What to expect at a Kava Ceremony in Fiji

It is almost guaranteed that you will find yourself taking part in many a Kava Ceremony while travelling in Fiji. It is an important aspect of visiting any village amongst the islands and an important cultural experience.

This guide is just a bit of fun to help you prepare for your first Kava ceremony, but in all honesty, Fijian’s are immensely happy, friendly and welcoming people who are pleased to share this very special ceremony with us, and they will freely help and guide you through the process when you arrive.

Kava Ceremony Etiquette

When entering a village in Fiji, it is custom to always bring a gift of kava root to be presented to the head of the village. Your local U.Guides will help you source local kava root at the markets, or more likely bring some on your behalf. It is from this root that your Kava Drink will be made – the first act of sharing.

What to wear to a Kava ceremony in Fiji

It is super important to respect the cultural rules surrounding a Kava Ceremony in Fiji. Both men and women are requested to dress modestly, and in both cases, the shoulders should be covered and for women, a sulu (sarong) or long skirt is required. Many men wear sarongs in Fiji, and you may find you are the odd one out if you didn’t! However, wearing long shorts (that cover the knees) and short-sleeved shirts that cover your shoulders is acceptable but we do recommend that you bring a lightweight long sleeve shirt just in case. After the actual ceremony when the dancing and festivities take place the dress code relaxes completely.

What to expect at a Kava ceremony

Firstly, expect to have fun and experience being part of this amazing Island community!

The procession into the village is an important part of the Kava Ceremony. Depending on the group you might be with your local U.Guide will help organise a leader for your group. This is usually the eldest man who assumes the role of “Group Chief” and will enter the house first, followed by the rest of the men and then the women. Everyone must sit down in a semi-circle around the Kava Bowel and the Village Chief, and remain seated during the full Kava ceremony.

Photography is usually allowed, but it is always respectful to ask permission first. Once the ceremony begins your Group Chief presents the root to the village Chief. Having accepted the root, villagers will then grind up the Kava, add water and then strain it through a cloth bag into a large wooden bowl, that has been placed in the middle of the room. The liquid substance released is often referred to as Kava Gold.

As a sign of respect and welcome, the bowl/cup is first offered to your ’Group Chief’, before the host Village Chief takes his turn, followed by his senior village members and then the rest of our group – traditionally, the men drink first and then the women.

High tide or low tide Kava

You may be offered the option of a cup at ‘high tide’, or at ‘low tide’. It’s a very ‘island’ reference to a ‘full cup’ or ‘half a cup’. In our experience, a ‘high tide’ is usually served unless you request otherwise! 

Language and salutations in a Kava ceremony

Now that the preparation is finished, there are still a few traditions to follow while actually drinking the Kava. Once you receive your Kava, clap your hands once with a cupped hand making a hollow sound and exclaim: Bula!. If you can, drink your Kava in one ‘gulp’. Then clap again with your hands cupped – and say: ‘Maca’ (pronounced maa-tha), as a means of confirming ‘the cup has been drained’!

How you will feel after tasting Kava

Kava is a very mild narcotic and is known to make people feel relaxed with a slight tingling and numbness of your tongue and mouth. In fact, it was once sold as a relaxant in the United States in pill form, but pharmaceuticals couldn’t match the effects of creating it fresh from the root. It was recommended for a good night’s sleep, offering the possibility of waking up feeling well-rested and energized. You won’t feel drunk at all – it is much more of a relaxation than like alcohol.

How does Kava Taste

Kava is an acquired taste. It has a thicker bitter taste sensation and feels a little like muddy water! The cups you drink from a generally quite small, but the idea is to drink it in one go so it is best to ask for a ‘low tide’ if you aren’t too adventurous.

After the Kava ceremony - Celebrations

Once the Kava ceremony is over, the festivities of song and dance begin. The Kava ceremony brings friends & families, visitors and guests together. Participating in the Kava Ceremony is a wonderful way to interact with the local villagers. Fijians are recognised as one of the most friendly and welcoming people on earth, and a Kava Ceremony is about love, laughter and having fun!

Trips to get you here

A unique Pacific Island tour exploring the culture and eco diversity of this tropical island archipelago paradise.


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