Juliette Sivertsen gets her adrenaline pumping in Fiji's adventure capital.
It's the mud on my skin and an ugly green poncho flapping around in the wind that confuses most people about my location. My face remains surprisingly untanned despite a week on a tropical island, darkened only by the dirt from a jungle trek. The image of a Fiji holiday is changing. No more "hot dog" legs against an aqua backdrop — they've been replaced by muddied boots and black garbage bags for rain covers. Relaxing snorkel trips are making way for shark diving and four-wheel driving in Pacific Harbour.
Here's how to get your adrenaline fix in the new adventure capital of the South Pacific.
Choose your base
Pacific Harbour lies along the southern stretch of the mainland of Viti Levu. For laidback island vibes, the Uprising Fiji offers guests the chance to stay in traditional bure style hut accommodation, or the more deluxe garden and ocean view villas, where you can feel one with nature in the private outdoor shower. Expect traditional island entertainment and one main communal dining area — ideal for making new friends to go exploring with.
For those who prefer the resort life, the Pearl Fiji Resort has stylish and modern hotel rooms. Facilities include a spa, gym and pool and multiple wining and dining options, from al-fresco evening meals to a poolside cocktail bar, or a romantic fine-dining experience for couples.
Choose your adventure
Pacific Harbour is home to one of Fiji's most famous adventure activities, the Beqa Adventure Divers shark dive. It's a scuba experience for certified divers, who will come face to face with one of the most aggressive shark species in existence — the bull shark. Divers need the equivalent of PADI Advanced Open Water Diver certification, to have completed at least 30 logged dives, and have nerves of steel.
The high rainfall in the region results in some beautiful waterfall treks. Don a crash helmet and get behind the wheel of a dune buggy, powering up dirt tracks and winding past remote villages, with a waterfall at the end to wash away the mud from your journey, with TerraTrek Tours.
Local operators will take you on classic rafting trips along the Navua River. Or you can pile into a skinny wooden longboat with an outboard motor and head up the river, for what's known as The Jewel of Fiji day tour with Discover Fiji. Hang on for dear life as the top of the boat sits a few centimetres above water level, navigating through rapids and tenuous stretches of the river to get to the start of a waterfall trek. On your return, you'll bundle over onto a bamboo raft to explore the only way the early Fijians could be transported up and down the river.
Choose your cultural entertainment
The Jewel of Fiji tour takes visitors to a remote village up the Navua River, Koromakawa. Watch your lunch cook in the lovo (the Fijian version of a hangi), get tingly-lipped with a kava ceremony, learn to husk a coconut, make a flax basket and join in the traditional taralala and tuboto "snake dance" with the local villagers.
Choose your outfit
Adventuring in Pacific Harbour requires more than the traditional island outfit of swimwear and flip flops. Take least two pairs of sturdy shoes — one you don't mind getting covered in mud, and the second to wear while the first pair is drying out.
As Pacific Harbour gets a significantly higher volume of rain than other parts of Fiji, it pays to pack a waterproof poncho — and a dry bag for any electronics or camera gear you want to take on a boat or raft.
Choose your relaxation
After a hard week of adventuring in Pacific Harbour, there are few experiences more rewarding than a Pure Fiji spa visit in Suva. Relax to the sound of gentle trickling water over a rockpool, surrounded by frangipani and bright hibiscus flowers while soaking up the intoxicating fragrance of lime blossom and coconut as your limbs are massaged into oblivion.
Choose your attitude
Travellers wishing to remain within a bubble of tourist infrastructure are better off in the resort island of Denarau. But if you've got a sense of humour, sturdy walking legs, a yearning for adventure and don't mind mud on your face, then Pacific Harbour is the adventure jungle calling your name.