For our fifth trip to the South Pacific in September of 2019, we decided to travel to Fiji as a family. This followed-up our trips to the Cook Islands (2015), French Polynesia (2016 & 2018), American Samoa (2017), and Easter Island (2018). For our visit to Fiji, we wanted to experience both authentic Fiji and tourist Fiji. To do this, we decided to divide our two weeks between Taveuni (Fiji's third largest island) and the tourist resort on much smaller Mana Island. A separate report will be written about our time on Mana, while this report will cover Taveuni. Taveuni is known as the 'Garden Isle' due to its lush greenery resulting from a high amount of rainfall. One of the reasons we chose to spend our time on Taveuni (rather than the main island of Viti Levu) was that it seemed like it had some of the best and most beautiful hikes in Fiji. And it had excellent spots for snorkeling and diving such as the Rainbow Reef and Waitabu Marine Park. In addition, Taveuni is off the beaten track and thus would give us a more authentic cultural experience. To reach Taveuni, we first caught a nonstop flight from SFO to Nadi (pronounced Nahn-dee). From Nadi, we caught a short 1 ½ hour flight to the island of Taveuni, which landed in the village of Matei. This was where we would be staying for the next week. We stayed at the Maravu Taveuni Lodge which had reasonable prices and good food. For transportation, the lodge arranged vehicle rentals on the days we would need to drive ourselves to hiking trailheads. Since we were doing a combination of hiking and snorkeling trips, we would not need a vehicle every day. The lodge also helped us arrange for a hiking guide on the day that we would need one for a more challenging hike. We had our 7-year-old son Stefan along on this trip and he really enjoyed Taveuni. His favorite things to do were the easier hikes, the boat rides, playing on the beach, playing with the cats and dogs living at the lodge, and seeing the Cane toads at night. To see what we did as a family on Taveuni (and Mana) be sure to check out our video report by clicking here
. Now, let me discuss some of the hiking options which can be found on Taveuni.
There are essentially four major hikes on Taveuni. The Tavoro Waterfalls hike and Lavena Coastal Walk both begin on the east side, while the Tagimaucia Lake (or flower hike) and Des Voeux peak hike both begin on the west side. The Tavoro Waterfalls
(also known as Bouma Falls) hike begins near Bouma village, which is only about 4 miles north of Lavena village (where the Lavena Coastal Walk starts). This hike is shorter in distance but more challenging. While it is possible to do both hikes in one day, I suggest doing them on different days in order to have more time to enjoy and appreciate them. There is a (fairly expensive by Fiji standards) entrance fee to visit these waterfalls, which helps to pay for trail maintenance and facilities. The Tavoro waterfalls contain three spectacular waterfalls - lower fall (79 feet high), middle fall (49 feet high), and upper fall (33 feet high). According to the park map, it takes 10 minutes to reach lower fall, then 40 minutes to reach middle fall, and an additional 40 minutes to reach upper fall. Thus, total round-trip hiking time is 3 hours, and that does not include time spent photographing and swimming at the falls. The lower fall is the most impressive and gained fame by being featured in the movie "Return to the Blue Lagoon". We swam at this waterfall and also took the scrambling route to get behind it (see Sample Photo #1). The hike gets more challenging as it gains elevation and passes through muddy and slippery terrain to reach the 2nd and 3rd falls. We also swam at the upper fall. We loved this hike but want to emphasize that caution is in order due to the slippery conditions. The Lavena Coastal Walk
is the best family hiking destination and is about 6 miles round-trip. To get there, it is necessary to drive a rugged, bumpy dirt road for about 16 miles (about 45 minutes driving time) southeast from Matei to the village of Lavena. The hike begins at the Bouma National Heritage Park Visitor Centre. After paying an entrance fee, you walk along the main road through town and turn left at the school to get down to the beach area. The well-established trail starts there and follows along the coast for about 2 1/4 miles while crossing rivers and streams, passing by small villages with curious children, and passing several isolated beaches with great scenery and coconut palms. Strange-looking pedestal rocks are seen as well, a remnant of this island's volcanic history. There is one challenging river crossing which we completed by holding onto a rope. The final 3/4 mile of the hike turns inland and passes through a lush jungle while following the right side of Wainibau Creek. At the end of the trail, Wainibau Falls is reached (see Sample Photo #2). There are two waterfalls here but only the taller right waterfall can be seen. To get a closer view and see both, it is necessary to swim through a short narrow canyon, which is a very refreshing experience. This is an incredibly beautiful spot to see and experience in person. One of the best in the South Pacific. We used a route on the western side of Taveuni to accomplish what would be our third major hike. The Tagimaucia Lake
(or flower hike) climbs high up the island in search of the red and white Tagimaucia flower. Much like the Tiare Apetahi found in Raiatea (French Polynesia), the Tagimaucia (Medinilla waterhousei) is one of the world's rarest flowers. It can only be found flowering in specific mountain locations from October to December. Being that we were there in September, we thought we would be too early to see it. However, our local guide assured us that he would be able to find some flowers in bloom that we could see. Our hike started at the end of a short road in Somosomo village at a starting elevation of 400 feet. For the next 8 hours, we carried out one of the craziest, wettest, and most formidable hikes we had ever done in the South Pacific. Along the way, we gained 2,500 feet in elevation. A steady rain came down all day as we followed an obscure trail up the mountain by bushwhacking and working our way through wet mud, high grasslands, and rainforest. We did indeed find the flower (see Sample Photo #3) at two locations, so that was quite thrilling to see. We decided not to do the side trip to the nearby lake because of the rain, mud, and cloud cover that was greatly limiting visibility. The fourth major hiking option on Taveuni is Des Voeux peak
, which is the 2nd highest peak on the island at 3,921 feet in elevation. The hike follows a dirt 4WD road from Wairiki all the way to the top. We did not attempt this hike since there was rain and cloud cover during most of our days on Taveuni. In addition to the four major hikes, there are also walks (or minor hikes) at the Waitavala Natural Waterslide and Vuna Blowhole areas. In the included full set of photos, you will see a mixture of everything we did on Taveuni. Our hikes took place from September 14-19, 2019.