Our Experience Of A Traditional Fijian Village
We were both extremely lucky in that we were able to visit the largest remaining traditional Fijian village which is home to 200 people. Walking around the village we discovered that each home has a smile, a wave and a dog. This is Matacawelevu village which happens to sit on Matacawelevu Island situated in the Yasawa Islands of Fiji.
Upon arriving in the village we were escorted by a local to the chiefs house. Along the way we were greeted with open arms by everyone we saw as they gave us a wave and called out “Bula” as we passed by (“Bula” being a Fijian greeting). Once we arrived at the chiefs house we removed our shoes and backpacks and entered his house. We sat and our escort presented the chief with the traditional gift of kava (a traditional Fijian drink). The chief was welcoming and granted us permission to walk freely around the village, to use the beach and swim in the water. We shook hands, said “Vinaka” (thank you) and went exploring.
The houses in the village ranged from concrete and timber to corrugated iron shacks. Most of them had a shaded area outside with a raised platform underneath for relaxing. What amazed us was how self sufficient they were, everyone had a solar panel for electricity and a filtration system in order to supply clean drinking water from the dam.
We were kindly invited to a locals house for lunch and keenly accepted the offer. We were pleased that we did – They put on a feast. Josh had 6 freshly caught fish placed in front him and the table was covered with all of their home grown food. The feast was cooked in a kitchen with two pans over a fire of burning sticks, nothing more – It is amazing how much tasty food they could produce with such a limited kitchen. The meal was lovely, we were even joined by their pig at one point!
After lunch with full belly’s we headed off for a swim. As soon as we saw the water and beach it was clear why this spot would have been chosen as the place for a settlement. It was spectacularly clear and glistened in the sun.
There were 20 or so children playing in the sea so we quickly threw on our swimming gear and ran in to join them. We had a blast and the kids were awesome – They were all so happy, they ran, jumped and dived all over the place. It was great to see them making the most of their gorgeous home.
After swimming it was soon time to leave but not before a traditional kava ceremony, our second whilst in Fiji. Members of the village water committee and the chief sat along side us around a large wooden bowl and conducted the ceremony. The reason being for the ceremony was for the committee to ask the chiefs permission to conduct a village fundraiser in order to raise $500 FJD and replace some broken water tanks destroyed by the cyclone last year.
We sat back and watched whilst people clapped and prayers were said – Along with this kava was drank by all involved, including us. Little did we know that we were the special guests, the chief requested that we open the fundraiser – An honour in itself which we quickly agreed to and opened it. With this the music started playing and the party was on. We stayed for a few more cups of kava and then unfortunately it was time to leave.
Upon leaving (similarly to when we entered) every person we crossed gave us a parting wave and called out “Bula” with a big smile on their face. It was an amazing experience and a humbling one at that. If you ever get the opportunity to visit a village like this, do so and embrace all that gets thrown your way, we did and loved every second of it. We walked out of the village to the sound of people cheering, dancing and pumping out music as loud as they could. It was awesome!
Before Visiting A Traditional Fijian Village
Here are a few tips to help you gain the most out of your visit.
♦ What to expect. The villagers are incredible people who live almost solely off of the land. They are very resourceful with what they have and appreciate their minimalist lifestyle. You can expect to see tin houses, bamboo out-houses and shed toilets. Enter with an open mind, appreciate what they have created and in return you’ll be embraced with open arms.
♦ Bring Kava. In order to enter the village you will need to bring Kava with you to present to the Chief. We would recommend bringing a kilo which will cost around $20 – $30FJD. With this you will become a member of the village and the Chief will advise what you are allowed to do during your visiting.
♦ Show respect. The elders and Chief are highly respected within the village and therefore should be respected by any visitors. During a Kava Ceremony you should only speak to them if you are spoken too first.
♦ What to wear. To enter a Fijian village women need to cover their shoulders and knees out of respect – This includes when going for a swim. It is also not acceptable for either gender to wear sunglasses or hats. We were told that this is because it looks like you have something to hide.