Within Fiji’s volcanic heart, there lies a beautiful river and a great ecotourism success story.

The Upper Navua River has been so closely tied to the local indigenous communities for generations that locals call the river “the highway to their ancestors.” Unfortunately, developmental pressures have threatened the river and its benefits to native communities.

About 15 years ago, O.A.R.S. Whitewater Rafting—who had been running rafting trips down the Upper Navua—became aware of the threats to the river and decided to take action. They were successful in making local landowners and government institutions understand that the long-term economic benefits of tourism and conservation were more valuable than the quick money that would be raised from resource extraction or damming the river.

This initiative created the Upper Navua Conservation Area (UNCA), which has made the Upper Navua the only protected river of its kind in the South Pacific today. UNCA has proven that through ecotourism, a river is valuable not only in its beauty but also in its ability to support local communities financially. So far, ecotourism on the Upper Navua has earned more than one million dollars directly for indigenous communities while simultaneously conserving the river.

The success of the Upper Navua serves as a model for ecotourism in Fiji and has the ability to serve as a model across the South Pacific and for natural areas around the world. Check out O.A.R.S.’s cinematically beautiful short film about the success story produced by Pete McBride, a renowned filmmaker and National Geographic Freshwater Hero.

Want to go whitewater rafting down the Upper Navua River to experience Fiji’s extensive scenery and culture? Enter O.A.R.S.’s contest for your chance to win a free trip to Fiji with a friend!