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FIJI MUD BATHS EXCURSION SHIP TO SHORE
SHIP TO SHORE FIJI MUD BATHS EXCURSION
from chocolate-brown earth, Kily
Lewaninarewa challenges me to
guess his age. His dark, youthful
eyes twinkle above a sparkling, wide-
mouthed grin; his clear skin is unlined and
glowing. He looks barely past his teens.
But it’s a loaded question.
We had just come ashore on one of
Captain Cook Cruises’ most bizarre optional
Shadowed by mountainous peaks known
as the Sleeping Giant, we’re soaking in one
of five pools at Sabeto Valley Mud Pool and
Thermal Spring. The water here is said to
have therapeutic qualities, and Fijians have
been coming to soak in the spring for eons to
heal their ailments. Kily tells me that if you
drink the clear water of the original spring,
which bubbles from the earth at 72 degrees,
it will cure stomach problems. As well,
coating oneself with mud before soaking
in the pool is said to help the skin retain a
The spring, which is about a metre
deep, gives off a slight sulphuric odour
through steam that rises gently above the
surrounding gardens. Water from the spring
is piped to four other pools, cooling in the
process to a temperature that’s comfortable
Therapeutic bathing is a three-step
process. First, after we have stripped down
to our bathers, Kily presents us with a bucket
In the words of the famous
hippopotamus song, there is nothing
quite like it for cooling the blood...
Words Fiona Harper
like “nanas” on arrival but now look more
like mothers than grandmothers. Childless,
I take it as a compliment, assuming there’s
some improvement in my almost 50-year-
The pools came to prominence after
Allied soldiers discovered them during
World War II. Subsequently, until 1995
sick people flocked to the springs in search
of cures for ailments ranging from stomach
ache to lung cancer. However, locals have
known about the pools’ therapeutic qualities
for centuries and Sabeto Villagers (the
traditional landowners) opened the centre to
the public in 2002.
Kily, who has been guiding guests through
the ritual for almost three years, never quite
gets around to revealing his real age.
Instead, he attributes his youthful appearance
and infectious zest for life to multiple daily
dunkings. It’s hard to argue with him.
filled with rich, gooey mud. Plunging my
hand in, I scoop up a handful of warm goo
the texture of clotted cream and lather it all
over my body and face. Helpfully, Kily points
out places that I’ve missed as well as coating
my back. Soon the rims around my eyes are
the only areas of skin that remain uncovered.
Then we “bake” in the sun. I can feel my
skin tightening while the mud changes to
a lighter khaki shade. It’s not a pretty look.
But not many beauty treatments are.
It is, however, very social. We stand
around chatting while ladies in colourful
Bula dresses perform massages nearby and
other bathers move between pools. Once the
mud dries, we step into a murky pool. The
water turns darker still as we rub our skin
while mud squelches through our toes.
It’s not unpleasant but it does feel weird.
If you’re the princess type, this probably
isn’t for you.
The best pool is the last one, which at
a rather balmy 32 degrees is a little below
normal body temperature. Lined with river
stones and surrounded by a garden, this
pool was opened in late 2013 to cope with
increasing numbers. There are up to 500
visitors a day during peak times, but only a
handful pop in while I’m there.
Bathed in sunshine, the warm water is
soothing and relaxing. The warmth entices
us to linger as we remove any remaining
mud from creases and crevices. My skin feels
cleansed and exfoliated. Somewhat fixated
on youthful appearances, Kily cheekily
announces that my companions and I looked
COST: $10 (Package price from $91
with Captain Cook Cruises or hotel
ATTIRE: Don’t wear your best
swimmers (although the mud does
FACILITIES: Changing rooms,
massage, handicrafts and
LOCATION: Halfway between the
major cities of Nadi and Lautoka on
Fiji’s main island of Viti Levu.
OPEN: 7 days, 9am–5pm.
‘Soon the rims around my eyes are the only areas of
skin that remain uncovered... it’s not a pretty look.’
Opposite page, one
of the Sabeto Valley
mud pools. This page
(clockwise from left),
the writer and friend
the rustic massage
room; the youthful
Kily; and the team
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