This trip to
Obviously the main goal of the trip was to see as many as the Fijian endemics as possible but this was also meant to be a relaxing trip, enjoying the laid back atmosphere and stunning beaches.
After an early morning flight from Sydney I arrived in the tourist hub of Nadi at midday, where I was met by a rep from ‘Awesome Adventures’, the company I would be spending the next few days with. This was the ‘relaxing’ part of the trip, I had booked a package trip around the
A very pleasant evening in the hotel followed with an impressive display of traditional fire dancing and ‘hula girls’, accompanied by plenty of Bounty Rum.
In the late morning I left my hotel in
After a welcome lie-in I caught the catamaran onto the
In the morning I joined a group of Australian backpackers I had met the night before for a snorkelling trip in the deeper waters off the South end of Naviti. As our hired speedboat cruised into the straits I spotted the distinctive shape of our target species breaking the surface of the glassy waters, we sped over and all dived into the water, a few frantic hand signals later and we were all swimming towards a Manta Ray. This awesome creature of the deep was completely unperturbed by our presence and glided by just a few metres away. This was one of the most breathtaking experiences of my life (well, it would’ve been if a leaking snorkel hadn’t prevented me from breathing in the first place). We left the Ray to carry on in peace and set about exploring the rest of the deep channel. Whilst taking a good look at the coral garden I got some good but brief views of a small Shark in a narrow canyon below me before it disappeared into the shadows. Once we were all knackered from some long distance swimming and not much breathing we reluctantly hauled ourselves back onto the boat to return back to Naviti. While waiting for a few stragglers to join us a White Tern flew quickly past the boat and east up the straits.
In the evening I joined local fisherman Sammy for a handlining fishing trip into the bay off the West coast of Naviti. After catching plenty of good sized reef fish for the nights dinner a pair of Audubon’s Shearwater flew North up the bay, presumably towards their nesting burrow.
That night I joined Sammy, a few other locals and some other backpackers for an impromptu beach party and Kava ceremony. Kava is a local narcotic drink made from the dried roots of a
Unfortunately this was my last day in the Yasawas, and in the afternoon I caught the boat back to Lautoka on Vitit Levu. As we cruised through the islands I noticed a few seabirds including a superb Red-tailed Tropicbird, a group of 4 Black Noddy, and several Brown Booby. It was almost dark by the time we arrived back at Lautoka Marina and on the bus journey back to my Hotel at
This was the day that the proper birding started. In the morning I got a taxi from
I spent a very cool, wet and misty morning in the
After being dropped off at the Colo-I-Suva bus stop and walking back to Raintree Lodge a Polynesian Triller and a small group of Fiji Parrotfinches showed by the side of the road, and a pair of Collared Lory buzzed over.
I again headed into the
I enjoyed a fine meal at the Raintree londge restaurant that evening, on table overlooking a huge pool, with masses of White-rumped Swiftlets swooping overhead, and periodic bursts of Fruit Bats leaving their daytime roosts.
In the morning I took a taxi down to
In the evening I wandered up the hill from the hotel to the International Date Line for the obligatory photo with one leg in each day.
By far the most well known site on Taveuni is the 3921ft
With the summit in sight, I stopped at a set of metal gates across the track to regain my breath. While taking a welcome swig of water from my rapidly emptying bottle I caught a flash of black and white out of the corner of my eye!! Could it be!! A quick pish and what should jump out onto an unobscured branch but a Silktail, this gorgeous bird proceeded to jump along the branch just metres away from my face getting a good look at me, flashing its dazzling white rump and uppertail that give it its name and with odd shafts of light reflecting off metallic blue spekles on its head, a truly fantastic bird in a wonderful environment of mossy branches dripping from the mist. A good look around revealed at least 2 more of these beauties, as well as another Polynesian Starling and various other endemics.
With renewed energy I set off for the summit with hope of Orange Dove. To my surprise, the rainforest beyond the metal gates was not at all great for birding and at the top had been cleared quite heavily to make way for a radar station.
By some massive stroke of luck, at Dinner that night I met Chris Gaskin, of Kiwi Wildlife Tours, who was leading an English couple on a birding trip around
We met the taxi driver at some ridiculous hour outside the hotel and set out on the drive up the mountain. It was much more fun in a 4X4 in the dark than walking and ever so slightly easier too. We were dropped on the lower edges of the rainforest as dawn began to break and arranged to meet the driver at the same spot several hours later. We eagerly trekked up to the gates, getting good views of the commoner endemics but not the birds we wanted. ‘My spot’ at the gates was again productive, and Chris was very happy to show his clients the Silktails, which again gave a superb display, including a male displaying in Bird-of-Paradise fashion, shuffling up and down branches, waving his wings in an arc over his shimmering head. We headed slowly back downhill, as the birds seemed to be getting more active as the day warmed up. I stopped to photograph a pair of Collared Lory by the side of the track while Chris and his clients took a small side track off into the jungle in pusuit of another Silktail. Luckily for me, thye flushed out a Many-coloured Fruit-Dove, which I got good flight views of as it clattered away over the canopy, and the others had reasonable views of another perched up from inside the forest. Continuing downhill we caught the distinctive ‘Tock……..Tock……..Tock’ call of our quarry, eventually we picked out a superb male Orange Dove, well obscured and surprisingly inconspicuous in a far too leafy tree, soon another bird flew in and we had superb views of this stunning, neon orange bird perched in the open, I was well satisfied with the views through my bins but a look though Chris’s scope at full zoom just blew me away, its impossible to describe just how orange this thing is. Predictably, I couldn’t resist looking up at the bird and giggling “You’ve been Tangoed mate”. Floating back down to our pick-up point in a state of ecstasy more common endemics were seen, and the priority was a celebratory lunch and beer.
After lunch I joined a few of the hotels other guests to be dropped off on nearby Korolevu island for snorkelling. I didn’t manage any snorkelling at all thanks to The Lesser Frigatebirds and Brown Booby’s frequently flying close by, along with some more distant Red-footed Booby’s and a flock of confiding Black-naped Terns on the rocks. Just before the boat came to pick us up, a quick swim with some unidentified dolphins was a fitting end to a wonderful day.
Day spent travelling. Flight from Taveuni back to
More travelling today. Morning flight to from
With two Kandavu endemics left to see before leafing the island the next day, I headed off along a small track into the forest west of Wassalima in the early morning. Very quickly I picked up a single Kadavu Fantail, and more Kadavu Honeyeaters. Kadavu Shining Parrots could be heard screeching in the distance. It wasn’t long before I head the loud inflected whistle of my final Kadavu endemic, but a long time searching, and hearing several other individuals didn’t lead to any sightings. Returning to Wasssalima for lunch I heard another whistle right above my head, I looked up and there was a male Velvet Dove, just metres above me. I got excellent views of this third endemic Fijian fruit dove and even managed a nice photo in very difficult (non-existent) rainforest lighting. I spent the rest of the day snorkelling off the beach, seeing a variety of colourful reef fish.
A long days travelling, starting with a speedboat back to Kadavu Airstrip, the light plane back to Suva, a taxi into Suva Bus Station and the Bus back to Nadi on the far side of Viti Levu.
A day spent sightseeing and souvenir shopping around Nandi
Flight back to