The sacred red prawns of Naweni

The sacred red prawns of Naweni

The sacred red prawns of Fiji are found in only two places, and Naweni,  just 25 km from Savusavu, is one of them.  They are known as ura-buta – cooked prawns – because of their colour, and  are protected by village superstition: anyone removing them risks shipwreck or even death.

It’s easy enough to go and see them but you do need to have the permission and guidance of someone from Naweni village, and you do need to be physically fit and flexible.

Our guide was the gentle, courteous Ovini  who is a member of the Gospel Church. Why is that relevant? Mainly because his particular approach to divinity is one of such joy and acceptance that even a sceptic cannot fail to be touched by his pleasure in the beauties of creation.  And it’s a trip where there is much to celebrate in natural beauty. There is, of course, a legend attached to the red prawns – you’ll have to make the trip to hear it, though.

It’s about a mile’s walk along the beach to the island where the prawns are found – a long, deserted sandy stretch fringed by coconut palms. The island is a rocky lava outcrop a short distance from the beach: at low tide it’s easy to wade across, so check the tide times. There’s a large, steep ladder from the base of the rock to the top – not designed for anyone with creaky knees – and then a hundred metres to the pool. You clamber down the sides of the pool taking care not to get shredded by the sharp lava rocks, and then you sit and wait for the prawns to show themselves.

The villagers traditionally call to the prawns with clapping and songs, although for our visit they were already there in the water so we sat quietly, absorbed by the tranquility of the place and the fascination of these brightly coloured creatures. The banks of the pool were covered with hundreds of tiny prawns; I can only assume that there is some predator that takes many of them before they reach maturity.  We counted about 20 adult prawns gliding about in the shallows and dancing in the depths. As they swim through the deeper sections they lie on their backs and appear to pedal energetically to move along.

On the way back we snorkeled across the sand flats – nothing spectacular in the way of coral, but some fascinating little details – a small lion fish hiding in a clump of staghorn coral; a couple of popcorn prawns in a large yellow anemone; a trigger fish that seemed to be stuck under a rock. If you’re not looking for thrills and are content with just occasional small gems, you’ll be happy.

Naweni is about a 45 minute drive from Daku Resort and we can arrange a trip there for you.


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