If you’re looking for some adventure away from the beach and want to experience some real authentic local Fijian culture, check out River Tubing Fiji in Pacific Harbour – one of the best day trips on the Coral Coast!
You’ll get to experience visiting a traditional Fijian highland village, swim in a beautiful waterfall and go tubing down the river! It certainly makes for a great fun day out for everyone!
River Tubing Fiji
After arriving to the River Tubing Fiji base in Navua town by transfer, we headed 22km upstream along the Navua River in longboats (fun fact: Anaconda Part 2 was filmed here in the Navua River!). The journey was really pleasant and relaxing, going past beautiful green rainforest scenery along the way, which eventually turned into impressive deep gorges.
Along the ride we went past several waterfalls, as well as going through some gentle river rapids – these are the rapids you will be tubing down later!
We also passed several cows grazing next to the river bank, as well as the odd few local villagers by the river making rafts or relaxing along the banks.
Visiting A Traditional Fijian Village
After an hour going upstream, our first stop was to visit a traditional Fijian village along the bank of the Navua River in the Namosi Highlands. This is a fantastic opportunity to see and learn about traditional Fijian culture in a highland village.
When you visit a local village in Fiji you must not wear anything on your head (hat or sunglasses, as a mark of respect). Females must also wear a skirt or a sarong to cover their knees, so make sure you pack one with you. If you forget, you can wrap your towel around your waist.
I found the village visit so fascinating and our guide Peter explained a lot to us to give us a deeper insight into life there.
In total there are seven villages here along the Navua River – the village we visited was the fifth village. These villages along the Navua River are all very remote, cut off from civilisation and can only be accessed by the river as there are no roads that lead to the villages!
A bamboo raft is the main form of transport for the people living here. If they need to head to town they will need to make a bamboo raft. That’s right – they need to make a bamboo raft and ride it all the way down the river (22km!).
The villagers will head to the town when they want to sell their produce they have grown in the village, and in turn they will also buy four basic staple items that they need that they don’t grow in the village – rice, sugar, salt and flour. Everything else they need they are able to grow at the village.
Not only do the villagers ride the bamboo raft to town with all their produce to sell, but what is even more impressive is that they walk all the way back home with the items they have bought in town. As the river runs downstream, it is too difficult for them to try and ride the raft back upstream back to their village so they leave the raft there and walk back! This will take them a whole day and night.
And it’s not just the adults in the village that have to travel far distances. Children as young as 5 years old must trek and swim for 2.5 hours to get to school, as their school is three villages away! Imagine having to swim to school! We were honestly amazed at the life these people live.
The village is self-sufficient, and examples of the types of year-round produce they grow here includes cassava, taro and kava (the photo below is the kava!). They also grow seasonal produce such as lettuce, watermelon and chestnuts, and go fishing and hunting for pigs.
As life in the village is very remote, they need to be self-sufficient and this refers to healthcare too. When someone in the village is sick they go to herbal medicine first as opposed to going straight to the doctor (which would involve taking a raft downstream and a lot of time and energy). Lots of herbs are grown here in the village that can be used to treat high blood pressure, stomach ache and stop cuts bleeding.
There is no network here in the village, and not all houses have electricity, although they do have running water. The houses are very modest here, made from bamboo – and you’ll even find a little church (the turquoise building at the top of the photo below!).
I was so happy to learn that a percentage of the River Tubing Fiji tour price goes towards supporting the village and paying for improvements for the village. Lately they just finished installing flush toilets for the residents here!
I loved how the local people in the village don’t go out of their way to put on anything special for the tourists when they visit – they are genuinely just going about their daily life when you arrive, which is great as you really get to see the local culture. When we visited we only saw one family – 3 generations of women in one house. All the males in the village were working on the farms and the children were at school.
It may of course be different when you visit – especially if you visit when the children aren’t at school! Perhaps you’ll see locals planting vegetables, weaving mats, preparing food or drying kava, it’s totally unpredictable which makes it even more exciting and authentic!
Out of all the villages along the Navua River this village is the smallest one. Most of the other villages have around 200-300 people whereas only 50 people live in this village – with 22 of them being children!
Sadly however the population here decreases every year as there is no secondary school in the area – there is only the primary school 3 villages away. Therefore the families have to move to the town when the children get older to continue the children’s education, and they only come back to the village on holidays, Christmas and weekends. Often they continue to live in the town or in the city and the children eventually settle there.
Cannibalism was common in highland villages like this in Fiji up until the 1800s (it wasn’t common in the coastal areas of Fiji). In these particular highlands, one Missionary came over from England and brought Christianity with him. He lived with this hillside tribe for years, became great friends with them, and was the only white person they didn’t eat.
But one day however, the Missionary removed a comb from the Chief’s hair. As you aren’t allowed to touch anyone’s head or remove anything from their hair as the head area is deemed sacred in Fijian villages, the tribe ate this Missionary for lunch. So moral of the story – do not touch anyone’s head in Fiji! Of course you won’t get eaten now, as the introduction of Christianity in Fiji stopped cannibalism, but just be aware that it is still considered very rude to touch a Fijian person’s head if they come from a village.
Visiting the Waterfall
After visiting the local village we got back on the long boats and headed to the next stop: the waterfall!
We walked less than five minutes to reach the waterfall and when we got there it was so impressive – it was so high! It reminded me of the many waterfalls you can swim in in Australia.
We stayed at the waterfall for around 15 minutes for a swim – the water was really refreshing as it was such a hot day, and some of the locals were jumping into the pool from the cliffs above – I would be so scared!
We then stopped for lunch along the riverbank – the staff had prepared a tasty and healthy lunch for us.
Tubing Down Navua River
After lunch it was time for the final activity: tubing back down the river! With tubing, you just sit on the rubber ring, paddle with your hands and keep in the middle of the river. Keep your feet in the water to stabilise yourself – don’t have them out of the water. And you’ll often find that paddling facing backwards is easiest!
Several of the guides will tube with you, and just let them know beforehand if you’re not a confident swimmer so they can stay with you the whole time. There is also a longboat that follows behind the group, so you won’t get left behind! The staff were very fun but equally I could tell safety was a priority with them, which was really great to see.
Halfway through we had a break from paddling and just floated down the river in a big group as the guides sang some Fijian songs to us which was really lovely. Tubing isn’t particularly exhausting, and you only require a mild level of fitness to do it. But if you are tired to paddle you can just ask someone else to stick their feet under your tube and they can drag you along as they paddle. Towards the end about 5 of us were in one big train doing it!
The views whilst you are tubing down the river are stunning – this part of Fiji has around 2000-3000mm of rain a year: it is in the ‘wet’ side of Fiji so it is very green and makes for fantastic views!
The tubing lasted around 1 hour 15 minutes tubing 6km downstream. The rapids were gentle (well – nobody fell out of their tube!) and there were about 4 sets of rapids along the whole trail so there was plenty time to relax and just float down the river in your tube. The rapids were really fun to go through and made you go so fast!
Where Is River Tubing Fiji?
River Tubing Fiji is located about a 20 minute drive from Pacific Harbour, in the town of Navua.
How Long Is River Tubing Fiji?
All in all the total time we spent at the Navua River was just over 5 hours – from 10am to 3pm.
If your pickup is in Pacific Harbour the whole day will take around 6 hours (the start and finish point of the trip in Navua town is about a 20 minute drive from Pacific Harbour) – so from around 9.30am to 3.30pm.
If your pickup point is further away such as in Suva, further along the Coral Coast or over towards Natadola, Sigatoka or Nadi, your day will be longer. You will be advised of your pickup time after buying your tickets.
What To Wear For River Tubing Fiji?
It’s advisable to arrive with your swimwear on underneath your clothes so you don’t have to waste time at the beginning of the trip getting changed. Once you set off on the boats down the river there is nowhere to get changed so make sure you come dressed for tubing.
For the actual tubing part, you’ll just want to wear your swimming attire as you will get wet (at least on your bottom half anyway!) so you can leave all your belongings and clothes on the boat to keep them dry.
You are given a mandatory life jacket to wear for tubing. Feel free to keep a t-shirt or something on underneath if it is a bit cool or equally if it is very hot and you want some additional protection from the sun.
What Should I Bring For River Tubing Fiji?
Definitely bring suncream with you so you can put it on before the boat ride, and also reapply it before tubing. It was a really hot sunny day when we went tubing, and there is no shade when you are tubing so it’s really important to make sure you’re protected from the sun – even when it’s cloudy as you will still receive the sun’s rays.
We found the weather also changes quite quickly in Fiji, so even if it is cloudy before you set off tubing it might suddenly become very sunny so you’ll need to have your sunscreen on already as there is no way to put it on once you are tubing.
Bring a baseball cap or a similar hat that won’t blow off your head in the wind as you are on the boat (as it goes quite fast). It’s a long time you are outside and exposed to the sun, so you want to keep your head protected to avoid you getting sunstroke.
Drinks are provided in the lunch, but it’s also recommended to bring a bottle of water so you can keep yourself hydrated throughout the day.
Bring a towel and a change of clothes so you can get dry and changed after the tubing. There are toilets at the start and end of the trip for you to get changed.
Bring a go-pro or a waterproof cover for your phone if you want to capture photos during the tubing and at the waterfall!
It’s also wise to bring water shoes if you have them, as the waterfall pool is rocky at the bottom so it can be a bit uncomfortable for bare feet. No worries if you don’t have water shoes, flip flops will work okay!
Ladies make sure to bring a skirt or sarong to cover your legs for the village visit.
It was very sunny when I visited, but if the weather isn’t looking great you might want to pack a wind jacket or rain jacket so you don’t get cold on the boat ride – especially after the tubing once you are wet.
Is River Tubing Fiji Suitable For Children?
River Tubing Fiji is suitable for children and families are welcomed.
Can I Do River Tubing Fiji If I Can’t Swim?
We had a couple of people in our group that couldn’t swim or weren’t confident swimmers. The guides would hold onto them for the whole time whilst tubing, and everyone is given life jackets to wear.
Why Choose River Tubing Fiji?
River Tubing Fiji is a locally owned family business so by booking with them you are helping support the local community. It’s not only the company and it’s local employees that you are helping, but you are also helping the village as some of your tour fee goes directly towards making improvements for the village.
All the staff at River Tubing Fiji were very professional and friendly. The whole day ran smoothly and was extremely well organised and I would definitely recommend it.
Is River Tubing Fiji Worth It?
Everyone on our trip had an absolutely great time and a very enjoyable day with River Tubing Fiji.
As the River Tubing Fiji trip encompasses culture, nature and adventure, this day trip definitely can appeal to anyone. Whether you’re young or old, I say River Tubing Fiji is definitely worth it and you should add it to your must-do day trips list when you’re in the Coral Coast and Pacific Harbour!
Looking for other fun activities to add to your Fiji itinerary? Check out Malamala Beach Club – the world’s first beach club island!
This post was written in exchange for a complimentary day tour with River Tubing Fiji. All views expressed however are my own.
Friday 30th of September 2022
Resposbile eco tourism at its finest! On my list next time Im in Fiji!