Taveuni Island in the northeastern Fiji Islands is home to Bouma National Heritage Park that comprises 15,000 hectares (57 square miles) of pristine rainforest. That represents 80% of the rain forest on the island. The largest preserve in Fiji, the land, forests and habitat are preserved and protected against logging or any other "development" which could lead to its untimely demise. We need a whole lot more of such places, but at least it is a start.
The park was developed with the cooperation of four villages, conservation organizations and the governments of New Zealand and Fiji. I wrote about a four hour hike through a portion of this park - from Lavena village to Wainabu falls - in the post "Walk On the Wildside" back in May, 2005. In this post, I'll cover an easier hike to another waterfall. A lot of people do both in one day, but if you have time, there is plenty to enjoy and devoting a day to each allows one to be unhurried and to see that much more. If you enjoy camping, you can arrange to stay the night at Levena village.
From the Matei airport, it is a 30 minute bus or taxi ride to the visitor center at Tavoro. This is the first entrance to Bouma park. Another is at Lavena village at the end of the road. There is an entrance fee of F$5.00 per person without a guide or F$15.00 with. That works out to about US$2.92 and US$8.75 respectively. To reserve a guide call the visitor center at (679) 8880 390.
The Tavoro visitor center has picnic tables and toilets. On my last visit, in 2004, my taxi driver surprised me and my guests by bringing an Indian dish that his wife had prepared and we combined that with the fruits I had brought and had a great lunch.
The paths and foot bridges are well maintained. After signing in, you'll head up a wide grass path along the Bouma river. Only ten minutes of walking you bring you to the lowest of three waterfalls. I have visisted here three times and never made it beyond the first waterfall. The first time was due to my falling down on the wood bridge, which was quite wet and slippery, landing on my backside, and pretty much ending my hiking for the day. I should have worn hiking boots instead of tennis shoes. The second and third ocassions were due to time restraints (my bad for always combining the Lavena hike with these falls). But if you have a couple of hours, cross the wooden foot bridge - carefully - and follow the trail that leads above these falls to two more sets.
The lowest of the three Tavoro falls has a large pool at its base that is great for swimming. This fall and pool were featured in the movie "Return to the Blue Lagoon". As I said in the "Walk on the Wild Side" post, not a great movie, but very much worth watching if you are interested in Fiji or the South Seas in general. The scenery is stunning. On the other hand, why watch a movie if you can experience it first hand? You can hike and climb around the left side of the pool to a cave behind the falls from which you can jump into the water, or just wade in from the edge of the pool. The water is cool, but not cold. I have safely dived under the falls. The sound of the "booming" water fall can be both exciting and soothing at the same time - soothing at a distance, and exciting as you swim close or dive under them.
Ferns, palms, ti plants, crotons, red ginger and other tropical plants and flowers surround the pool. A large tree next to the bridge has river stones lodged in its thick wrinkled bark to a height of perhaps 2 meters - an unnerving indication of what the river can do when a really big storm fills it, but most days, even in the rain, you'll be able to enjoy a swim with no worries.
Although the area is called a "park", it is not public land. It is private property owned by the villages of Vanua Bouma: Waitabu, Vidawa, Korovou and Lavena. So when you go, please keep in mind you are a guest of these wonderful folks. People there are conservative in social matters, so bring your swim suit by all means and enjoy the water, but when not in the water, please put on a shirt, and while hiking please wear shorts or a wrap around "sulu".
Next time I visit Taveuni I plan to take the all day guided tour of the park, called the Vidawa Forest Walk. For F$60 per person (F$40 for children ages 12 to 17 years), you get transport from your accommodation (my house?) to Bouma and then a guided tour - on foot of course - through the heart of Bouma National Heritage Park with all its birds, trees, flowers, butterflies, old hill forts and other archaeological remains. Entrance fees, a knowledgable guide, a big lunch and afternoon tea (Fiji is a member of the British Commonwealth, you know) are included. The hike ends at Bouma Falls (Tavoro) where you can cool off in the pool. I am really looking forward to that. It is bound to be another unforgetable Fiji experience.