We had so many incredible days in Fiji, but one the best was an afternoon we spent visiting a traditional village in Savusavu on the island of Vanua Levu. Savusavu may be the biggest town on the second largest island in Fiji, but with a population of less than 5,000 people, you’ll notice its village-like charm the moment you step off your ridiculously tiny plane onto the tarmac.
What I love most about the Fijian people is their strong sense of community. The majority of indigenous Fijians still live in villages with a chief at the helm, and they place great importance on the family unit, their village and the land. It’s a gentler, more laid-back way of life that’s lived closely with nature, with most villagers making their living from the ocean and the land.
When you visit a Fijian village for the first time, you participate in a traditional welcoming ceremony with the village chief called ‘sevusevu’ where you present a gift of kava. Our guide took us to the local farmers market to buy the kava for the village (where I got distracted by the pineapples) and told us that Vuadomo Village was also famous for an incredible waterfall. But to get access to the waterfall, we needed to ask permission from the chief and depending on his mood, he could say yes or he could say no.
The entire way to the village I quizzed our guide Solo (best name ever) on how to get the chief to grant us access to the Vuadomo Waterfall. Did we need more kava? Was my sarong covering enough? Were the cameras going to be a problem? Solo’s advice was to take my sunglasses off and to not get my hopes up. By the time we got to the village I was stressing out big time. We were walking distance from what could possibly be the greatest waterfall of all time and we might not be able to see it.
One of the things you’ll learn when you visit Fiji, is that the locals have an awesome sense of humour – they are always playing pranks, telling jokes and having a laugh. So there I was with my sunnies off, presenting the kava while Solo translated my waterfall request in Fijian to the chief. The chief said a few words back, which Solo translated as NO. Solo instructed me to ask the chief again. Everyone was silent and the vibe was tense. All of a sudden the chief and his villagers erupted in laughter – Solo got me good, real good.
Once the laughter died down, one of the women elders showed us around the village to see their traditional way of life. The village was simple, yet beautiful. Immaculate gardens surrounded small bures with tinned roofs. Chickens were running around, children were playing and we were shown the canoe-like boats they use to fish in the warm tropical waters of the Pacific Ocean.
Solo and the woman from the village took us to see the well-hyped Vuadomo Waterfall, and it turned out that the walk there was just as beautiful as the waterfall itself. At first glance, it just looked like a walking track through a lush, green jungle. But we soon discovered that the plants surrounding us were all there for a purpose. Passionfruit vines dangled overhead, there was wild ginger at our feet, and banana and plantain trees lined the path.
While the waterfall was everything we were promised and more, what made our day so special was the people we met and they way they welcomed us into their world. On the way back from the waterfall we ran into the woman from the village’s daughter and husband picking ingredients for dinner, we walked a little bit further and bumped into her son coming home from school. His eyes lit up when he noticed the necklace I was wearing – a pale blue string of seeds I’d bought at the village earlier. He told me he collected the seeds from the river and made the necklace – it was his way of earning money for the village. With the woman and her children together, it was the perfect opportunity for us to shoot some family photos that we’ll be sending back to the village for the family to enjoy.
We visited Vuadomo Village and Waterfall as guests of Koro Sun Resort in Savusavu. Our guide Solo is the head of activities (aka head of fun) at the resort and runs the day tours regularly.
How to get there:
The quickest and easiest way to get to Savusavu is fly direct from Nadi International Airport. The flight takes about an hour and if you manage to get a window seat, you’ll get an incredible aerial view of the islands the whole way there. We flew with Fiji Airways’ domestic airline Air Pacific. Details here.
Where to stay:
We stayed at the beautiful Koro Sun Resort who are famous for their incredible rainforest setting – so famous that an episode of The Bachellorette (USA) was shot there. We stayed in a three-bedroom villa on the edge of their rainforest lagoon for the first night which is perfect for families and groups. And then moved to the edge of the ocean to one of the most amazing rooms I’ve ever stayed in – their new edgewater bures. Details here.
Photography by Michaela Skovranova.