If you plan to go to Fiji and guide yourself fishing then you should be prepared. With a little cultural forethought you will be fishing in no time and trouble free.
Fiji is not Australia or the United States. Culture and traditions still play a major role in everyday life and need to be respected. All of the waters inside the barrier reef system called qoliqoli (ngoly ngoly) are controlled by different villages. To obtain permission to fish the waters you will want to visit a village. You need to present yourself and a sevusevu (sayvu sayvu) or gift to the chief or headman of the particular village where you want to fish. The sevusevu should be Yaqona (yangona), which is the root of a plant of the pepper family. It is best if you have a local person to take you in to the village and do the talking for you.
Entering a village
The modern day village still has some cultural nuances. Modesty is at the forefront and should be practiced. Here are a few basic rules to follow. Women should wear a sulu (wrap-around) and no tank tops or bikini tops. Remove your hat when you enter a village. In most tropical countries it is accepted practice to remove your shoes before entering. Picture taking opportunities are plentiful inside of a village. The children will always find you and your camera first so be prepared as they love to see themselves on the digital camera screen. Most people do not mind having their picture taken but always ask first.
Performing a sevusevu
After you have entered the village it is now time to meet the chief or an elder. They are the highest member of the village and are the only ones who can give you permission to fish in their qoliqoli. When you enter the room everyone will be seated around a tanoa (Yaqona basin) and the chief should be sitting at the head. This part of your visit is deeply rooted in Fijian tradition. A very serious tone and definite role playing will make it seem like a solemn occasion. Luckily you only have to sit watch and listen. Someone will do the introductions for you. Most of the formalities will be in Fijian and then it should revert to English so you will not be left out.
Once your sevusevu is finished then it is time to drink Yaqona.
Yaqona is Fiji Islands' national drink. It is derived from the roots of a shrub belonging to the pepper family. The roots, called waka, are dried in the sun and pounded into a fine powder. It is prepared in a tanoa and then drunk from a bilo.
The tradition of drinking Yaqona goes back many generations, originally drunk only by the high priests. Yaqona was chewed by virgin girls and spit into a tanoa where it was then mixed with coconut water and plain water. It was used by the priests typically for visions and fortune telling. The tradition of drinking yaqona has evolved into a social affair. When strangers enter a Fijian village, they seek out the chief or village headman to ask for permission to enter and visit, and are expected to present some yaqona. It is now used as a social drink enjoyed by all and encourages a sense of well-being.
You will be handed a polished coconut shell called a bilo, with mixed Yaqona. Take the bilo from them and in one or two gulps finish all of it before you return the bilo to the server. Do not put the bilo on the floor, as it is bad manners. Once you have returned the bilo then you will cobo (thombo) or clap three times. Everyone there will also clap three times for each person who drinks. This is a basic guide, as each village will have some variation to their style of drinking Yaqona.
Yaqona------------------------------------ Bilo's --------------------------------Tanoa
Down to business
Now that the formalities are done you can relax a little and talk easy. There will be lots of question and some will seem a bit prying but all with good intentions.
This is a good time to find out what attractions the village has to offer. You can arrange a fishing guide, a full village tour, or some other excursions.
It is almost customary for Fijians to invite you to tea of lunch. Accepting this will also give you more chances for a real Fijian experience
Time to fish
Once this is done you will be free to fish in that village’s qoliqoli. You might want to have a local with you when you first go fishing, as they will be able to show you some of the good spots. If you want to do some casting over shallow reefs or in a river mouth then use your own knowledge of fishing and fish habits to ask the right questions. The locals will be able to show you where the reefs are and how to get to the mouth of a river.
If you want to hire a village boat then you will need to discuss this with them and prearrange a price. If you are going to be out in a remote location then you might also have to supply the fuel.
Going through this process you will find yourself in the heart of a Fijian village, experiencing real Fijian culture and I hope catching some nice fish.