“Wananabu! Paddles up in the air!” roared Noah Lewaravu, our young Fijian rafting guide. We screamed with much enthusiasm and raised our paddles in the air to do a high five. Buzzing with a natural high, our boat of four rowers were cheering as water splashed in all directions, providing a cooling respite from the sultry heat of inland Fiji.
As we maneuvered around a bend, the river suddenly dipped, sending us flying mid-air. Suddenly, my world was spinning 360 degrees as I realized I was in a whirlpool of water. Thankfully, Alberto hauled me back onto the raft and soon I was cheering and joking with our rafting mates and Noah once again. “What happens in the river stays in the river,” was our guide Noah’s mantra.
Continuing our journey, we passed more rapids and bends, twisting and turning through the narrow limestone gorge, meandering past steep black volcanic rock faces that soared as high as 150 feet into the sky. Carved out from these rock faces were the occasional caves, which as Noah said, were the places where traditional rituals including cannibalism used to be practiced. Spring water plummeted down from the rock faces, creating cascading natural waterfalls. Once in a while, thick foliage of palm trees and ferns exploded from the banks, setting a lush and exotic backdrop that reminded me that I was in the Pacific.
Prior to our trip to Fiji, I had also known about its clear turquoise waters and pristine coral reefs — what I didn’t know were the lush unexplored forests and raging rivers that crisscross the mainland’s interior.
With a dramatic and impressive setting, the Upper Navua River in the highlands of Viti Levu is one of the best places to do white-water rafting in the country, especially for its class II-III whitewater that suit rowers of all levels. Rafting along the river also gives a unique glimpse of the remote Fijian highlands, an area that’s usually hard to access due to the country’s poor infrastructure. Most importantly, this rafting trip directly benefits the rural highland communities and conservation work in the area thanks to Rivers Fiji.
In 2000, Rivers Fiji and the Native Land Trust Board (NLTB) partnered up to establish the Upper Navua Conservation Area to protect the area from future logging and gravel extraction. In return, Rivers Fiji contributes 10% of every cent it makes to the NLTB and landowners and also provides them with employment opportunities. The company also conducts educational outreach programs for village youth to teach them the importance of conserving their lands.
That day, we left with wide grins on our faces and a promise to return. This was by far our favorite rafting experience — we knew we would be back. These are some photos shot that day by River Fiji.
Winding through the narrow gorge
Beautiful sandstone cliffs form the backdrop
That’s us preparing for the splash
Riding the waves
Look at our expressions!
Conquering the eddies on Upper Navua River
Showering under a waterfall
No experience is needed for white-water rafting. Basic equipment like paddles, life safety jackets, and helmet are included. You will need to hike a few kilometers up and down muddy slopes to get to the rafting launch point. To ensure your safety, watch the orientation video at Rivers Fiji before heading out.
A mid-morning snack, full lunch and afternoon snack are included. The rafting trip picks you up at 6.45am and ends around 6pm. The price for the day trip is US$219.
Rivers Fiji also organizes Class II rafting trips on the Luva River that include overnight camping and village visits.
Disclaimer: Our trip was made possible by Tourism Fiji and Rivers Fiji, but all opinions expressed above are our own.