Fiji has many beautiful hidden places and we’ve been incredibly privileged to work with communities in the interior to make some of these places a bit more accessible to visitors through hiking. This has involved a lot of talanoa with each community, and it is vital that we, our guests, and our partners understand the importance of being responsible visitors, of respecting the communities and the environment through which we pass.
Over the years we have worked with partners to provide regular hiking guide training, first aid training, food safety and hygiene training, business and financial management training and mentoring support to our focal points. A key part of our existence is also to support each community enterprise to formalise at a pace that suits them. Nabalesere in Ra, for example, works with Talanoa Treks and we have connected them to others on the Suncoast, such as Soni’s Tours. Increasingly, for the Suva market, we have encouraged people to go independently, taking a sevusevu and making payments to the community directly.
We’re all keen to get out and explore, and we’re looking forward to helping urbanites hike through Fiji’s interior. However, to stay true to our values, we can’t just rush out and start. We need to answer a few questions:
Does each partner community want to start up, and if so when?
We’re in regular contact with our partner villages by phone. Like elsewhere in Fiji, they’ve been asked not to gather or socialise. This has meant no church services and no village meetings. Once they can meet together, and once we have the go-ahead from authorities, we’ll head up to discuss how they feel about hosting visitors, and what will need to be put in place to keep everyone safe.
What measures do each partner community and ourselves want to put in place?
We will also need to adapt to a COVID-19 world. While we are keeping our fingers crossed that we’ve managed to avoid community transmission here, we know that we also need to plan for a world in which there will be risks. For us, that means a bit of a step back to take the time to work with each community to review the way our hikes operate and develop guidelines. Should we switch to sleeping in tents rather than staying in the comfort of the community halls? Should less cooks be involved in preparing meals? Should we limit numbers on trips and in transport? How do we reduce the risk of infecting communities while also facilitating the genuine cultural interaction that makes visits special?
We want to work this out and get it right. We’re hoping to have hikes for people living in Fiji up and running from the end of June. We might even have some experimental hiking exploration trips! Please sign up to our mailing list to make sure you’re the first to find out.
And, we would ask everyone who wants to head out into rural areas independently to consider how their actions might affect others. That way we can all hopefully get back to doing what we love!
Sota tale and stay safe