Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Postcards from Australasia #3

Our first trip out from Australia was to Fiji, a South Pacific archipeligo four hours flight from Brisbane.

Our first stop was on the main island of Viti Levu just off the airport at Nadi, on the beach:

We explored locally for a couple of days, visiting the Sleeping Giant Botanic Garden amongst other spots.

From there we drove South, stopping to visit the sand dunes at Sigatoka, enjoying the trail to the beach and picking up a few bird species on the way:

Our next stop was at Sula, Colo-i-Suva in fact, a lodge set sympathetically in the forest and with a number of ponds that were formerly gravel pits until the diggers hit the underlying spring, flooding all the pits:

The birding around the lodge is much better than the forest which is over visited and has had a lot of visitor facilities installed in the last few years, the contrast in fact was quite stark.

Anyway around the lodge we saw the common Vanikoro Flycatcher:

We also spotted a female Golden Dove.   Bird groups used to stay at the lodge, drive for 3 hours on unmade roads to a remote village to try for this species, we got our sighting on the driveway into the hotel!

From Suva we drove back to Nadi to head for our first outlying island, specifically Taveuni.  The island advertises itself as a birders paradise however this is now far from the truth.   A lot of the birds have been hunted to extreme scarcity and that coupled with the impact of climate change through increasing numbers of cyclones makes birding very, very difficult and indeed frustrating.

We did one highly recommended walk to the Lavena falls.  We were pushed into hiring a guide who was frankly next to useless.  The landscape and scenery was interesting:

We spotted this famous mushroom rock formation on the way:

At one point the trail involves holding on to a rope while crossing a river that is between thigh and waist deep.   No one had mentioned this so we stopped our walk at this point and had our packed lunch before heading back.  We saw very few native birds on the walk, frustratingly.

Kadavu was our third and final island destination again at a resort that advertised birding and we'd even pre-booked a birding walk.   It proved in fact to be a dive resort being run to extract every cent from the guests.  The location was stunning:

But the birding was virtually non-existent.  The supposed trails are farming track to farmed land that then dead-end, the birding guide was one of the housekeeping staff with no knowledge of the birds and the owner was convinced that generic species were specialists.  We felt misled and ripped-off, so birders beware the Matava Lodge is not a birding destination and you'll find it very austere unless you really enjoy water related activities (guests there for diving and snorkelling raved about the quality of the reef-life).   We didn't like the place.

We did a walk to the falls in the village along the mangrove shore, spotting Pacific Kingfisher:

And the so-far unrecorded on Kadavu, White-faced Heron:

I broke a bone in my foot on the walk, sliding on a rock, which added injury to insult!

It was relief to leave Kadavu and head for Nadi for a night before going back to Brisbane ahead of the next leg of our journey.   We were disappointed with pretty much every aspect of our trip to Fiji and somewhat wary of the forthcoming group biring trip we'd booked in Papua New Guinea...


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