The Story of the Naihehe Cave

  The name of the cave says it all… Naihehe means ‘a place to get lost’. Naihehe Cave was home to the 'Sautabu' people during Fiji's tribal warfare days.

During the tribal warfare days, the cave was where the people of the tribe would retreat to and hide from their enemies. Due to the natural fortress characteristics of the Naihehe cave which prevented attackers entering on masse, the clan were able to successfully defend themselves from many enemies over centuries.

It is known by the people, that whomever wishes to enter the cave must seek the permission of the Priest (Bete), as without consultation of the Bete, legend has it you will automatically become stuck if you enter the cave.

Once inside the cave, you will find a main large chamber, which once held a secret access to the top, accessible with the help of the wild vines.  The Tribe never worried about their food source. If they were hiding up in the cave for a long time, they had freshwater prawns and fish. At the top of the Naihehe Cave  accessible by their secret entrance was yams, fruits and other root crops.

When missionaries first arrived in Nadroga, Fiji, the paramount Chief of Nadroga who is known as 'NA KALEVU’ was the first to convert to Christianity, at which point he commanded all his people to become Christians. The people of the interior reluctantly converted to this new religion, due to their traditional links with the Ka Levu tribe and the people of Sautabu.

During the early colonial times, there were only twelve chiefly titles in Fiji. These same twelve chiefs were the ones who signed the ‘Deed of Cession’, handing over their lands to the King of England. It was from this relationship with England that Ratu Cakobau was invited to visit England, transiting through Queensland, Australia he caught measles.

Upon his return to Fiji, the measles epidemic soon took hold, spreading so quickly and wiping out one third of Fiji’s then population, estimated at 200 000 people. The tribe of Naqalimare who attempted to cure their sick with traditional medicines and practices, soon turned away from Christianity as they believed this new sickness was punishment by their ancestral gods for practicing the Christian faith.

The paramount Chief heard this news about the tribe of Naqalimare and was disappointed. The Kalevu sent men from his tribe to fight against the people who turned their backs on Christianity. When the coastal warriors arrived in the area of Naqalimare, they soon discovered the people were using the cave as a fortress, so they could not fight hand to hand combat, this strategy saw them successfully repel the war party.

The coastal people went back and informed the Ka Levu who with the assistance of the colonial people, grew his forces and fifty colonial soldiers with guns headed back into the Sigatoka valley.

The war party from the Coast came up with a clever idea of setting fire at the entrance of the cave. This strategy worked immediately as the smoke inundated the people inside the cave causing them to suffocate, many began to flee the cave and some tried using the secret access on top.

Unfortunately, they were surrounded by coastal and colonial people with guns. Shots were fired, which killed their chief in the attack. However before his death, he instructed his tribe to surrender to the coastal people and upon this it could be claimed that Fiji was now truly a Christian state.