A day on the Navua River is a long one but it's worth it, writes Tess Nichol.

Even being woefully underprepared for a river rafting trip didn't stop me from enjoying the five hours spent floating down the tranquil upper portion of the Navua River in Fiji.

Mistake number one: I had thought growing up in New Zealand would make me immune to the sun's rays in an ozone-covered country like Fiji, but it turns out that's not how these things work.

After applying one layer of 20 SPF sunblock in a half-hearted attempt at staying sun smart first thing in the morning, my thighs and neck were distinctly crispy after five hours of white water rafting.

My second mistake: wearing denim shorts for what actually turned out to be a very aquatic activity. My third: not bringing a change of clothes or a towel, resulting in fashioning a sort of skirt out of my raincoat (why did I bring a raincoat but no towel?) for the bus ride back to our hotel to attempt to avoid sitting in a soggy puddle for an hour.


Despite these minor issues, my day in the Viti Levu highlands was memorable for all the right reasons: it was fun and beautiful, offering a glimpse at a less-seen part of the well-known island nation.

A day of rafting starts early at the Rivers Fiji office where we have a quick coffee before travelling by bus on an extremely muddy and bush-bashed road to reach the river.

A short hike to the river's edge is followed by a rundown of safety rules and paddling instructions, none of which end up being particularly necessary - today the river is calm, and Esale, our unusually taciturn guide, has the paddling covered for the majority of the day.

This leaves plenty of time to soak in the sights as we float gently through a deep gorge, past waterfalls and tropical foliage.

It's a profoundly peaceful experience; Esale points out the rock strata and fossilised coral in the sides of the gorge.

Reflecting on the sheer length of time it would have taken for the river to wear this far down through the rock gets me feeling philosophical about nature and its endurance compared to the relatively short amount of time humans have been on Earth.

We stop for lunch at a connecting river mouth and play in the rock pools, cliff jump into a fresh water hole at the side of the river and get a massage from a particularly heavy-flowing waterfall.

It's a great group activity and suitable for families with young children - Rivers Fiji will take children as young as 8 on trips.

Play fighting and rowdy antics are encouraged by the guides, who take any opportunity to steer their raft into a position where everyone in it will get wet.

A day on the Navua River is a long one, but it's certainly worth taking the time to do.

Just make sure you bring dry clothes and remember to slip, slop, slap and wrap.



Fiji Airways flies daily from Auckland to Nadi. With a special price on return fares starting from $549 for adults and $199 for kids.