The history books paint a very different picture of Nubutautau to the one you’ll experience today, telling of paths lined with long, sharp thorns and skulls.
Nubutautau is the chiefly village of the Navatusila area. It was the last village to be taken by the combined forces of the Bauan chief and self-proclaimed king of Fiji, Ratu Cakobau, and the European settlers during a campaign in the 1870s to quell the highland people. The village is also well known in Fiji for being where the unfortunate missionary Reverend Baker and his colleagues were killed and later eaten in 1867. A memorial marks the site of the killing and elders in the village are happy to tell to tell the story.
The village today, a mix of traditionally built bures and corrugated iron houses, is wonderfully welcoming. We spend an enjoyable night in the village on the Cross-Highland Hike, and the community always enjoys having people stay for longer.
Rising up behind the village of Navai is Fiji’s highest mountain, Mt Tomanivi at 1,323m, and the path to the top starts in this village. The elevation in Navai is approximately 700m, and the climate is cooler as a result, with tomatoes and other crops able to grow all year round and so supply the markets down in the towns during the off-season.
There is plenty of good forest all around Navai, and this area along with that around Nadarivatu is good for bird-watching, with lots of the forest endemics present including the pink-billed parrotfinch and the long-legged warbler. These can be hard to find, but you won’t miss the distinctive calls of the Giant forest honeyeater, the Barking pigeon, or the Masked shining parrot echoing through the trees.
Navai is visited on any trip to climb Mt Tomanivi and is the home to most of our guides for this trip. We also pass through on our drive down to the village of Naga as part of the Cross-Highland Hike.
The village of Naga is hard to find on the maps because although everyone there uses this name, the map-makers decided to call it Vanualevu. The village lies at the end of the road a little to the west of the lake created by the Monasavu dam, and near the centre of Viti Levu, Fiji’s main island.
Although unfortunately not visible from the road or the village, the dam was an impressive feat. Costing USD 234m and completed in 1983, water is diverted from the dam through over 5km of tunnels to the 80MW power station, which in 1992 was producing 92% of Viti Levu’s power, down to 49% in 2006 due to growing demand.
Naga sits in the hills above the Sigatoka river and on the border between the dry and the wet side of the island. There are wonderful views from the village community hall looking westwards. Naga is the starting point for the walk down to Nubutautau on the Cross-Highland Hike, and always ensures visitors set off with a very full stomach!
Sitting on the eastern side of the Greater Tomanivi forest reserve in the province of Ra, Nabalesere is a picturesque village right at the end of a 25km dirt road. Nabalesere is the gateway to the beautiful Savulelele waterfall and the village is proud to show you this place of amazing natural beauty tucked away in their own backyard. Being in Ra, the ubiquitous ‘Bula!’ is replaced by ‘Yadra!’, which elsewhere means morning, but here is used all day long as a greeting!
The area immediately surrounding the waterfall pools is not only rich in Fijian flora, but is also home to the Fiji Tree Frog or ula, as well as fresh water prawns and fish. The Fiji peregrine falcon or ganivatu seen on the two-dollar coin is reported to still nest in the cliff face.
Nabalesere is the furthest destination on our day-trip from Suva, and can be visited as part of longer itineraries starting or finishing in Suva. It’s also the starting point for the forest portion of our longer hikes, with a rough 19km old village track following streams and ridgelines through the forest to the western side of Mt Tomanivi.
As with all the communities we partner with, Farming is the main income earner and visitors to the waterfall are an important source of additional income contribute to the community’s own development goals.
Bulou’s Lodge sits just outside the village of Navala on the banks of the Ba river. Run by Bulou and her son Tui, it’s a great spot to relax at the end of the Cross-Highland Hike. The accommodation is also basic. There are cold showers and flush toilets. Sleeping is in a large dorm although there are two private bures available. The lodge is perfectly placed for visiting the poster-boy village of Navala with it’s rows of immaculate traditional bures, which you can often see being built or repaired during the dry season.