I have to say that Fiji’s Original and only Off-Road Cave Safari run by Jay Whyte, founder of the multiple award winning Sigatoka River Safari in Fiji, is an amazing half day insight into the real Fiji, an adventure along what is definitely, the ‘Road less Travelled’, deep into the Fijian interior, something I did not imagine existed.
On this rather surreal journey of discovery, rich in Fijian history, into Fiji’s largest cave system, home to the Nabuavatu clan during tribal warfare days, guests see how the clans used this cave system to seek refuge and defend themselves from their enemies until the end of tribal war in Fiji which was just over a hundred years ago, with this expedition giving a true glimpse of Fiji as it was.
The name of the cave says it all… Naihehe meaning ‘a place to get lost’, the home to the ‘Sautabu’ people during Fiji’s tribal warfare days, where the people of the tribe would retreat to and hide from their enemies, with the natural fortress characteristics of the Naihehe cave prevented attackers entering on masse, the clan were able to successfully defend themselves from many enemies over centuries.
Legend says … whoever wishes to enter the cave must seek the permission of the Priest (Bete), as without consultation of the Bete, legend has it you will automatically become stuck if you enter the cave and once inside the cave, there is a main large chamber, which once held a secret access to the top, accessible with the help of the wild vines, with the Tribe never worrying about food when they were hiding in the cave for a long time, as they had freshwater prawns and fish and at the top of the Naihehe Cave, accessible by their secret entrance were yams, fruits and other root crops.
When missionaries first arrived in Nadroga, Fiji, the paramount Chief of Nadroga who is known as Na Kalevu was the first to convert to Christianity and he commanded all his people to become Christians. The people of the interior reluctantly converted to this new religion, due to their traditional links with the Kalevu tribe and the people of Sautabu.
During the early colonial times, there were only twelve chiefly titles in Fiji and these same twelve chiefs were the ones who signed the ‘Deed of Cession’, handing over their lands to the King of England and it was from this relationship with England that Ratu Cakobau was invited to visit England, transiting through Queensland, Australia he caught measles. Upon his return to Fiji, the measles epidemic soon took hold, spreading so quickly and wiping out one third of Fiji’s then population, estimated at 200,000 people.
The tribe of Naqalimare who attempted to cure their sick with traditional medicines and practices, soon turned away from Christianity as they believed this new sickness was punishment by their ancestral gods for practicing the Christian faith. The paramount Chief heard this news about the tribe of Naqalimare and was disappointed, so the Kalevu sent men from his tribe to fight against the people who turned their backs on Christianity.
When the coastal warriors arrived in the area of Naqalimare, they soon discovered the people were using the cave as a fortress, so they could not fight hand to hand combat, this strategy saw them successfully repel the war party, but the coastal people went back and informed the Kalevu who with the assistance of the colonial people, grew his forces and fifty colonial soldiers with guns headed back into the Sigatoka valley.
The war party from the Coast came up with a clever idea of setting fire at the entrance of the cave, with the strategy working immediately as the smoke inundated the people inside the cave causing them to suffocate, many fleeing the cave and some trying to use the secret access on top, which was surrounded by coastal and colonial people with guns. Shots were fired, which killed the chief in the attack, but before his death, he instructed his tribe to surrender to the coastal people and upon this it could be claimed that Fiji was now truly a Christian state.
The goal at Off-Road Cave Safari is to not change the way of living for the Bete (Priest) and his family or destroy the beauty of the cave but to help improve the living standards for the Bete (Priest) and his family and keep what is sacred to them and to Fiji’s history and they achieve this to date with the help of their guests, as part of the proceeds from the tour is contributed directly to the Priests family.
This sees these monies go directly to the family and allows them the ability to meet all their social and cultural obligations, without placing strain on the individual family members.
The checkout this amazing tour, please click on the video box below:
Written by John Alwyn-Jones