26 Nov Sigatoka Fiji Jet Boat Adventure
Have you ever wanted to have the wind in your hair strapped into a sleek jet boat spinning on a dime, the thunderous growl of the twin V8 engines howling in your ears, trees on the banks look like a blur as you strain to hold on? Well today was our turn to experience a lifechanging adventure.
We were picked up from our resort, the Fiji Hideaway Resort, and taken to Sigatoka to sign in for our adventure. The ladies received a sarong to wear as a mark of respect when we entered the village, then 10 minutes later we boarded our tour bus. As we made our way into the mountains heading upstream the entire time, our driver and tour host kept us smiling as they drove. Big smiles are a way of life for the Fijians, joking and entertaining us on our 20-minute drive.
After reaching our stop off point our ears were assaulted by the engines of the jet boats cranking up. I thought they had my old V8 Ford out the back!
Someone on our tour was to be honoured as the selected chief for the day. Lou with a big smile on her face jumped in volunteering me, thanks Lou – that’s one I owe you. I was handed a pepperwood tree root to be given as a gift to the elders of the village so they could make the traditional Kava, and as a sign of respect upon entry into their village. Soon we were fitted with our life jackets and made our way to the growling jet boats.
Our captain was Capt. Fini, she made sure we were all seated and hanging on, with a smile on her face she asked “does anyone know how to drive a jet boat …” I tried to get Lou to put her hand up as she has skied and driven boats all her life, but she wouldn’t budge. With no other takers, Capt. Fini said “that’s ok neither do I” electing much nervous laughter from the passengers as the jet boat was unleashed and lunged for the winding river.
With Lou’s son Ryan, his partner Amanda, Lou and I all packed into the seat behind the Capt. We had a great view as we flew past barely hidden trees, submerged rocks waiting for their chance to strike the intruders of their domain. But Capt. Fini was too smart for them, giving a wide berth. As we surged along the river, locals walking on both sides gave us friendly waves, which we returned eagerly. Capt.Fini slowed and found a nice shady spot along the bank and gave us some background on the river, the village we were going to and some history of the cannibal tribes that used to live on the river. Thank goodness that stopped 200 years ago she reassured us.
Ryan was in his element taking some outstanding photos with Amanda helping to point out great areas for shots. After 30 minutes of hair-raising thrills and spills under the watchful eyes of Capt. Fin, we arrived at our village.
Some of the helpful villagers moored our sleek vessel and then our boatload of fellow tourists walked to the village, just a 10 minute journey. Fifty years ago the village was on the other side of the river but after continual flooding the decision was made to move to its current position, where it’s on higher ground and does not flood.
Reaching the outskirts of the village, the ladies put on their sarong and we all took off our hats and sunglasses as a mark of respect. With me leading the way, [being chief has its advantages] the rest of the tour following we made our way to the thatched roof hut for the Kava ceremony and to meet the Chief and Elders. As we were guests, we showed our respect making sure with removed our shoes. The elders accepted our gift of the Kava root and proceeded to ground the root up and mixed it with water to make the brew. Being chief for the day I was asked do I want a strong or weak mixture of the Kava? Quick as a flash Ryan, who was seated next to me whispered to me “make it weak” so I followed his advice.
We partook in the Kava ceremony and enjoyed the (somewhat) palatable mix. The locals say it tastes like orange juice. It does if you have an inventive imagination. Then the spokesperson for the village thanked us for the gift and gave his blessing that we be safe on our journey. We were asked our names and where we were from. The ladies were asked if they were single or not, lucky Lou said she taken, I think the chief wanted a few more wives!!
We then were given a tour of the village, where they lived, what they eat and what they grow everything. There’s even cigar tobacco and cigarette tobacco grown within the village. The difference is one is coarser than the other. Then off to the community hall where the village ladies prepared a typical lunch for us.
We took off our shoes and sat on grass mats with a display in front of us of chicken, rice, eggs, roti, plenty of fruits and jugs of fresh fruit juice. The head lady said a prayer as we joined in and gave thanks for the meal. It was a lovely made meal full of flavours. We enjoyed our meal then we were ushered outside so the plates could be taken and the hall prepared for traditional dancing.
The elders sat in a circle and with guitars in hand sang beautiful songs of their village. The chief then had the villagers pick a partner to dance with, I’m sure the Chief had his eye on Lou as he made a beeline for her to be his partner!! I could just imagine Lou cooking the meals, washing their clothes in the river, working in the hot sun growing all their produce, yes, I’m sure she would enjoy getting used to being a Chiefs wife.
We had 4 dances then at the end we all fell in line and did a big conga dance following the Chief outside and around the hall and back again. Then the elders sang a farewell song and we left gifts and donations with the Chief to be spread among the village. The farewell song is called “Isa Lei” and is a beautiful song to hear, even though it means you are leaving us now until next time. As Chief for the day I made a gracious speech thanking the village for their friendliness and hospitality.
A big thing in Fijian culture is not to say goodbye as that would signify not seeing someone again. The custom is to “see you again” to signify you are not gone.
After our big farewell we made our way back to the boats where Capt. Fini was waiting, anticipation was high with all of us as we had been promised heaving spinning donuts on our way back
Not to be disappointed we did 4 spinning, tossing, donuts. Amanda recorded one on her phone, lucky it didn’t go overboard!!
With Lou screaming with delight, my ears got a good clean out. Ryan was beaming with delight and Amanda didn’t stop smiling, we all got sprayed but it just cooled us down, such fun.
As we came into port Capt. Fini made one last donut so we could get our photo taken by the photographer in the tree near the dock.
The photos can be purchased at the end of the trip. Farewell to Capt. Fini for a thrilling day out. We board our bus to go back to the resort, we realise what a life informative, fun, day we had.
If you would like to experience this same excitement and cultural showcase, click here to find out more from Sigatoka River Safari.