Iguanas, flying foxes and golden doves
06 August 2011 | Suva, capital city of Fiji
We were up extremely early this morning with the help of an alarm, no less, in order to be in the dink going ashore by 0545 and to the station to catch the 0645 Pacific Express bus to Sigatoka (Sing-ah-TOH-kah) and the Kula Eco-Park. This was a plan that we devised last night and with so little time to change our minds, we kept to it.
The bus was modern, other than the fact we rode with our knees under our chins for three hours in cramped seats designed for short-legged people. We enjoyed looking out the wide windows and viewing the southern coast of Viti Levu. Dubbed the Coral Coast, we could easily see waves breaking on the reefs which lay just off the shore and stretched for miles and miles. The scenic route headed west along the Queen's Highway and was dotted with villages and first class resorts...quite a contrast.
Sigatoka is the business center of the the island's south coast and was bustling on Saturday, market day. It lies on the Sigatoka River, Fiji's second largest river. Remnants of the narrow gauge railway tracks previously used for the cane trains run through the downtown square. Above the town sits the enormous Sri Radka Krishna temple, bright orange and white and dominating the hillside. The bus let us off at the market and immediately we were deluged with people hawking their wares and inviting us into their stalls and shops. We walked around, found a place for coffee, looked at a few shops and decided we'd head to the park.
The allure of Kula Eco-Park is that it is home to several rare animal species endemic to Fiji and ones which we would never see in the wild nor elsewhere in the world...other than a zoo. It was a 7-8 km backtrack via cab from Sigatoka and its entrance was not very impressive. A rutted dirt road led to the park grounds and a small interpretive center. The displays were sparse, tired and poorly signed. Once outside, however, there was lots to see, starting with banded and crested iguanas which were allowed to perch and crawl on the visitors. This was a first for Marcie...having a reptile...no, two reptiles...on her person, posing for a photo.
Well-kept paths meandered through the dense forest and led to several walk-in aviaries where we saw golden doves and five varieties of red breasted musk parrots, all endemic to Fiji. Open terrariums held more banded and crested iguanas to observe. A fascinating display of flying foxes, i.e. large fruit bats, afforded us the chance to see these furry critters up close. Initially, they seemed as interested in us as we were in them. They made their way to edge of the fine mesh enclosure closest to us and appeared to be making eye contact. We understood why they're called flying foxes because their little faces definitely had fox-like similarities. When they tired of watching us, they hung by one foot, extended their wings up to about 3', wrapped their wings around themselves, yawned and settled in for naps. We'll post some shots on the website in the next day or two.
We lunched on sandwiches at the tiny park cafe then headed down the dirt road to catch a ride back to Suva. As luck would have it, we waited only a few minutes and a mini-bus heading back to Suva with two empty seats stopped for us. Nine adult passengers including seven "traditionally-figured" Fijian-sized ones, were now crammed into the minibus with several kids sitting on laps which made for a close, sweaty ride back, but everyone was in good spirits.
Back on the boat, we made our plans for a weather-dependent Monday departure to Vanuatu.