Rainforest Hike in Bouma National Park
Taveuni, Fiji's third largest island, can sometimes feel like a whole different country. Only 2,000 people live here. The roads are lonely and narrow with no tour buses. Villages tend to be quiet with no services for tourists. And all around, the ginger-scented air is filled with the call of exotic birds and the rustle of a warm South Pacific breeze sifting through the palms. It's no wonder they call this volcanic rise about six miles southeast of Vanua Levu the Garden Island.
Bouma National Heritage Park takes up 37,000 acres of Taveuni, a vast spread of rugged mountains, wispy waterfalls, and more than 100 species of birds that make this rainforest park a hiker's paradise. There are no places in the park where you can camp, but scores of day hikes will keep you busy. By far one of the most popular routesand for good reasonis the Tavoro Falls hike, which starts from the visitor center near the village of Bouma. Hiking boots are probably the worst shoes you could bring for this hike. Why? Because, as the name suggests, you'll be visiting as many as three sets of waterfalls that rain from high overhead into cool pools below. Resistance is futileyou will end up swimming in each waterfall-fed pool you reach. The entire hike only takes a couple of hours, but bring a picnic lunch, your bathing suit, drinking water, and get ready to spend the day playing.
Only ten minutes from the visitor center, the first fall spills a good 100 feet into a wide, inviting pool. The trail is mostly flat up to this point, passing under palms and along the tall red blooms of ginger plants. There's a small bench at the fall, so stash your gear and wade on out into the freshwater. The brave won't be able to walk away without hiking back behind the fall to a small cave. From there you can get a running leap out into the pool, falling 12 feet or so into the emerald water. Surfacing, you'll get blown back toward the bench as the force from the falls pushes you out.
The next fall is about 30 minutes from the first. This plume of falling water isn't as dramatic as the first, but the hike to it certainly makes it worthwhile: Taveuni's coastline and sweeping vistas over coconut plantations. The trail turns steeper here and even forges a few rivers, with a rope for balance extending across the water to help you feel like a true adventurer bounding through the jungle. The second fall pours down a rocky face. If you have decent shoes you don't mind getting soaked for the hike out, it's entirely possible to boulder up along the wall and stand under the falls. A third fall is another 45 minutes past this, but given the gravitational pull of the previous two waterfalls, chances are you won't get that farunless you forgot your swimsuit and don't succumb to the dive pools.
Other trails in the park to consider include the Lavena Coast Walk. This trail takes you past white-sand beaches through some of the island's dense jungles. Be on the lookout for the red-feathered kula parrot, silktails, wattled honeyeaters, and even a pigeon that supposedly barks like a dog.
You could pick few better spots for a base camp than Maravu Plantation Resort (888-345-4669; www.maravu.net; rates range from $100 to $340, special packages available for longer stays) just a short ride down the road from Bouma. Jochen Kiess, a chatty German with shocks of white hair and an impish laugh, cast his net around the world looking for the perfect spot to build an eco-lodge. Maravu is what he landed. Heliconia blossoms and scores of palms pepper the immaculately groomed grounds, with about 25 bures of mahogany and other hardwoods, a gorgeous pool, and an airy dining area that's mostly outside save the thatch roof overhead. Our room had an outdoor shower complete with a waterfall. Jochen's favorite spot on the planet is up the hill from the bures, and he'll gladly ferry you up the steep dirt road with his pickup. From the top of the hill you can look out over to Vanua Levu, lounge in a hammock, or just sit around the shaded platform he's built and listen to his staff sing songs about the sea to woozy guitar chords. Jochen can easily arrange for guides and hiking in Bouma, as well as diving in the world-renown Somosomo Strait, and visits to the International Dateline that cuts right through Taveuni.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication