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Mighty Rewa Delta

Solomoni Biumaiono
Sunday, November 11, 2012

It is commonly known around Fiji that the people of Rewa are a resilient lot.

Having to contend with one of the biggest river systems in Fiji, the kai Rewa have to live in an area which is predominantly a mangrove swamp, and above all else, face the dangers of the floods that the Rewa River throws their way.

To the people of the Rewa, the water is a way of life and a rebuttal to the jokes usually aimed at them because of their flood prone existence. To this, they usually reply, "Na Tebara e dau sili waca la" (Tebara or Rewa is simply having a bath).

It is the delta shaped by the Rewa River. Their lives are shaped by the countless waterways that traverse this delta which was inhabited by more than 70,000 people in 2010 according to climate change scientists.

I had the opportunity of travelling to the Rewa Delta last month where even though it was only a visit to two villages, I had the privilege of travelling through one tikina or district of the Rewa province.

This was no sightseeing trip as we had to accompany an official from AusAID, Maggie Boyle, who was visiting one of their projects in the area. The delta presented the best of itself on the morning of our visit.

A half hour drive from Suva, we found ourselves at Nasali Landing, the main staging point of any travel to the districts of Rewa, Vutia or Dreketi.

Nasali is where the infamous water taxis of the Rewa Delta are based, and calling their services is simply by putting an appearance at the edge of the waterways and a wave, but this has been made even easier with the availability of telephones and mobile phones.

The sun, which had just managed to rise over the mangrove forests, seemed to be greeting us with a loud good morning while a breeze fanned us on our journey down to Tavuya village.

Our pilot and Tavuya villager, Tadeo Rasova, jolted us back to reality saying that the tide is going out fast and we have to plan our trip well or otherwise we would have the indignity of wading through water and mud to reach the boat.

Contemplating this possibility of knee-deep mud and dreaming about what might have been over river crabs debris which litter the waterway, forced our pilot to start manoeuvring our water taxi like a Fijian sevens winger.

Tadeo pointed out the water lilies and bamboo that littered the Rewa Delta saying this was brought in by the Rewa River from upriver.

The bamboo is not just a single bamboo but whole groves which were uprooted with roots and all, and brought down this far. My respect for this river just grew tenfold as if it's showing off how mighty it can be by planting these trophies in the middle of the delta waterways.

We reached Tavuya, a village which is a distance off from the main river channel. After Rasova had loaded the schoolchildren, we travelled down to Nukui Village. The thought of wading through the mud was firmly embedded in our minds by now.

It was on our passage to Nukui that the Rewa Delta finally showed us its best side where mangrove forests grow as tall as double-storey buildings with trunks as thick as mature mahogany trees.

The delta is teeming with bird life, and when I say birdlife, I mean, I haven't seen a concentration of the Pacific Black Duck or ga ni Viti anywhere else in Fiji as I did in the Rewa.

These ducks frolicked in the mangrove forests and one of them even allowed us to photograph it. Capturing them on camera as they took off into the air was an added bonus.

Rasova was quick to add that the Rewans had developed a good way of catching these rare ducks by swimming up underneath the ducks while they frolic to get hold of their legs as anyone who tries to catch them with nets will have a hard time doing so.

With the tide slowly receding, a solitary heron could be seen as the early bird underneath the mangroves looking for breakfast.

Overhead a bat, probably returning late from its nocturnal jaunt, was lazily navigating its way home.

Just up river, we came across a group of men who were seen lowering lines with janola bottles as floaters and Rasova nodded in their direction saying they were putting down traps for qari or mud crabs.

Nukui Village is at one of the many mouths of the Rewa River and the villagers are more seafarers than they are landlubbers as they're skilled fishermen. From the village, one can have a good view of Nukulau and Makuluva islands in Laucala Bay.

Right next to Nukui is the island of Tai Turaga which has been immortalised in the popular iTaukei folk song Isa Lei Susi, said to be penned by the father of Fiji-born New Zealand musician Douglas Fremlin.

At Nukui, we had to wade out before boarding the boat as by then, the tide was quickly turning, and it was back at Tavuya Village that we finally had to walk in the mud. By the time we were to leave, the tide had gone out completely.

But luckily, like other villages in the Rewa Delta, the footpath network is still well maintained as alternative to the river taxis and for short trips too.

The mud was not that bad even though, although the slight drizzle nearly spoilt the trip for us.

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