s/y Nine of Cups
Suva, Viti Levu Island, Fiji Islands
July - August 2011
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The 120-nm passage from Savusavu to Suva was a pleasant overnight sail.
According to Lonely Planet, Suva offers lots to see and do and we were looking
forward to it. Suva is the largest city in the South Pacific and considered the most
"cosmopolitan" of all the cities in Oceania. It's about the only place in Fiji where
you can find a building taller than a palm tree.
The mountains north and west  catch the southeast trade winds and
make Suva a damp city year round.
One fifth of Fiji's total population and
half of its urban population lives in Suva.
Savusavu, Vanua Levu
The reefs lining the coast and the long harbor
entrance are littered with wrecks..
This CMap screen capture shows the reefs in dark
green and shallow water in blue entering Suva harbor.
We could see the surge on the reef between us and the waterfront, but the harbor was well-marked.
Suva - 18S07.37 / 178E25.32 - 45'
We anchored off the Royal Suva Yacht
Club and used their dinghy dock for our
daily forays into Suva town.
The anchorage is shared by fishing boats,
freighters, cruise ships and yachts. Rafting,
as above, seems to be the usual mooring
technique for the Asian fishing boats.
Suva is pretty modern as South Pacific
cities go with several multi-storied
buildings, heavy traffic, noise and general
sensory overload.
Store windows display Fijian sulus and
Bula shirts as well as beautiful saris and
Muslim attire punctuating the interesting
international, multiracial mix here.
The Fiji Museum with its iconic clock
tower is located in the sparse and
optimistically named Thurston Botanical
Gardens which dates from 1913.
Though small, the museum was an interesting blend of Fiji's
Polynesian/Melanesian, Indian and Asian heritage. There
were several galleries on two floors and it was obvious that
the museum had challenging budgetary restraints, but did the
best they could with what they had. The Maritime Gallery
showcased a huge double-hulled traditional canoe (drua)
and the huge mastheads used on them. David's standing next
to a masthead to the right. There was not much about early
Fijian cannibalistic tendencies, however, we did see
Reverend Baker's shoes, the only part left of him after he
inadvertently declared war by  touching a chief's head.
More about cannibals?  See
Vanua Levu.page.
One gallery highlighted "masi" or tapa, a
traditional barkcloth produced by
beating the bark of the local mulberry
tree into a compacted, non-woven
fabric. The results are pretty outstanding.
In the mid-1800's, a dwarf priest and two
Fijian warriors were sold to the Barnum
& Bailey circus to swell the government
From the museum, we wandered along
the oceanfront road past the Presidential
Palace to watch the traditional Fijian
sentry standing guard at the entrance.
Spacious Albert Park with a backdrop of
imposing government buildings is a fine
place to play rugby, a popular sport here.
The first ever commercial flight to Fiji was a Pan Am flying
boat which landed in Suva Harbour in October 1941.
Modern buildings interspersed with British
colonial arcades accentuate  Britain's former
presence here along the Nubukalou Creek.
We shared an interesting combination plate
at a Hare Krishna restaurant. We had no
idea what we were eating, but it was quite
spicy and very good.
Provisioning is a challenge here as it's
difficult to find everything you want in one
store. The locals use "wheelbarrow guys" to
trot along behind them with their purchases.
Corned mutton seems to be popular
here evidenced by the amount of shelf
space allotted to it in the supermarkets.
At the modern MH City Center Mall, even
the Kava Karts are upscale.
The large fleet of Chinese fishing boats tied
up in the inner harbour were in less than
pristine condition.
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We've just updated the South Pacific
Birds page with Fiji birds including
some rare Fijian endemic birds seen
at the Kula Eco-Park.
Before leaving Fiji, we decided to take a
land trip along the southern coast of Viti
Levu, known as the Coral Coast en route
to Sigatoka (Sing-ah-TOH-ka) and the
Kula Eco-Park. Above, low tide view of
the coral reefs and islands beyond.
It was a ship the size of this one that nearly did
us in when it dragged its anchor in 30 kt winds.
See our
blog from 30 July 2011.
Sigatoka is the business center of the
southern coast and was bustling with activity
on market day. Above, the enormous Sri
Radha Krishna Temple sat high on the
hillside overlooking the city.
The main reason for the trip was a visit to
Kula Eco-Park which is home to
several rare, endemic species of Fijian birds
and iguanas as well as flying foxes, aka fruit
bats, Fiji's only endemic mammal.
The entrance and interpretive center were
not very impressive, but the animals were.
Most were injured and nursed back to
health, taken from poachers or bred in
captivity. Above, a hawksbill  sea turtle.
Marcie poses with a rare banded
iguana. It was a stretch to have a
reptile crawling on her arm. Anything
for a photo opp!
The rare, endemic Fijian crested iguana or vokai
is considered a totem for some Fijian tribes. Its
name is not allowed to be mentioned in the
presence of women or the offender may be
beaten with a stick.The majority of Fijians,
however, are terrified of the crested iguana
because of its behavior when threatened. It
changes color to black, raises it crest and lunges.
Some birds were caged, but most flew
freely in large aviaries including this
golden dove, a species endemic to Fiji.
This particular dove was raised from a
chick when rescued after falling from
its nest.
This vibrant red-breasted musk
parrot is also endemic to Fiji.
Bats are the only native Fijian mammal and we were
entranced with them. We'd never seen them this close.
At first they observed us carefully, moving to the front
of their fine-meshed wire cage and seemingly making
eye contact. They smelled musky, like a skunk. When
they tired of us, they climbed to the top of their cages,
hung by one foot,  spread their wings and totally
enveloped themselves, then yawned and went to
sleep. We thought these were Fijian flying fox, but
with more research, we're not sure exactly what
species of bat they actually are. They certainly do
have fox-like features in their furry little faces.
Of Fiji's 149 bird species, 27 species are
found no where else in the world.
Next port of call? Considered the most
culturally diverse country in the South Pacific.
Aneityum, Vanuatu
You can't miss this one!