Hotel and Spa Awards 2019

Page 20 LUX 2019 Hotel & Spa Awards It was whilst on holiday in New Zealand in 1992 that the IDEA was first born. Enjoying a jet boat ride on a river in the North Island, the jet boat simply cruising along the river, it was then Jay as a 14yr old had a vision, to transport people to Draiba along the Sigatoka River. This idea would sit in hibernation for many years, until 2003 when facing a cross roads in life, Jay’s idea came flooding back into his mind and it went from being just an idea, to a working project. Intensive research followed and by great coincidence, when enquiring about building a boat in New Zealand Jay had unknowingly contacted the pioneer of Safari jet boating in New Zealand, Neil Ross. Jay worked with Neil to build a boat for the conditions in Fiji and in 2005, Neil visited Fiji and surveyed the river and by August of that year work began on a vessel for the mighty Sigatoka River. Later, Jay moved to Fiji in August 2005, having registered the business in Fiji and his lifelong friend Pita on board as a business partner, he was lucky enough to meet Josh Ratukuna who would join the team and would accompany Jay to New Zealand to learn the art of being a jet boat captain under the tutelage of Neil Ross. It was on the 9th March 2006, that Fiji’s Original and the World’s First ever Jet boat & village experience came to life. To this very day the history and beauty of this majestic space is showcased to tourists who are transported aboard one of four purpose built 19-seater safari jetboats, which are manufactured in New Zealand to the highest standards. Working with 17 different villages, Sigatoka River Safari shares the daily hosting of the Safari tours to ensure all of its guests are able to truly experience an authentic Fijian village, enabling guests to engage with the beautiful Fijian people in a true personal way. A major factor in the decision to work with multiple villages was that Jay did not want to encroach on the village’s daily lifestyle too much and wanted to strike a balance between tourism and the village’s traditional ways. To date, the Sigatoka River Safari has assisted in the development of these rural communities directly and indirectly, with the vanua (people) of Navosa seeing much needed tourism development deep in the interior and enabling them to share their amazing spirit with many people from around the world. So many amazing stories have come out from school scholarships, clothing, footpaths, church constructions, kindergartens, school supplies, financial donations and thousands of people falling in love with Fiji. Seeking to build upon the incredible success that Sigatoka River Safari has already achieved since it began, the firm has recently added two new 19-seater boats to its fleet, which have the capacity to install a roofing system during the wet season enabling a drier Safari experience during the wet season of Fiji. The firm has also added exciting activities such as the Off-Road Cave Safari, which transports guests aboard the firm’s custom-built Safari ATVs to Fiji’s largest cave system, Naihehe. These developments will ensure that Sigatoka River Safari remains a key part of the region’s community for many years into the future and showcases the wonders of this sumptuous region to even more guests. Contact details: Company: Sigatoka River Safari Name: Jay Whyte Address: PO Box 1473, Sigatoka, FIJI Telephone Number: +6796501721 Web Address: Created more than 13 years, Sigatoka River Safari is the realisation of a dream that spans more than two decades. In 1991, as a young 13-year-old boy, Australian Jay Whyte visited Fiji for the first time with his family and family friends. It was on the 3rd day of his stay that Jay’s life would change forever. It was the meeting of 23yr old Pita Matasau, a Security Guard at the Resort. When Jay first met Pita, he became his shadow, following Pita everywhere on his rounds of the resort & listening to the amazing stories Pita would share about Fiji, his village and his family. After 2 days of learning all about Fiji, Pita invited Jay & family to his village of Draiba, deep in the Fijian interior. Arriving in Draiba, after the 2hr inland excursion, Jay and his family would be blown away by what they experienced. Spending time in the village, swimming in the river and generally spending a day in the life of the Fijian people saw Jay fall in love with Fiji, its culture and its people. Over the years Pita and Jay remained friends and kept in touch writing letters back and forth, in the days before emails and texts. Jay would visit Fiji every two years thereafter and Pita would visit Australia for the first time in 1993. Sigatoka River Safari is the world’s first village and jetboat safari experience, which was officially launched on the Fijian tourism scene on 9th March 2006 but has roots that extend far further back. In celebration of this unique operator’s win in this year’s Hotel & Spa Awards we offer an enticing glimpse into the services it has to offer and the history of how this innovative company came into being. Sigatoka River Safari: Best River Safari Holiday Experience 2019 - Melanesia