Whitewater Raft Navua Gorge
The South Pacific isn't high on the list of popular whitewater locations, but Fiji is an exception. Unlike other islands, the rugged interior of Viti Levu, Fijian for Big Fiji, the largest and most populated island in the chain, has vast drainages that harness rainfall and funnel it into roaring rivers. And in no place is that more true than on the Upper Navua River.
On its way to feeding into a biosphere reserve for the pristine rainforests that surround it, the Upper Navua flows for about 17 rollicking miles. Much of it courses through a tight volcanic gorge dripping with moss and thundering waterfalls before dumping into its confluence with the Wainikoroiluva River. From there it flattens out for the remaining 14-mile journey to the sea. But the Navua Gorge, as high as 200 feet in places and no more than 25 feet wide in others, is home to a string of Class II to IV rapids like "Bula" and "The Squeeze of Doom" that make a rafting trip here a must do.
Rivers Fiji, a company based out of Pacific Harbour on the southern coast of Viti Levu, offers daylong rafting trips on the Upper Navua. Meet up at their offices in Pacific Harbour before heading out by van to Nabukelevu Village, about 45 minutes away. From there you hike about a half an hour to the put-in on the river, and practice rafting commands and high-siding on the lazy currents. But watch outthe first four miles of the trip get the blood going as you drop over falls and bounce through "rock-stacle" courses. When the pit in your stomach comes from genuine hunger, you'll stop for a lunch of fresh veggies, chicken, tuna, cheeses, and juice, before hopping back in the raft. Take the time to swim in some of the natural pools, but be sure to get back in the boat for the Uwa-Owa-Uwa rapid of drops and boulder gardens. That's Fijian for "whitewater-ouch-whitewater," the experience you'll have if you get tossed from the boat. At the end of the day while heading back to Pacific Harbour, you'll understand why this river was picked for part of the 2002 Eco-Challenge course.
For those interested in more than a day trip, Rivers Fiji also offers a six-day multisport trip that rafts the Upper Navua; runs the Wainikoroiluva River ('Luva for short) in inflatable, forgiving kayaks; and visits Bega Island for hiking to waterfalls, camping, and sea kayaking.
Rivers Fiji (800-446-2411; www.riversfiji.com) is based in Viti Levu's Pacific Harbour, offering daylong rafting trips for around $150 per person, and six-day multisport outings starting at $1,850.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication