During your time in Fiji you really should visit a traditional Fijian village to learn more about the unique culture and see a kava ceremony! Whilst staying at Leleuvia Island I had the chance to visit a Fijian village on Moturiki Island – I learnt so much, plus it was so fun!
Fijian Village Visit & Kava Ceremony On Moturiki Island Fiji
Before you visit a Fijian village it is important to know a few things about the culture and what to expect:
What To Wear At A Fijian Village
Culture is very important to Fijians and there are a few things you need to know before entering a Fijian village:
- Dress modestly and respectfully.
Make sure to keep your shoulders and knees covered. You don’t need to have your whole arms and legs covered, just up to the shoulders and knees.
If it’s hot and you are wearing shorts, just bring a towel or sarong (sulu) in your bag and wrap it around your waist before you get to the village.
- Don’t wear a hat or sunglasses on your head. In traditional Fijian culture the head is very sacred so don’t put anything on your head and don’t touch anyone else’s head – it is seen as very disrespectful.
Fiji Etiquette In A Fijian Village
- As visitors to a Fijian village, when you approach a village you will need to get permission from the village Headman and Chief to enter before you can be welcomed into the village. Your guide will ask for permission on behalf of the group to enter. The entire village is the home of the people here, not just the house they live in – so you need to be respectful and ask for permission. By signifying your entrance, it gives people in the village a chance to close their door if they prefer not to be seen. However, most of the people in the village – the children especially, are keen to meet visitors!
- When entering a Fijian village you should always bring a gift (known as ‘sevusevu’) to give to the village Headman. Usually the sevusevu gift is kava, although children’s supplies, toys, books and food are also welcome. Your guide will always have a gift ready on behalf of the group, however you can always bring an additional gift if you would like.
- Fijians in villages are very friendly and will greet you as you walk past. Always make sure to greet them too, by saying ‘bula!’, otherwise you may be perceived as rude if you don’t say anything.
- If you are entering a Fijian home or communal area, you must leave your shoes outside.
- Wait until you are invited into a Fijian home, and then sit near the door with your legs crossed and your head bowed slightly out of respect.
What Is Kava?
Kava is not an alcoholic drink but it is a mild narcotic. It is therefore a relaxant and so has has a calming effect. Fijians and other South Pacific Islanders typically drink kava after a day working to relax.
When you drink kava (officially the liquid drink is known as ‘grog’, whereas ‘kava’ is the plant) it will make your lips a bit numb at first but it won’t last long. If you are not used to kava and drink a lot (say 20 cups) then your legs may go numb, so you may stumble and look drunk, but your mind will still be working perfectly so don’t worry! I drank 5 cups and felt nothing at all just to let you know! I definitely don’t think I would drink any more than that though.
Kava is made from ground-up root and tastes like earth if I am completely honest! It definitely isn’t the best tasting thing I have drunk, however after the first drink you will get used to it.
It is also advised to keep hydrated after you have drunk kava, otherwise you might experience what feels like a hangover the following morning if you have drunk a lot!
Fijian Kava Ceremony On Moturiki Island
Usually when you are welcomed into a Fijian village you will get to participate in a Kava Ceremony which is really fun! The kava ceremonies will go something like this experience we had below:
The locals welcomed us into their Communal Area and we had a big kava ceremony with the Chief and other elders in the village. They sat in a circle around the big bowl (tanoa) of kava and as guests, we sat behind them – except for the eldest in our group who was invited by the Chief to sit near the front.
In the village they have an order of importance of who drinks the kava in what order. First the Chief drinks, then it goes down in order of hierarchy. Everyone in the village knows the order so they know when it is their turn. They signal it is their turn by doing a clap before the kava is offered to them. This is known as the Official Kava Ceremony, and the elder of the visiting group will also be part of this.
When they have finished going around the group, the Formal Ceremony then turns into the Informal Ceremony and it is then the guests’ turn to be offered the kava to drink.
Everyone drinks from the same cups – which are actually coconut shells cut in half! One of the locals will offer you the kava – you need to first clap once before you accept the drink. You then drink the kava in one go (like a shot), give the cup back to the local and then do 3 claps afterwards. They should be loud claps so you need to cup your hands a little.
After the kava drinking ceremony everyone gave a brief introduction about themselves – their name, age and job for example. Then the locals sang some songs for us with the guitar which was really lovely.
At the end, one member of the visiting group should give a short thank you speech on behalf of all the guests, and then one of the locals will do the same. One of the locals actually told us that we were the first visitors they had had since covid began over 2 years ago!
It was a really special experience to be welcomed into their home and I am so glad Leleuvia Island Resort offers these kind of trips.
Life In Niubasaga Village, Moturiki Island
After the kava ceremony one of the locals showed us around the village. Niubasaga Village is home to 42 people – almost half of that is the children! They were all very lovely, friendly and inquisitive and walk a couple of kilometres to the next village every day to go to school!
Despite the village being small – with around 10 houses, they also have a Church here in Niubasage Village which one of the locals showed us. There is also a couple of basic communal outdoor kitchens and some toilets that were built by Think Pacific.
How To Get To Niubasaga Village, Moturiki Island Fiji
Niubasaga Village is one of 10 villages on Moturiki Island – located in Fiji’s Lomaiviti Archipelago, which lies east of Fiji’s main island Viti Levu.
Niubasaga Village is very easy to visit if you are staying at Leleuvia Island Resort. Leleuvia Island is just a 15 minute boat ride away from Niubasaga, Moturiki Island.
Leleuvia Island Resort also offer excursions such as day trips to Levuka (the old Capital of Fiji), Honeymoon Island and snorkeling and diving trips. Many people choose to combine a trip to Levuka with the village visit on Moturiki Island to make a full day tour.
To reach Leleuvia Island you need to take a boat from Bau Landing on the main island Viti Levu, which is very close to Suva-Nausori Airport.
In conclusion, my Fijian village visit was so much fun and I learnt so much about the Fijian culture. I definitely recommend you going to a local village and experiencing a kava ceremony whilst you are in Fiji!
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