The beauty of the highland

Namosi Eco Retreat plants its own supply of organic food in its backyard. Picture: JOHN KAMEA

The mountain is beautiful.

That is what tourism operator, Danny Jason believes in.

“The coast may have sand, sea and surf but the mountain has a different brand of beauty,” Danny says.

That was exactly why he left his job in Nadi and the Coral Coast several years ago – to lure tourists to his home province, Namosi.

The Navunikabi villager first worked in the Jetset Town as a waiter before moving to the Coral Coast where he worked in activities, taking guests for paddleboarding trips.

Namosi Eco Retreat owner, Danny Jason. Picture: JOHN KAMEA

As luck would have it, someone one day talked him into organising highland trips as an alternative to having seaside holidays.

One thing led to another and before he knew it, he was taking loads of tourists to Navunikabi on the upper reaches of the famous Wainikoroiluva River.

“People are so used to the white sandy beach cliché,” he says, “when they see something different, the experience becomes captivating.”

“My guests kept telling me, Danny this is beautiful. This is the authentic Fijian experience everyone talks about.”

It didn’t take took long before Danny decided to set up a small ecotourism venture near his village and by the very river he used to cross as a child. He leased a piece of land from the village and built a line of bure on it.

A traditional thatched Fijian bure. Picture: JOHN KAMEA

Today, Namosi Eco Retreat is a place lost in time, a place devoid of gadgets and just immersed in total “rest and relaxation”.

“I wanted to give guests a separate accommodation where they could have privacy. They could go to the village and mingle with villagers but they could always go back to their own space,” he said.

“That was why I set up Namosi Eco Retreat, a home away from home.”

Danny built bure as a way to offer his guests “a real Fijian experience”.

But lately, the bure has started to fall into a state of disrepair. To continue to wow guests he needs to fix them and restore Namosi’s Eco Retreat to its former good looks.

Dinner hall is prepped
up for breakfast “village
style”. Picture: JOHN KAMEA

Danny believes in promoting the beauty of Fiji’s highlands, its natural state, its forest trees and together with the animals that live in them and the beautiful Wainikoroiluva River which faces the threat of a proposed copper mine project.

“I want to promote the interior of Fiji as a popular tourist destination,” Danny said.

“Tourism in Fiji has been too focused on the islands, the beach, the shoreline and the marine environment. It would be great to diversify Fiji’s tourism products by supporting small operators in the rural and interior parts of the larger islands.”

Danny said landowners should start thinking of how to earn livelihoods by making proper use of the resources around them.

“Make good use of the natural resources around you,” Danny said, “but make sure your tourism venture is sustainable and protects the environment”.

Namosi Eco Retreat offers all the embellishments of a true jungle paradise and experience – the endless green utopia, free-flowing freshwater, majestic mountains and endless warm smiles.

Danny said the only challenge his guests faced was crossing the Wainikoroiluva River to reach the retreat village.

“I am concerned about carrying small children across the river. Guests and villagers cross the river to reach the retreat. This becomes impossible and dangerous during rainy weather when people have to cross floodwaters.”

“It would be nice if the government builds a modern crossing that would enable my guests and villagers to cross easily. “

Marisela Nabulagaga, a part-time staff of the Namosi Eco-Retreat wants to see a bridge or crossing built across the river to make access problems “a thing of the past”.

Marisela Nabulagaga prepares dinner under the stars at Namosi Eco Retreat.
Picture: JOHN KAMEA

“Having a crossing will not only make life easier for retreat guests but for children who travel daily to school too,” Nabulagaga said.

Brian Mophammed from Nadi is one person who has fallen in love with the beauty of Namosi’s highland.

He was amazed by the natural aesthetics of the Wainikoroiluva and its adjacent plains.

“My stay at Namosi Eco Retreat was a unique experience. It’s something you don’t get to see every day,” he said.

“The place is rich in wildlife. You can hear the birds, watch the cascading river and enjoy the sight of the pristine and untouched environment that surrounds you, unobstructed.”

Guests are given a helping  hand when crossing the river to the Namosi Eco Retreat,  which is all part of the adventure. Picture: JOHN KAMEA

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