When visiting Fiji you will find yourself taking part in many a Kava Ceremony. It is an important aspect of visiting any village and it is customary to present a gift of Yaqona (Kava root) to present to the executive head of the village.
It can be a little confusing when you don’t know what to do, but don’t worry, the Fijian people are very patient and will talk you through the process.
What to Expect at a Kava Ceremony in Fiji
To make things a little easier for your next trip to Fiji here are some facts and tips on what to expect when partaking in your very own Kava ceremony.
Kava Ceremony Etiquette
When entering a village in Fiji, it is customary to always bring a gift of kava root. Before you visit a village, you can be picked up at a local market.
Most tours already have Kava ceremonies planned so if you are going on an organized tour of a village, you will not have to bring a kava root.
What to wear to a Kava Ceremony in Fiji
Women should always wear a sulu (sarong) and dress modestly.
Be sure to keep your shoulders covered.
If you don’t have a sarong a long skirt will work. Long shorts are acceptable as well. But I just simply always pack a sarong to tie around my waist when entering a village.
Men should dress respectful as well. Many men wear sarongs in Fiji, and you can too!
But wearing long shorts and short sleeved shirts that cover your shoulders is acceptable.
The eldest man enters the house first followed by the rest of the men and then the women.
What to Expect at a Kava Ceremony
Everyone must sit down and remain seated during the kava ceremony.
You are allowed to take photographs, but it is always respectful to ask.
When the ceremony begins, the chief (the eldest man in your group) presents the root to the Village Chief.
The ceremony then begins as the villagers grind up the Kava and strain it through a cloth bag into a large wooden bowl placed in the middle of the room.
It is then offered to your chief.
After your chief has had a sip, the village’s executive head drinks the Kava next.
Once the two heads of party have had their drink, it is then offered offered to the rest of the room.
The men drink first and then the women.
What to in a Kava Ceremony
When the kava comes to you, there are traditions to follow. When you drink kava be sure to follow these steps.
- Clap your hands once with a cupped hand making a hollow sound
- Yell: Bula!
- Drink in one gulp
- Clap three times with hands cupped to make that hollow sound again.
- Say: “Mathe” pronounced maw-they
High Tide or Low Tide Kava
You will be offered the option of “high tide,” or “low tide”
A high tide means you would like a full cup.
If you ask for a low tide, it means they will give you a half cup of Kava.
The locals seem to like to give you a full cup to be respectful.
How you will feel after Tasting Kava
Once you drink Kava, you will probably feel tingling and numbness in your tongue.
Kava is a very mild narcotic and is known to make people feel relaxed.
You are guaranteed to have a good night’s sleep after a couple of high tides and you will wake up feeling well-rested and energized.
Fijian people are known to be some of the happiest on the planet and somehow we think that the Kava may have something to do with that.
Kava was once sold as a relaxant in the United States in pill form at one time, but they couldn’t capture the exact formula of drinking it fresh from the root.
How Does Kava Taste?
Like muddy water, literally. With a bit of bitterness. It is how should you say…an acquired taste.
After the Kava ceremony – Celebrations
Once the Kava ceremony is over, the festivities of song and dance can begin.
The Kava ceremony brings two families together and they are now one after the ceremony.
It is a big celebration after the Kava ceremony with dancing and music.
It’s a wonderful way to interact with the local villagers. Don’t be shy, join in the dancing. Fijians are the most friendly and welcoming people on earh.
After the Kava ceremony, the visitors are free and welcome to enter and explore the village as they please.
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