One of the top tourist draws to Fiji is the Navala Village on the Nausori Highlands in Nadi on the island of Viti Levu. It is an authentic traditional village, untouched by any modern development. Think about the comforts in your own home – TV, A/C, a home entertainment system, the family car – they’re not here. It is a completely different world and the villagers are not putting on a show. This is their way of life. In fact, in the 19050s, the Fijian government offered to this village the construction of modern homes. The people refused, and today, we know that they chose wisely. The elderly villagers taught their children how to build a “bure” home, and so the tradition has been kept alive through the years. To see this highland village is truly a rare experience.
Approaching the village, you will be greeted by the very friendly locals and be invited inside their homes. There are more than 200 thatched houses that are homes to about 1,000 Navala people. The traditional homes are called “bure” or bungalows, and they exhibit indigenous architecture that has endured the test of time. The majestic roofs are thatched and the walls are woven bamboo. The site is surreal, as though you have been transported back in time.
All the bures are basically the same. They are one-room structures, but some have more intricate roofs. Their kitchens and toilets are constructed as separate buildings at the back. Typically, the bures are properly lined up, except for the cluster of bures along the Ba River. There are only three structures in the village that are unlike the bures: the school, church, and generator hut, which are all made from concrete.
Since today the Navala Village is a major attraction in Fiji, there is an entry fee of F$20, which shall be used primarily for the maintenance of the village. Payment is usually made to the headman. Normally, the first villager you see by the roadside will take you to the headman who will then allow you to stroll around after you have made the payment. The locals are very friendly, so expect to be invited into their homes and even offered a drink of yaqona. In fact, they will gather for a special welcome ceremony just for you. The yaqona is a mildly alcoholic drink extracted from the roots of the yaqona tree. It is rude to refuse their offer. It is not alcohol, so no worries in drinking this traditional drink, but expect numbness in your lips and tongue for a few minutes.
The village is situated at the center of grassy mountains that seem to be protecting the bures. There are also surrounding caves, which in the past were the villagers’ hiding places in times of war.
Getting to Navala Village is very easy and convenient since it is just in Nadi, where the international airport is located. Make sure to get that “Navala experience” when in Fiji.