of the Kava drink though.
There is a Kava ritual, where you have to clap and say “Bula!” before accepting a cup of kava from your host, before finishing it all up and ending with clapping and “Vinaka”!
Mabel looks very pleased with her drink of Kava. Hahaha. Kava tastes like muddy water with a bit of a herb taste! Not the most pleasant taste but nothing very offensive either. I could feel the effect of my tongue going slightly numb, but we didn’t drink enough to truly feel its true effects!
Apparently, kava is even more popular than alcohol and when a villager brings kava back home, it’s always a happy occasion 😂It’s usually drank together with family members to socialize and relax while drinking kava and too much kava can even make you feel intoxicated! It’s not classified as a drug though.
After our Kava initiation ritual, we had a home-made lunch together with the villagers!
As is traditional in Fiji, a long cloth is placed on the ground, and this cloth serves as the “table”. The communal food platters are served on this long cloth and we sit at either side of the cloth to tuck into our meal with fingers and hands!
Digging right into the food! It was mostly simple fare with home-grown veggies, fruits and meat.
After lunch, the villagers played the guitar and sang songs for us while everyone danced together in village style! We were also marked with talcum powder on our faces and adorned with grass garlands, before everyone joined in the fun and swayed and danced to the folk singing.
It was a really cool thing to experience the life of the villagers and to mingle with them. Their lives are so different from ours, back home in Singapore.
Mass dancing session going on after lunch! It was truly a sweet experience to mingle with the locals and have them welcome us with their Fijian hospitality and culture.
I really enjoyed the warmth and hospitality of the villagers, with their rousing music and simple but happy dancing and laughter!
Cultural exchange going on between some local kids and guests from Australia, you don’t need to speak the same language to connect, sometimes 😉
It was a one-of-a-kind experience and also an eye opener to see how the Fijian villages live even in this day, sometime that’s completely alien to us Singapore city kids. They didn’t even have 3G or reception in the mountains so you can imagine how different it is already!
The village visits are an effort to preserve the Fijian way of life while sustaining their lifestyles as a portion of the revenue earned by the river safari tour and village visits are given back to the villages.
There are fifteen such villages in partnership with the safari tours and a different village is visited each day to lessen the impact of the “tourism” on the lifestyles of the villagers, while providing them extra income, which is a win-win situation.
In fact, the revenue generated from these partnerships has led to better lives for the villagers, from electrification of their villages, footpaths, kindergartens built, education scholarships, telecommunications, church construction, medical needs and many many more.
That’s pretty awesome to me!
This is us on the speedboat ride back: Captain Mike did some really crazy spins and got all of us soaked and exhilarated!
I really enjoyed the day, it was both culturally-enriching and also very fun! I loved the interaction with the local Fijian people and experiencing village culture for the afternoon, as well as the historical stories we learnt from our captain and guide. The experience brought us closer to the heart and soul of Fiji, and made our trip much more meaningful and interesting. VINAKA, Sigatoka River Safari!
You can visit Sigatoka River Safari‘s website here to read up more should you be keen!
[ The Fiji Travelogues ]
Fiji #4: Yatule Resort & Sofitel Fiji Resort
Look for me on my other social media platforms here: