Fiji may be famous for its rugged landscapes, palm-lined beaches, coral reefs and crystal clear lagoons, but there’s more to this archipelago than what you see in the tourist brochures.
The 300+ islands were once covered by miles of dry forests and dense tree populations and while centuries of human intervention have encroached somewhat, native and endemic flora and fauna still thrives. For any botanist, biologist, ecologist, naturalist, ornithologist or zoologist, Fiji is an excellent source of discovery, but you don’t have to be an expert to enjoy the wonders that Fiji has to offer.
The Animals of Fiji
Fiji has 76 native land and sea bird species, 27 of which are endemic (only found in Fiji). The Red-throated Lorikeet is a critically endangered lorikeet around 18cm long, and is bright green with red cheeks, throat and thighs. The Fiji Petrel (also known as MacGillivray’s Petrel) is a small, dark gadfly petrel with a short neck and stout black bill. Other birds to look out for include:
- Three species of Shining Parrots (Kaka)
- The Collared Lory (Kula)
Fiji also has four raptors: the Pacific Harrier, the Barn Owl, Peregrine Falcon, and the endemic Fiji Goshawk.
Fiji’s marine life is varied and includes dolphins, whales, sea turtles, eels, sea snakes, corals and an abundance of exotic and colourful fish. Home to five species of sea turtles you can find the Hawksbill, Loggerhead, Green, Pacific Ridley and Leatherback. Three of these species lay eggs on the beaches from November through to March, a site not to be missed.
Another site not to be missed (especially if you’re into sharks) is Shark Reef Marine Reserve off Pacific Harbour on Viti Levu. Here, 8 different species could turn up to feed, including Tawny Nurse, White Tip, Black Tip, Grey Reef, Sicklefin Lemon, Silvertips, Bull and Tiger. And out in the open seas, you’ll see Hammerheads and more.
Fiji is home to six species of bats, including the Fiji Monkey-faced Bat. Endemic to Fiji, it’s restricted to the summit region of Des Voeux Peak on the island of Taveuni (Koroturanga Mountain to the locals). Four of the six species only eat fruit, while the other two – the Polynesian Sheath-tail Bat and the Fijian Mastiff Bat, also eat insects.
Reptiles and amphibians
Fiji is home to two endemic frog species, the Fijian Tree Frog and the Fijian Ground Frog. Both males and females produce a mating call, an unusual characteristic for frogs, and Ground Frogs are a threatened species.
The Fiji Banded Iguana is a spectacularly beautiful and large lizard with emerald green colours. The extremely long tail makes up more than two thirds of its total length and the body presents broad vertical blue and green stripes that give the iguana its name.
The Plants of Fiji
The stunning beaches of Fiji are covered in a variety of pine trees, such as Silver, Fishtail, Fantail, Umbrella and the iconic Coconut Palm. The Coconut Palms provide Fiji with one of its most versatile manufacturing resource – coconut oil – and are believed to have self seeded on the islands. Other common species include the Mallotus tiliifolous, a small deciduous tree with hairy leaves and spiny fruit and the Indian-beech with its aromatic flowers and medicinal bark and roots.
The Tahitian Gardenia is one of Fiji’s most iconic flowering species, offering glossy green leaves and gnarled branches. Prized for their fragrant, tubular white flowers they can be found in almost every resort and produce yellow-green fruits that have medicinal use. Any fans of the Perry Mason TV series should visit The Garden of the Sleeping Giant in Nadi, which was founded in 1985 by the show’s actor Raymond Burr. A lover of orchids, the garden is packed with exotic orchids and native trees and is a real treat.
Mangroves are crucial to Fiji’s geography because they strengthen the coastlines of the islands and protect the beautiful reefs by absorbing much of the force from high ocean waves. Mangroves are particularly vulnerable to climate change and sealevel rise, and there is a strong possibility that they may be lost in the future.
Your Fiji Holiday
Everybody has their own idea of a Fijian holiday and if yours is the opportunity to discover Fiji’s most incredible flora and fauna, it pays to have an idea of what to look for. Create a list of search items and see how you go. The beauty of Fiji is that it’s there for the taking so you might not have to search that hard. With little effort you could tick of a list that includes:
- Manta rays
- Coconut palms
- And more!
Do some research before you go and see how much you can find.