Fiji Service Expedition

Advanced grassroots service and immersion in indigenous life

Into the Village

Students who join this program will come to know the real culture of the native Fijian’s who have inhabited these islands for thousands of years and whose cultural traditions and knowledge of the natural world run deep. 
On this journey, you will be genuinely immersed in the rich culture of Fijian villagers and rewarded with a new perspective on life and strong bonds of friendship with the locals you meet along the way.

An Island Sanctuary Awaits

When you arrive in the picturesque Yasawa Islands, you will instantly feel a world away from the life that you know. The shores of this remote island chain will be home to you as the warm sun rising over the hills surrounding your island home each morning will beckon you to explore the local communities and diverse ecosystems of this incredible island chain.  You’ll spend your first days in the neighboring villages, teaching school children English, learning about environmental conservation efforts, and participating with villagers on projects designed to improve health and sanitation or other community needs.

From the Beaches to the Mountains

Travel to the mountainous interior of Fiji’s main island and live in a small farming community where you will join an innovative grassroots development project started by four local brothers. You will become a part of this community as you assist with harvesting and planting crops that will be sold at the local market to generate an income for members of this clan to support basic needs like education.

Live With a Family

During your time in Nasivikoso, you will live in pairs with a host family and gain a deep understanding of life here and the importance of education in this remote area. Your homestay will be balanced with plenty of time at our Highlands Base in the village, where you will share daily meals and activities during your program. In the afternoons spend time helping your new Fijian brothers and sisters with homework or learning how to prepare meals over an open fire with your host mother. Then join your group for evening activities at the Highlands Base, including a traditional dance performance, games and group discussions, and a lot of laughter and fun.

Build a School

While you are living in Nasivikoso Village you will join forces with local villagers to build an elementary school for their children. Traditionally, students have had to live away from home in order to get an education because they have not had a school of their own. The first two classrooms are now complete and classes are bing held in the village for the first time. You will lead tutoring sessions for these young students and get your hands dirty building the next classrooms.

When the Work is Done

Hike into the mountains to swim under a majestic waterfall, take part in traditional Fijian ceremonies, cool off in pristine rivers, and soak in the night stars that seem more brilliant here than anywhere else on earth.

Before heading home, you will also have time to explore the town of Nadi and the magnificent coast that has made Fiji famous, but we are sure it will be the lessons you learn from your new Fijian friends here that you will never forget.

Itinerary

Day 1 (Tuesday): Depart the USA

All of Rustic Pathways scheduled group flights to Fiji depart from Los Angeles. Our carrier is Air Pacific – Fiji’s national airline. The flight each week is non-stop to Nadi International Airport and is escorted by a Rustic Pathways Flight Leader. The flight departs Los Angeles in the evening and takes about 10 hours. During your flight take the time to get to know other students, get some sleep in preparation for your arrival in the South Pacific or relax with a movie or two and start to settle into the easy-going and friendly nature of the Fijian’s and their legendary hospitality.

Day 2 (Wednesday): In Transit

Today is “lost” as you cross the international dateline, but don’t worry too much… you will get it back on your way home!

Day 3 (Thursday): Bula Vinaka and Welcome to Fiji!

Upon clearing customs and immigration, you will be greeted by Rustic Pathways’ Fiji staff at the Nadi Airport. Your flight lands early in the morning and you will start off your day with a tropical breakfast and orientation to the journey that is about to begin.

After breakfast, you will travel to the breathaking Yasawa Islands, where you will spend your first three nights in Fiji. We will travel by boat and it will take about three hours to arrive at our desitination. You will stay right along the beach in an eco-friendly camp which will serve as our base as we explore the beauty of the islands and begin to learn about Fijian culture and life. This afternoon, take a swim in the ocean, enjoy the sunset and settle into Fiji time.

Day 4 (Friday): School Service and Village Culture

After breakfast this morning, you will travel by boat to the nearby primary school to have an exchange with local students. The goal of your visit is to provide an opportunity for these Fijian students to build their English language skills and we will take some time to prepare our lessons this morning before we head off. Rustic Pathways works with this school reguarly and you will be contributing to an on-going effort to support stuents in developing langugas skills which provide a foundation for them to work in the growing tourism industry in the future.

After lunch back at the base you will head to a nearby village where Rustic Pathways has undertaken a number of community development initaives. You will have a tour of the village and your immersion in Fijian culture will begin. Share in an afternooon of traditional entertainment and fun with the villagers, an experience you will surely not forget. You will also have a chance to visit the women’s shell market where you can pruchase some local handicrafts if you wish. As the sun sets, head back to our base camp for dinner and some time to relax at the end of great day.

Day 5 (Saturday): Village Service and Snorkeling Adventure

This morning you will return to the village to support one of the ongoing community service intitiaves we support in the village. For example, you may work on sanitation improvement projects, join forces with a local family to upgrade their home or plant mangroves to help restore the marine environment. In the late afternoon, you will set off to explore some of the tropical beaches that make Fiji famous and snorkel along some magnificient local reefs. Tonight, we will have a beach bonfire and enjoy some traditional Fijian music under the starts.

Day 6 (Sunday): Marine Reserves and Return to the Mainland

After breakfast, you will head out to a local reef for some spectacular snorkleling and a chance to learn more about the importance of the mairne environment for local livilihoods. You will talk with some locals to learn how they earn a living from the sea and the steps they are taking to preserve the marine envionrment for future generations. This will be a fun and educational morning as you learn more about the realities of life in Fiji.

After lunch, board the boat back to the mainland, arrive in time for dinner. You will stay at a hotel in the Nadi area tonight.

Day 7 (Monday): Into the Mountains

This morning you will make a short stop in the town of Nadi to gather any last minute supplies and take a minute to check our emails before heading into the mountains the Nasouri Highland region of Fiji. This area of Fiji has remote villages nestled in mountain valleys where locals live off the land and have strong ties to their traditional culture. The need for service in these remote parts is great, and villagers here will welcome you with big smiles and much appreciation. You will travel by way of a local truck into the Nasouri Highland region and the journey to this area far off the tourist path normally takes about three hours.

Your first night will be spent at The Farm House, a simple accomodaiton that sites beside a picturesque river surrounded by lines of tomatoes, long beans and eggplants, and local crops of dalo and cassava. The Farm House consists of traditional thatched bures (or huts) for sleeping with mattresses on the floor and walls made of bamboo. There is also a main dining and activity house. The Farm is owned and run by four native Fijian brothers and Rustic Pathways has joined forces with them to support their desire to find a way to earn an income for their family. You will join this extended family to support their efforts and learn about life in this incredible place. Tonight you will receive an overview of the service projects you will be involved with and a chance to get to know the families who live in this farming community. Welcome to the Highlands!

Day 8 - Day 9 (Tuesday - Wednesday): Service at the Farm

Today it is time to get to work in support of the families working to develop this farm to support their basic needs. You will find yourself learning how to water the crops, plant seedlings and harvest what is ready for sale in the market. You will also contribute to a special project that helps to grow the farms size, this could be a new nursery, fences, irrigation pipes or other project most needed to move things forward.

While you are at the Farm House we will also share in the cooking, help collect firewood and immerse ourselves into the rhythms of life. You will also have time for a great hike, lots of swims in the river and to learn some basic Fijian. As night falls, you will spend time with villagers as they play guitar and sing traditional songs through the night.

Day 10 (Thursday): Village Life and Service

This morning, say farewell to the Farm and make your way just a short distance down the road to a traditional Fijian village which will be our home for the next six nights. You will stay in pairs with host families and immerse yourself if the incredibly warm and caring culture of Fiji’s indigenous people. You will share meals and group activities in our Village Bure base house while you are here but will also have the opportunity to spend ample time with your new Fijian family.

When you arrive in the village you will provide your traditional sevusevu to the chief of the village in a very traditional ceremony required of any visitor to the community. This is an amazing cultural experience and also offers time to spend time with the elders of this community.

After lunch, you will jump in to help work on our on-going effort to build a primary school in the village. This school was started in 2012 by Rustic Pathways and the villagers of Nasivikoso and we are continuing to expand the school facitlieis to accommodate additional grades and students. Prior to the opening of this school, all children from Nasivikoso had to spend the week away from their families at boarding school in another village. Now, 1st to 4th grades in Nasivikoso are able to live at home and attend school in their own community and you will help us build additional classrooms so that Grades 1 to 8 can be accomodated in the new village school.

When work has finished for the day, cool off with a swim in the river and join your group for dinner and activities at the Village Bure before heading to your host family for the night.

Day 11 (Friday): School Construction and Tutoring

Today you will split your time between the on-going construction efforts to complete the school facilities and leading small group tutoring in reading and other subjects for students. We work to support the educational goals of the dedcaited teachers who work at the Nasivikoso School and have partnered to run these small group reading sessions to boost student literacy and English skills. We also work to ensure the school library is top notch so please feel free to bring along some of your favorite early reading books if you like.

In the evening, spend time getting to know your host family and others in the village or enjoy some time with the other Rustic Pathways students in your group.

Day 12 (Saturday): School Construction and Waterfall Hike

After breakfast this morning, you will get invovled in on-going construction efforts at the school before taking an afternoon break for a short hike and refreshing swim to a spectacular waterfall near the village. Local children will be sure to join you for this fun-filled afternoon!

This evening the village will put on a traditional meke dance perforamce for you in appreciation for your service. Get ready to join the dacncing and share in this special time with the village community.

Day 13 (Sunday): A Day of Celebration and Feasting

Sunday is a very ceremonial day in the Fijian culture. Fiji’s native people are predominantly Christian and Sunday’s are observed as a day of rest. Your host family will lend you some traditional Fijian clothing to wear and invite you to join them at church. You will find much of the village gathered together here – elders, parents, teenagers and young children alike – for a morning of singing and respectful thanks for the wonderful environment in which they live. It is impossible to not get caught up in the pure enthusiasm and open delight villagers show towards each other and their surroundings and the incredible singing that is part of the morning service.

After church, villager’s always prepare a big Sunday lunch. Enjoy some traditional Fijian fare and some western favourites as a huge mid-day meal is prepared for you. Then, join with local children for a hike to the neigboring village and nearest existing school to get a sesne of what the challneges to getting a good educaiton here. In the evening, you will prepare for your service in the viillage kndergarten tomorrow.

Day 14 - Day 15 (Monday - Tuesday): School Construction and Tutoring

For the next two days you will split your time between the on-going construction efforts to complete the school facilities and leading small group tutoring in reading and other subjects for students. The pace of life here is relaxed and you will find time pass way too quickly.

On Tuedsay evening, you will share time with your group and village friends at the Village Bure for a final Fijian farewells ceremony marking your last night in the village. There will be lots of laughter and tears and you will be amazed how quickly you have grown attached to your new friends and family in Nasivikoso.

Day 16 (Wednesday): Farewell

After service work at the construction site this morning, you will have an early lunch and say farewell to Nasivikoso. Goodbyes are never easy and expect to see many of the villagers waving farewell as the truck is loaded for your return to Nadi. You can always come back again next year..

We will reach Nadi in the late afternoon and you will have a chance to get some snacks and check your email if you like. We will then have dinner in a local restruant and stay in the Nadi area for your final night. You will surely feel a change as you return to the hustle and bustle of Nadi town and we’ll take some time tonight debrief on our time in the Highlands.

Day 17 (Thursday): Welcome Home

If you are flying back to the USA today, you will spend your final day in the town of Nadi shopping for souvenirs and exploring. Or, if you want a chance to soak in some ocean air and island views before you go, you will have the chance for an optional island hopping trip or optional sky dive today followed by some souvenir shopping. After a final meal with your group, you’ll travel to the airport and bid Fiji. You will be escorted to Los Angeles by a Rustic Pathways Flight Leader.


An Important Note about Schedule Changes

Rustic Pathways reserves the right to change, alter, or amend the daily itinerary for this trip at any time. Changes can be made for various reasons including changes in flight or program schedules, changes in the schedules of various external tours incorporated in our trips, the addition of new activities into a trip, or the substitution of an old activity for a new activity. The itinerary shown here provides a good outline of the anticipated daily schedule for this program. As with any travel program, some changes may occur.

Packing List

You will be traveling to Fiji during the dry season, where the days are generally hot, with some humidity, but rain is not typical. The evenings can cool off significantly in the Highlands region and a heavy sweatshirt can be needed.
If you are connecting to other Rustic Pathways programs, please check each of their packing lists to make sure you bring any special items that might be needed.

Please pack lightly! You must be able to carry and load your own luggage. The baggage limit on Air Pacific is 50lbs, but please also be aware of the baggage restrictions for any domestic connections in the USA. You can find more details on Air Pacific's baggage allowances on their website at http://www.airpacific.com/Flying-With-Us/Baggage-Allowance.

Do not bring your favorite items with you. There is always a chance that you will get a bit dirty while working on your service projects and exploring the islands.

Be sure to wear your Rustic Pathways T-Shirt while you are travelling to Fiji!

Carry-On Luggage:

A small backpack is the best carry on bag and will be useful throughout your program for day trips.

  • Passport and Wallet
  • Photocopy of Passport (2 additional photocopies should be carried in checked luggage)
  • Any and All Medications (Be sure to bring medications in your carry on just in case your luggage gets delayed in transit!)
  • Extra t-shirt, change of underwear
  • Sunglasses
  • Journal and Pen (required for this program)
  • Good Book, Music
  • Reusable Water Bottle
  • Camera

Make sure everything you pack in your carry-on complies with the carry on regulations of the TSA: http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/prohibited/permitted-prohibited-items.shtm

Checked Luggage:

A medium sized duffel bag, wheeled bag or large backpack is fine. You must be able to carry and load your own luggage.

Clothing:

  • T-Shirts or collared short-sleeve shirts (8-10)
  • Long-sleeve t-shirts (1)
  • Long skirt (for females) that covers your knees (1-2)
  • Shorts (2-3)
  • Jeans or long pants (1)
  • Sweatshirt or light jacket (1)
  • Underwear (8-16)
  • Socks (2-4)
  • Sneakers - Close-toed shoes are needed for construction-based service work
  • Sandals and/or flip flops - A pair of Chacos or Tevas (or similar) are strongly recommended as they are great for local hikes where you often cross small rivers. Flip-flops are most commonly worn around the village, as you must take your shoes off when entering a home.
  • Swim suit (1-2)
  • Cap or sun hat
  • Light weight raincoat, poncho or umbrella

Toiletries:

Biodegradable soap and toiletries are required

  • Biodegradable soap
  • Biodegradable shampoo
  • Toothbrush
  • Biodegradable toothpaste
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Waterless hand sanitizer
  • Personal first aid kit recommended with band aids, antibiotic ointment
  • Any medications – Be sure you have prescription medications in your carry-on.
  • Contact lens and fluid and spare pair of glasses
  • Any other personal items as necessary

Other Required Items:

  • Towel (1-2 – large quick dry travel towels are great)
  • Flashlight or headlamp (a must!) and spare batteries
  • Reusable water bottle (also a must!)
  • Sleeping bag - Students need a blanket or sleeping bag. Most prefer a light weight sleeping bag or to have a sleeping bag liner and blanket
  • Work gloves (required for use on service projects at the farm)

Optional Items:

  • Pictures of family and friends to share with you new friends in Fiji
  • Musical instrument – the Fijians love to sit around at night and play guitar
  • Energy bars, vitamins and other snacks
  • Books, playing cards, games

Please Note:

Appropriate Dress: Due to cultural rules in Fijian villages, it is customary for females to have their shoulders and knees covered at all times. While you are outside of the village you will be able to wear tank tops and shorts, but for the majority of the program female students will need to wear t-shirts or other sleeved shirts. Women must also wear sulus (sarongs) or a long skirt when in villages and at traditional ceremonies. We will provide the students with a sulu on their arrival, and students typically wear light shorts under their sulus. You may wear a long skirt that covers your knees instead of a sulu. If you have a sarong already at home you may want to bring it along. Please pack with this in mind!

Electricity: There is no electricity in the village. Please make sure you bring a good flashlight (head lights work especially well). Make sure you bring your camera batteries fully charged, and a spare one if you have one, as it may not be possible to recharge these items during your program.

Laundry: You will have the opportunity to wash laundry by hand in the village and your host family will help you to do this if you wish.

Gifts for Host Families:

In Fiji, it is customary for visitors to present a gift to any village or home they visit. We ask that you bring 3-4 small gifts for host families and friends in the village. We ask that you follow the suggested items listed below, which we have developed in conjunction with villagers based on needs they have identified. We suggest bringing three to five items for your host family, keeping in mind that these gifts are shared with all ages. Gifts can be gently used items that you have at home.

Suggested Gifts for Host Families

  • T-shirts (short or long sleeve)
  • Sweatshirts or jackets
  • Raincoats or umbrellas
  • Towels
  • Flashlights – wind-up flashlights that do not require batteries are best
  • Sneakers, boots and flip-flops (and socks) for all ages
  • Toothbrushes and toothpaste
  • Button-down shirts for children (they wear these to church)
  • School supplies (notebooks, pencils, pens and backpacks)

Please keep in mind that small plastic toys and other common American gift items not included here are not as useful to villagers. We encourage you to bring warm clothes, backpacks and other practical items.

You may, in turn, receive a small gift from your Fijian family to help you remember your time in Fiji, so remember to save a little room in your packs for this on the way home!

Donations for the School and Village:

Many students ask about bringing donations with them and they are always appreciated! If you would like to bring donations, we ask that you follow the list below of suggested items, which has been developed with the local community and schools. We suggest bringing 3-5 items if you wish and encourage you to be mindful of airline baggage allowances.

Suggested Donations:

  • Books for School Libraries
    • Books appropriate for Kindergarten and Elementary School students.
  • Materials For Schools
    • Construction paper
    • Paint and paint brushes
    • Glue (sticks or bottles)
    • Tape
    • Crayons or colored pencils (not markers)
    • Scissors for kids
    • Pencils and pencil sharpeners
    • Soccer balls, rugby balls or volleyballs
  • First Aid Supplies for the Village Nursing Stations
    • Over-the-counter pain relievers including Children’s Tylenol
    • Band aids, gauze and first aid tape
    • Anti-biotic ointment
    • Hydrogen peroxide
    • Ace bandages
    • Thermometers
    • Medical gloves

Please note that it is very costly to ship donations to Fiji after you have traveled (and we don’t encourage it), so we strongly recommend you bring any items you might like to contribute with you when you come.

Frequently Asked Questions

What will the accommodations on this trip be like?

Students will spend the majority of this program at our Farm House Base as well as several nights with host families, one night camping and two nights at a hotel in the Nadi area.

Our Farm House Base is located about a twenty-minute walk from the village itself and sits at a bend in the river with breathtaking views of the jagged mountain peaks that surround it. The Farm House has several traditional style houses and approximately 4-6 students will sleep in each on a simple mattress on the floor. There are flush toilets and a cold water shower at the Farm House and a big main house for meals and activities. While the Farm House provides upgraded amenities for our students while enabling an incredible immersion into the local culture and community here, accommodations are basic. There is no electricity and a mix of lanterns and generator power light the way at night.

For the home-stay portion of the program, students will stay in pairs or groups of three with each host family. Homes are typically made of concrete or wood and tin and families provide a bed or a mattress on the floor. There are flush toilets located near to host family homes. We have a small Base House in the village, known as The Village Bure, which is a focal point for our groups while they stay with host families. Students will eat all meals at the Village Bure and will spend time here with their group for activities and to share time with villagers.

Students will spend one night in the middle of their program and their final night at a hotel in the Nadi area. Accommodation here will be in dorm-style rooms with shared facilities. Students will also spend one night camping.

Will the students be drinking bottled water?

Students will drink filtered water on this program. The water is run through special filters by our staff and it is available for students at all times at the Village Bure and Farm House. While in Nadi at the end of the program, the tap water is safe to drink.

What kind of food will we be eating?

Students will eat a combination of local Fijian dishes and more western-style dishes prepared by cooks at the Farm House and Village Bure. Breakfasts typically include cold cereal or oatmeal, freshly baked buns and scones, and fruits. Lunches and dinners range from traditional Fijian feasts of cassava and dalo (root crops similar to potatoes), chicken and fish, to noodles and pastas, curries and stir-fry. Peanut butter and jelly are often found as are delicious Fijian pancakes, roti bread and local fruits. We can easily cater for vegetarians.

How many girls and boys are usually on this trip?

On average, our programs in Fiji are 70% female and 30% male.

How does this program connect to other programs?

All programs in Fiji connect easily together. On the final morning of each program, students will connect with the staff, arriving students and other connecting participants in the Nadi area for their next program. Students can also easily connect this program with our programs in Australia and/or New Zealand. Students interested in combining programs in Fiji with a program in Australia or New Zealand should do the Fiji program first if possible.

Will there be a flight leader to this country?

A flight leader will accompany students on the group flight to Fiji from Los Angeles. Our program staff will greet students when they arrive at the Nadi Airport in Fiji. Students connecting to this program from Australia or New Zealand will not be escorted on their connecting flights between countries, but will be chaperoned for check-in and then met by our staff in Fiji on arrival.

How long is the flight to this country?

Fiji is 10 hours by air from Los Angeles. Flights from Australia and New Zealand are about 4 hours.

Do we need to get visas for this program?

A tourist visa will be issued on arrival in Fiji for US citizens. No prior arrangements are required for US Citizens.

What immunizations do we need for this trip?

Rustic Pathways does not make recommendations regarding immunizations. We strongly suggest that you consult with a travel doctor or your family physician regarding immunizations before you travel. You can also find more information on the websites of the Center for Disease Control (http://www.cdc.gov) or World Health Organization (http://www.who.int).

What costs are not included on this trip?

We recommend students bring about $100-$200 USD in spending money to cover any souvenirs, snacks, phone calls and internet they may wish to purchase. There are very few opportunities to purchase snacks or souvenirs on this program until the final day when the group is in the main tourist center of Nadi.
Students will also have the option to go Island Hopping or Sky Diving on the final day of this program at an additional cost. Sky diving ranges from $250-$500USD and parental permission is required. Island Hopping costs about $60USD and involves a half day boat trip to visit several small islands off the coast. Students who may wish to participate in one of these optional activities should bring additional spending money with them to cover these activities.


Contact Us: For more information about Fiji Service Expedition, email keyclub@rusticpathways.com.

Highlights

  • Build an elementary school for children in a remote mountain village that has never had a school of its own.
  • Stay with a local family and immerse yourself in a new way of life far from the reach of modernity.
  • Snorkel and swim in remote South Pacific waters and relax along some of the pristine beaches that make Fiji famous.
  • Explore hidden waterfalls, hike through bamboo forests and learn about the strong traditional culture of the native Fijians.

Program Details

Ages: 13 to 18 years old

Length: 17 days from the USA

Hours: Up to 45 hours awarded

Cost: $2,795 + $1,958 International Airfare


Departures

Departs Tue Returns Thu Availability
8 Jul 24 Jul Limited

Dates shown are inclusive of travel time from the United States.

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