Fiji’s Naihehe Cannibal Cave

By Richard Varr

It might be the lowest I’ve ever bent my 6’4” inch frame, dipping down and gripping – for support – a wobbly bamboo stick stretched under a two- to three-foot-high passageway.

Crawling under the "Pregnancy Gap." Photo by Richard Varr

In a foot of water, I’m squirming my contorted body through the so-called “pregnancy gap” of Fiji’s Naihehe Cave, my shorts now drenched in the warm water as I must almost crawl under the jagged outcrops of rock.

It’s a squeeze well worth it, however, as the passageway leads to a spacious subterranean cavern with glistening and chalky stalactites and stalagmites tinted in earthen hues, seemingly dabbed on the cave’s walls with an artist’s touch.

Grand Cathedral chamber. Photo by Richard Varr

“This one looks like a flower,” says Jona, one of our tour guides whose fluorescent lamplights are giving us a glimpse of the limestone formations in Naihehe Cave’s Grand Cathedral Chamber.  “Next to that is a turtle.  You can see the head and shell go backwards.  At the bottom is the formation of a big blanket.”  And there’s also “bigfoot” – what looks like the imprint of a giant foot.  “That’s naturally formed as well,” says Jona.

"Bigfoot." Photo by Richard Varr

Naihehe Cave is situated deep within the “Salad Bowl” or farming region of Viti Levu, Fiji’s largest island.  To reach the cave, we first float along the Sigatoka River on “bilibili” bamboo rafts to a trail on which we hike 15 minutes or so to the cave’s entrance – all in view of a stunning panorama of Viti Levu’s lush and mountainous tropical interior.

"Bilibili" ride. Photo by Richard Varr

The most fascinating part of my spelunking journey is yet to come.  We approach the cannibal oven – literally a hole in one side of the cave’s wall.  Naihehe Cave was used by the last known cannibal tribes of Fiji, in the mid 19thcentury.  “This is where they killed people, heated up stones and threw the stones and person in the oven,” says Waqa, another tour guide as he clutches a bone.  “Cannibalism wasn’t done for fun.  It was done for serious occasions, like the installation of a chief, hosting another chief or to celebrate when warriors returned from the battlefield.”

Cannibal oven. Photo by Richard Varr

“When is the last time this oven was used?” I ask.

“It’s not recorded,” he replies with a grin.

The tour operator, Adventures in Paradise, offers tours of the cave from Viti Levu’s Coral Coast and Nadi area.  www.adventuresinparadisefiji.com

Air Pacific flies to Fiji from LAX
http://www.airpacific.com

About Air Pacific:
Air Pacific, Fiji’s international airline, has been connecting the world with the South Pacific for 60 years, awarded ‘Best Airline in the South Pacific’ by readers of Global Traveler Magazine for the 3rd year running. Whether traveling in Tabua (Business) Class or Pacific Voyager (Economy) Class the natural island warmth of the cabin crew will ensure the journey to the destination begins with a smile.
Air Pacific’s fleet of Boeing 747’s, 767 and 737’s fly between Fiji (Nadi) and North America (Honolulu, Los Angeles), Australia (Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane), New Zealand (Auckland and Christchurch), Asia (Hong Kong) and the Pacific Islands (Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Kiribati). All flights allow a Fiji stopover and include checked baggage and in-flight entertainment, with a range of meals and beverages available.
For more information and reservations call 1 800 227 4446 or, visit www.airpacific.com
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