Fiji Nature Guide


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Fiji Nature Guide

Within the 850,000 hectares of natural forests in Fiji (nearly half the total landmass), there are large areas of hardwood trees including Sandalwood and Kauri. Fiji's rainforest covers much of the larger islands, most of which is owned by local village clans. Here there are more than 2000 indigenous plant species, many of which have medicinal use, several beautiful bird species but only a few land animals.


Mangrove Forests
Mangroves are estimated to cover nearly 20,000 hectares of Fiji's coastal regions. These remarkable trees tolerate salty waters and anchor themselves in tidal estuaries or in muddy water that is high in oxygen. The mangrove forests are rich in bird and sea-life and are excellent fishing grounds for the locals.

Many parts of the coast along Viti Levu are covered in mangrove forests. A boat journey through the meandering corridors of the mangrove forests has yet to catch on as a tour in itself. However, some resorts offer guests private tours through these environments and it is quite easy to find a small boat around Nausori that is dropping passengers off at their villages along the river banks of the mangrove forests.


mangroves



Botanical Gardens
The Garden of the Sleeping Giant sits at the foothills of the Nausori Highlands about 10 minutes drive north of Nadi. The attractive landscaped gardens specialise in Fiji's native plants as well as housing an impressive collection of orchids, some native. A jungle walk takes visitors past a large lily pond and through native forest.

Thurston Gardens in Suva is a public botanical park next to the Fiji Museum. Although there are few flowers in the park, the indigenous shrubs and trees are all labelled and give a calming atmosphere in the centre of this busy City.

South Sea Orchids, the Burness family home just outside Nadi, also has a collection of orchids and other tropical flowers. The family welcome visitors to their charming home and will happily show you their collection of traditional and colonial artefacts.

A unique feature in Fiji is the rare Tagimaucia flower which is found in the high rainforests of Taveuni and Vanua Levu in the Northern Islands. The most prolific flowering is around scenic Lake Tagimaucia between October and December. The trail is quite arduous, especially on a hot and humid day.


Bird life
There are over 100 species of birds in Fiji. The main island of Viti Levu has many species of birds, especially around the rainforests along the coral coast and Pacific Harbour. Kadavu, a large rainforested island in the Southern Islands, has a number of stunning musk parrots as well as unique species of fantails and honeyeaters Taveuni in the Northern Islands has a diverse bird life including parrots and lorikeets. Endangered silktails can be found in the south eastern region of neighbouring Vanua Levu. There are several small islands that have been declared as Nature Reserves for birds, particularly nesting boobies. These include the 45-hectare Namenalala Island off Vanua Levu in the Northern Islands, Mabualau near Toberua Island in Lomaiviti, Bird Island off Vatulele in the Southern Islands and Hatana Island off Rotuma. Qamea and Matangi islands off Taveuni in the Northern Islands are other good spot for exploring and bird watching.



Land Animals
Fiji has few natural animals - a mere 30 species of land dwelling reptiles, 12 of which are endemic, and a few introduced mammals most of which have become pests like the commonly seen mongoose. Of the reptiles, the most interesting are the 2 species of small iguanas: the endemic crested iguana and the more common banded iguana which are closely related to those found in South America. The crested iguana is found mostly on Yaduataba Island off Vanua Levu which has become a sanctuary for these beautiful small iguanas since its rapid decline in the 1990s. They have also been seen on nearby islands including Nananu-i-Ra and Muake off northern Viti Levu, several of the larger Yasawa Islands and on Monuriki and Monu in the Mamanucas. The banded iguana is found throughout Fiji but it is difficult to spot in the wild hiding amongst Ivi trees (Tahitian Chestnut) where its uniform green colour blends in to its surroundings. Of the other 28 reptiles found in Fiji, 3 are frogs (including the common cane toad imported from South America to combat cane beatles and the elusive tree frog found in the rainforest of highlands Viti Levu), 10 are geckos, 12 skinks and 3 are snakes (the harmless Boa snake is seldom seen but reveered amongst Fijians as a god).



Marine Life
Sea turtles nest along many beaches in the Fiji Islands a few resorts have developed conservation programmes to help increase turtle population and dissuade local villagers from killing them for their meat. Of the five species of turtle which can be found in Fiji's waters, three lay eggs on its beaches from Nov to March. Three species of sea snakes also dwell along the rugged coastlines where they come ashore to rest. The warm South Pacific Ocean also provide a home to dolphins, reef sharks, rays. There is an extraordinary variety of soft corals which are rich in marine life including an abundance of exotic fish, anemone and sea snakes. Fiji's premier coral reefs are the Rainbow Reef between Taveuni and Vanua Levu in the Northern Islands and the Great Astrolabe Reef off Kadavu in the Southern Islands.


Wildlife Parks
Kula Wildlife Park, outside Sigatoka on the Coral Coast has an excellent collection of Fiji's natural wildlife and is a conservation park for Fiji's endangered species. The park is set amongst a delightful lightly wooded rainforest with cages holding birds and other animals. Of particular interest are the many iguanas seen up close and the birds including orange doves and parrots. The park requires a minimum of 1 hour to walk around but 2 to 3 hours is preferred.








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