Sigatoka River Safari in Fiji Island

The wonders of Fiji’s islands and the story behind the superb Sigatoka River Safari

Bula* Everyone!

Below is the first in a series of interviews that are designed to introduce some of the awesome activity partners that work with us across the world. We feel that this is not only a great way to explain more about what Tinggly can offer but it also provides an interesting and inspiring insight into just what it takes to become an experienced global traveller.

Without further ado, we’d love to present the founder and MD of Sigatoka River Safari, Jay Whyte, who has had a simply incredible life abroad and who’s story makes fascinating reading.

Hi Jay, could you tell us about your personal and company background?

I was born in Sydney, Australia and relocated to Fiji when I was 27 years old. I was following my dream to start a business here in Fiji which would see me offer visitors the opportunity to explore the Fijian interior in a unique way. We’re the world’s first jet boat safari that combines an authentic village experience, and over the past decade we’ve managed to make some wonderful lifelong memories for so many people. I’m now 37 years old, married and living here in Sigatoka, Fiji.

What are your hobbies?

Hobbies are: travelling, playing sports and being actively involved in rugby and the growth of the 7s game. I also love movies and studying modern Fijian history.

People of Draiba village in Fiji, January 1993

What’s your favourite weekend activity?

Golf and farming.

Why did you start your business? What attracted you to it? What’s the story behind it?

I started my business as a result of two experiences I had in my teenage years. In 1991, my family and I first visited Fiji. I was 13yrs old at the time and I was befriended by the resort security guard, Pita Matasau, who I followed around the property for 2 days straight. I loved to listen to Pita tell me stories about Fiji, the culture, the people and the island’s history. I was captivated to say the least. Pita then asked me if I would like to travel up to his village of Draiba, Navosa, which was located deep in the island’s interior. I, of course, said yes and the next morning, my family and our family friends piled into a minibus and headed 2 hours inland. When we finally arrived at the village, we were welcomed like long lost family members and this day changed my life forever. We ate fresh fruits from the trees, swam in the river, trekked to the waterfall and generally had an experience that was truly Fijian.

Jay and Pita started Sigatoka River Safari together

In 1992, I travelled to New Zealand and had an experience on a jet boat, which cruised up the river on this gentleman’s farm. I remember thinking to myself how great it would be to take people up to Draiba village on a jet boat. So, in essence, I combined these two wonderful experiences that I had in Fiji and New Zealand. It was only a question of time and money before I was able to turn my dream into reality.

I started this business as I wanted to share my love and passion for Fiji with others and of course help the people of the interior. Pita and I remain friends to this day and we are business partners in Sigatoka River Safari.

What is the most rewarding thing about your job; what makes it all worthwhile?

There are many rewarding aspects to my job, including: seeing people fall in love with Fiji, watching the inhabitants of the 15 villages that we work with have their lives improved, and employing young people so they can grow in confidence and maturity as they find opportunities to fulfil their dreams. I also get a great reward from being able to open doors for many young people in the sporting realm through the various sponsorships we’re involved in.

What would your advice be for keeping a healthy work/life balance?

It sounds clichéd, but try not to take work home with you, leave it at the office etc. Also, remember to treat yourself to a regular getaway and a focus on making yourself happy. Finally, don’t be afraid to trust your team to look after things while you get some recreational time.

What are your greatest stresses and how do you deal with them?

Thankfully due to good systems, the daily stresses have been minimised but I usually deal with stress that does arise through a regular dialogue with my mentor who has lived many of the experiences I have, he is able to give me a great perspective on things. Taking time to speak with someone whose opinion you trust and value is a great way to deal with things.

What is your favourite travel destination and why?

FIJI & New Zealand- due to those two being the critical destinations that changed my life!

Fiji’s culture, history and people are second to none! You visit Fiji once and you will be back again and again! New Zealand is just an amazing country with so much jam packed into a small land mass. It’s truly a beautiful country.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Follow your dreams and if you need inspiration, follow Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 6 rules of success:

  1. Trust yourself
  2. Break the rules
  3. Don’t be afraid to fail
  4. Don’t listen to the naysayers
  5. Work your butt off. You never want to fail because you didn’t work hard enough
  6. Give back

Thank you Jay for your open comments. It’s so amazing to know and meet the real people behind our Tinggly experiences.

If you loved reading about Jay’s experiences then please feel free to subscribe to our newsletters to discover loads more inspirational travel stories from around the world.

* Bula means Hello in Fijan.