Many visitors to Fiji skip past the 'mainland' of Viti Levu to smaller islands. But savvy travellers are now venturing beyond the coastal tourist hot spots to discover Fiji's inland attractions.

In the interior of Viti Levu, you'll find natural beauty in scenic rivers, mountains, canyons and waterfalls, and genuine unaffected friendliness in small communities that are worlds away from the hotel hubbub.

As you hit the interior, the sultry heat of the beach eases into a cooler climate. Shifting green hues replace the dominant blue of the sea and the diversity of foliage and birdlife seems to increase tenfold.

In many cases it’s only a couple of hours’ drive away from the hotel buffets and swim-up bars and into stunningly different – and wild – scenery, where Fijians live as they have for centuries.

One of the best ways to access the tropical interior is by travelling on the rivers, lifelines that cut through the lush interior of the island. Following these natural routes is an earth-friendly way to get away, and takes you up close to the most pristine rainforest.

Inflatable kayaks on the 'Luva River in Fiji, photo courtesy of Rivers Fiji

Rafting trips can take you along the deep chasm of the Upper Navua River. Shrouded in forest and fed by dozens of cascading waterfalls, the river follows narrow canyons – sometimes the black volcanic walls of the canyon are only a few metres apart, although they can reach as much as 40 metres high.

Travelling this river takes you through a protected wetland area, the Upper Navua Conservation Area. Established in 2000 by native landowners and Rivers Fiji, it was designed to safeguard the local eco-system as well as cultural traditions – all the guides used in the region are from indigenous families. This amazing river canyon is now a designated Ramsar site, a protected wetland of international importance.

For the really adventurous, challenging stretches of Class II and III white-water rapids can be rafted along the Upper Navua River – it’s a fun and unique experience.

Also on Viti Levu, the Namosi Highlands are Fiji’s highest point. They hold some of Fiji’s most spectacular mountain scenery; the region hides friendly traditional villages, deep waterfalls and densely forested canyons.

Hiking, rafting and kayaking opportunities abound here; the main river through the highlands is the Wainikoroiluva (‘Luva) River, which also has white-water rapids. You can arrange to visit highland villages, where it’s still customary for visitors to share kava (a mildly narcotic drink) with the village chief when they first arrive.

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