Meet Basilio Cakaunivalu, Fiji Guide and Advocate
Have you ever heard of the Fijian who loved to brag about his homeland?
Bas (short for Basilio) Cakaunivalu has been sharpening his whitewater skills over the past year and gaining hands-on experience on rivers across the western United States. In addition to heightening his reputation as a well-versed river guide, Bas has a range of other responsibilities, including: maintaining ties with native land owners (mataqali), promoting the company and sharing his love of culture with visiting travelers.
Look into the soul of this storytelling, island native in our regular series of guide interviews!
Tell us how you ended up becoming a river guide.
I was still out on my farm when Nate Bricker [Rivers Fiji co-founder] came to the highlands looking for volunteers from Nakavika village, boys that were interested in becoming a whitewater guide. Thumbs up to Moses Vokula for penning my name down, which I found out later that night when we were at our bachelor’s house in the village back in 1998. Most of our friends were laughing at us wearing helmets and PFDs on the river because being a whitewater guide was something very new to our area.
What do you enjoy most about being a guide for Rivers Fiji?
Meeting people from different countries and telling them stories about Fiji, mostly our traditional culture.
What do you do when you’re not busy being a river guide?
I work on damaged rafts and IKs [inflatable kayaks], go on marketing brochure runs, or take photos during river trips and sell them to the customers. I also work on my vegetable garden.
Last year you traveled to the U.S. to train on the rivers of the West. What was the most memorable part of your journey?
Probably rowing my own cat [cataraft] boat down the Tuolumne River at 6000 cubic feet per second; I also really enjoyed touring most of the national parks: Yosemite Valley, the Grand Tetons, Canyonlands and Yellowstone National Park. Not to mention, rowing my own raft down the famous Colorado River through the Grand Canyon for 16 days.
What do people enjoy most about the trips you guide in Fiji?
They really enjoy the scenery, waterfalls and rapids and local stories about the area and our Fijian culture. Last but not least, they enjoy the smiling faces of our river guides and their willingness to serve our guests with their utmost ability.
How has Rivers Fiji impacted your life and your community?
Rivers Fiji has taught me a lot about tourism and has taken me to the United States for leadership courses and further training on my whitewater skills. It provides free health treatment to the community, acts as a source of income and offers job opportunities for the community. It brings awareness to some of the villagers that own land inside our Upper Navua Conservation Area regarding the benefits on how to preserve our forest for future generations. It also helps educate our primary and high school kids on the importance of preserving our forest. We also run free educational trips about this and the Upper Navua Conservation Area for the school kids and other village people, additionally providing free transportation into town and to the put in where we drop off the equipment.
What do you envision can be the future for Rivers Fiji?
Rivers Fiji will get bigger and continue to help the community to preserve other beautiful areas around the country. It has become one of the most famous educational excursions in Fiji regarding the Ramsar site [An intergovernmental treaty that embodies the commitments of its member countries to maintain the ecological character of their Wetlands of International Importance and to plan for the “wise use”, or sustainable use, of all of the wetlands in their territories.]
Do you have any suggestions for how the Upper Navua Conservation Area should be preserved for the future?
Educating the future generations of the local communities about preserving the area and work closely with them to maintain good relationships. Also, encouraging and implementing an annual educational trip for the future generations that will become decision makers one day.
In your opinion, is there any way that we can help the mataqali take more of long-term interest in preserving the Upper Navua Conservation Area?
Yes, by educating them on the importance of preserving our forest and the side effects that will greatly affect their life in the future; by showing them pictures, posters, flyers and videos of the great dangers that will otherwise affect their future daily livelihood.
How can Rivers Fiji help the young people of the villages get more involved in the long-term preservation of their valuable resource?
By educating them about the importance of protecting these valuable resources with the help of some government ministries and NGOs, or organizing weekend camps to bring awareness to youth among different mataqali to bring about different opinions and perspectives; to instill in them the great importance of conservation in their life.