I was unprepared for just how beautiful Taveuni island would be. A mountainous landscape covered by tropical rainforest and plenty of hidden waterfalls to explore.
Nicknamed “The Garden Island” due to the incredible amount of vegetation you’ll find there, Taveuni is the 3rd largest of Fiji’s 300+ islands. Compared to others it has very little development.
A majority of Taveuni’s flora & fauna are protected by two nature preserves and a national park.
Visiting is usually accomplished in a small propeller plane, and doing so allows you to see Fiji’s numerous colorful islands from the air. This is a worthwhile experience in itself. Taveuni’s Matei Airport is just a shack with a few benches under a roof acting as a terminal.
The indigenous population of Taveuni survives by growing coconut, kava, breadfruit, cassava, vanilla, and coffee on small plots of family land to feed themselves and earn an income.
Villages are made up of small wooden homes with metal roofs. Sometimes corrugated metal is used to build the whole structure.
Clothelines hang outside each dwelling — although with all the rain and humidity the island gets, it must take days to dry anything this way.
Roads on Taveuni are rough and muddy. In some places streams & small rivers were flowing right over them. We passed local kids who enthusiastically waved as our 4×4 van crawled it’s way to the Eastern end of the island to visit the national park.
In addition to farming small plots of land, tourism is also an increasing source of income for local residents of Taveuni. Nearby villages share revenues from the entry fee that tourists pay for a visit Bouma National Park in order to trek to it’s hidden jungle waterfalls.
Joined by my friends JD, Lesley, Ryan, Stephanie, and our guide Atu, we entered the park and began marching up a wide path of thick grass absolutely teeming with frogs. They hopped out from under our feet in the drizzling rain.
Small patches of taro grew on steep inclines next to the trail. If you’ve never heard of taro, it’s an important root crop with large heart-shaped leaves and reddish stems commonly grown on Pacific islands.
After cooking it to remove toxins, you can eat it’s roots and leaves. Island nations have been surviving on it for hundreds of years.
Taro grows well on Taveuni, and 80% of Fiji’s supply comes from the island.
The rainforest landscape in Bouma National Park is a feast for the eyes & ears. Vibrant red ginger flowers stand out in stark contrast to the copious amounts of green.
Exotic island birds like the orange dove, wood pigeon, and Taveuni parrot serenaded us as we marched.
A series of beautiful waterfalls can be reached while hiking in Bouma National Park. The first one is called Bouma falls, and it’s probably Fiji’s most famous waterfall. It’s quite impressive at 24 meters (78 ft.) tall.
We stopped here for 30 minutes to take a dip in the refreshing Tavoro river water. But I’m not happy until I can find something to jump from…
Fortunately you can climb the rocks behind the Bouma waterfall and leap off a 5 meter (15 ft.) cliff into the pool below. The loud pillar of cascading water creates a cloud of mist that helped cool us off.
For the next leg of the hike we climbed higher into the mountains while looking back at fantastic views of the ocean, nearby Qamea Island, and local villages down in the valley. The trail got progressively steeper, muddier, and narrower as we pushed on to the second waterfall.
A fork in the trail took us down a very slippery path that led to the 2nd waterfall. We jumped in for another swim of course!
Purple freshwater crabs scurried over the rocks.
Rather than continue on to the 3rd waterfall, we decided to leave Bouma and visit a natural waterslide located on another section of the island. The Waitavala river is a favorite local hangout for Fijian kids.
We’re all just a bunch of big kids as well, so we had to check it out.
Basically it’s a 50 meter (150 ft.) section of river with small waterfalls and smooth rock chutes that you can slide down like a waterslide. And it’s fast! There are even banked turns on this thing.
The local kids are pros, they were actually barefoot surfing down sections of it standing up!
As for the rest of us, we left with plenty of bruises. But it was incredibly fun nonetheless. ★
(Click to watch Jungle Waterslide – Taveuni, Fiji on YouTube)
Location: Taveuni, Fiji [Map]
Cost: $8 US (park entry fee)
Accommodation: Garden Island Resort
Useful Notes: While most people fly or take a fast boat, it’s also possible to visit Taveuni Island by overnight ferry from the Fijian capital of Suva. More details here.
Ever tried a natural waterslide?
#ExploreFiji is made possible in partnership with Tourism Fiji. As always, the content & opinions expressed here are entirely my own.