Saturday 26th August - The plane departed from Sydney about 10 minutes late but the flight conditions were good and we arrived on schedule at approximately 17.00, local time. As I hadn't made any prior arrangements for this trip, except for the flight, I decided to make an enquiry about car rental rates whilst I was at the airport. I went into the Central Cars office and while I was there the guy asked where I was staying. As I hadn't got anywhere fixed he offered to ring a couple of places for me. We tried Wests Motor Inn and not surprisingly they had rooms available. (It should be noted here that my visit coincided with the period only a few months after a military coup and so many tourists had chosen or been advised to stay away. I must add here that in the whole two weeks I saw no sign of any problems and apparently it had only really affected the Suva area on Viti Levu and there were no problems in the Nadi region.) They sent a taxi out to the airport to pick me up and soon I was dealing with the minor formalities of checking-in. The rooms had been reduced to F$44 for a standard single with a fan, air-conditioning, a fridge and a phone, so I decided to stay for the next couple of nights at least. My meal this evening was steak and chips which cost F$17.50 and I washed it down with a few beers at F$3.70 each (F$3.20 in happy hour 18.00-19.00). I only saw four species of bird today due to the failing light as I waited for the taxi at the airport but three of them were new for me - Fiji Woodswallow, Red-headed Parrot Finch and Red Avadavat (introduced on Fiji). 4 species for the day.
Sunday 27th August - Today was a complete write-off as I slept for the vast majority of the day and the following night as well. I must have needed to recover after my 26 days with the Italian group in Australia or at least that's what I put it down to.
Monday 28th August - So after nearly 34 hours sleeping I decided it was time to get a few things sorted out, or more specifically get out to see some birds. In the motel there was a travel desk run by UTC so I told them what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go and stay and left it all for them to sort out on my behalf. Also I extended my stay at West's by another two nights to allow time for me to visit the Nausori Highlands. Soon a small 4 wheel-drive had been arranged through Khans which was going to cost me F$320 for three days, this didn't seem too bad especially compared to what I was paying on New Caledonia last year. Also all my internal flights had been reserved and the various accommodation places had also been contacted. I was very pleased with the girls efforts and would suggest that other people take advantage of this service because it cuts the hassle out of some of the organization involved in a Fiji trip. Everything in Fiji seems to operate on Fiji time so when my car turned up about half an hour late this came as no surprise. Still I was in no hurry as I had all afternoon to get up into the Nausori Highlands as I was going to use today mainly as a recce for tomorrow. I set off with high hopes for getting some new birds during the afternoon but the turning to the Nausori Highlands is not signposted off the Nadi backroad and so initially I found myself going about 10km in the wrong direction. Once I got this sorted and found the correct road it was easy to find Nausori village. Just keep on the main track and ignore any turnoffs, the track is decidedly rough in places but can be driven easily in a small 4WD like I had but I would not have wanted to attempt it in a conventional vehicle. Mind you some people do and it would be possible if you could spare the extra time needed to navigate the road. In Nausori village follow the road round to the right and continue along this road until you reach remnant patches of rainforest. This rather disturbed habitat holds a remarkable number of the Viti Levu endemics and is well worth a couple of days of anybodies time. During the late afternoon I added 14 species to the trip list, seven of which were new for me - Fiji Bush Warbler, Collared Lory, Masked Shining-Parrot, Peale's Pigeon, Polynesian Triller, Layard's White-Eye and Polynesian Starling. 17 species for the day.
Tuesday 29th August -I was up at the Nausori Highlands at about 08.30 but this was about an hour later than I had hoped as I made the fatal mistake of turning off my alarm and then going back to sleep again. This morning I drove to a bridge 9km after Nausori village and this was to prove to be a very good move as within a couple of minutes I had seen two of my most wanted species, the Giant Forest Honeyeater and the Golden Dove. The Honeyeaters were holding territory in this area and were attracted by playing back a recording of their calls and the Doves were seen feeding in a small shrub overhanging the track. I got some really great views of both species. This was a superb start to what was going to be a very good day. I spent all day checking the various patches of forest and during that time plus the journeys to and from Nadi I added 10 species to the trip list and like yesterday seven were new for me - Golden Dove, Many-coloured Fruit-Dove, Vanikoro Flycatcher, Orange-breasted Honeyeater, Fiji Shrikebill, Giant Forest Honeyeater and Wattled Honeyeater. 25 species for the day.
Wednesday 30th August - I extended my stay again at West's Motor Inn and like yesterday I spent most of the day in the Nausori Highlands searching for a few species which I was still missing. In the afternoon I spoke to Dick Watling about the possibilities of visiting any other areas but I was a little put off by the fact the some armed escaped convicts were hiding out in the areas I was thinking about visiting and military presence in the area had been dramatically increased. The advice from Dick was to spend the time in the Nausori Highlands rather than risk either Colo-i-Suva or the area around the Monasavu Dam. This was the only time on the trip when my plans were thwarted thanks to the aftermath of the antics of the 19th May. Dick had mentioned that the area around the Dam and Tomanivi (Mt. Victoria) were probably the best areas to look for the rare Red-throated Lorikeet, still you can't see everything on the first visit. Today I added three species to the trip list but only two of these were new for me - Fiji Goshawk and Black-faced Shrikebill. 28 species for the day.
Thursday 31st August - I only had the car for half a day today but I still went up to the Nausori Highlands again for a couple of hours. My main target this morning was the strange looking local form of the Golden Whistler which I actually managed to see quite easily once I got to know its call and managed to attract one to a tape. Before handing back the car I was able to have a quick look at the bay area just in front of where I was staying, not a lot here but I did add Great Crested Tern to the list. All in all not a bad day but my first day with no lifers even though I added four birds to the trip list. As could be predicted I extended my stay again for what would be my last night, for now, in West's Motor Inn. 32 species for the day.
Friday 1st September - This morning I decided to do some final checking that arrangements were OK for the next section of my trip across to the island of Kadavu. I ask the girl on the UTC desk to confirm that someone would be at the airport to meet me only to find out that the water pump was broken and I would have to stay elsewhere. This was a bit of a set back as I had hoped to stay at Reece's Place, now called Nakuita Island Resort, as they were used to birders and knew where to go for the specialities. Still that wasn't to be and I was relocated to Biana Accommodation in Vunisea, which at least got a mention in the Lonely Planet guide, and I was assured that someone would meet me off the plane. Taxi from West's to the airport cost F$4 which seemed very reasonable for the distance. I got there about an hour and a half before the flight expecting to be able to check-in my luggage for the flight to Kadavu. No chance, check-in for the internal flights in Fiji doesn't open until 30 minutes before the flight and when I saw the size of the plane I could understand why. Basically it was a small eight-seater but it took off on time and landed on time so I wasn't going to start complaining. On the run in to the terminal hut the pilot managed to get one of the wheels stuck in some mud and very nearly got the plane bogged, that could have been interesting. I must admit that I hadn't got much confidence in this lot and it was a pleasant surprise to find my luggage had actually made it on the same flight as me. I was met by somebody to show me to my accommodation but we had to hang around for 20 minutes or so before the transportation arrived. Having been driven about a kilometre I then carried my bag up a slope to a building which looked more like someones house than accommodation for travellers. I was shown to one of the rooms and started to get things ready for my first birding on Kadavu. I should add that the rooms were adequate but the shower was cold water only. The electricity was supplied by a community generator and was normally off during the day. But worst of all there was a fridge and I couldn't get any beer to put in it. Apparently all the beer in town had been sold and they were waiting for the ferry to bring some more, but no-one had any idea as to when that might be. I arranged for an evening meal at Biana's and set off on my first exploration of Kadavu. As I had limited information on where to go I decided to try and find some of the forested areas used by people who had stayed at Reece's Place in the past. I succeeded in locating Waikana Falls using the sketch map in Gerry Richards' trip report but the birding was not as good as I had expected judging by the comments made in other reports. Mind you I didn't find any good forest just a few scrubby areas, perhaps the trail was better in the past and more trees have been removed. Still for my first afternoon I was quite pleased with what I saw and got back for dinner at about 19.00. Dinner was an interesting experience, not for the food which was fine, Fish and Rice, but for the fact that all the family came to watch me eat. Well that's what it seemed like when you have four people staring at you whilst eating. So after watching a couple of films on the video it was time for bed and thank God for the mosquito net. The room was full of mosquitos but fortunately the net worked well and none of them were able to get at me. Today I added five species to the trip list of which three were new for me - Crimson Shining-Parrot, Slaty Flycatcher and Kadavu Honeyeater. 16 species for the day.
Saturday 2nd September -Today I set off early determined to try and find some good forest. This I did by walking past the Waikana Falls track and taking the next dirt road on the right. After climbing a little and after a few corners I found myself among some good forest but there seemed no way to actually get into it and so birding was restricted to the edges. After a few hours of this I was getting a little frustrated at the apparent lack of Kandavu Fantails and Whistling Doves.but just then I found an old logging track which went off to the right. I walked along this track for a couple of hundred metres and then turned left onto a narrower trackand at last I found two Kadavu Fantails. I sat down to watch these birds and almost immediately a female Whistling Dove appeared in one of the nearby trees. A good two minute spell but it had proved a lot harder to find these two species than I had been led to believe. Still a successful venture into the forest even though it had been about 4-5km from where I was staying. I got back to Biana's in the mid afternoon and was informed that the forest on the west side of town is actually a lot closer than that to the east. I thought I would give this a try early evening and see just how good the forest was, I would expect it to be quite degraded. How wrong can you be? The forest here was excellent and what's more it was only 15 minutes walk from where I was staying to the first patches. Although I hadn't got much time because the light was going fast I still managed to see quite a few Crimson Shining-Parrots. The meal this evening was Sausage and Chips and yes the customary crowd assembled for the evening entertainment. I only added four species to the trip list but two of these were endemic lifers - Kadavu Fantail and Whistling Dove. 26 species for the day.
Sunday 3rd September - I spent most of today in the forest on the west side of Vunisea and what a great experience it proved to be. At my first stop, where the forest areas begin, about 15 minutes walk from Biana's I saw all four of the islands endemics in about five minutes. This would not have possible without a tape as Kadavu Fantail proved to be very responsive to playback but could be very difficult to see without. The total number seen of the endemics were as follows - Crimson Shining-Parrot 15, Kadavu Honeyeater 3, Kadavu Fantail 20 and Whistling Dove 7 males and 6 females. My point for turning round and heading back was just after a bridge over a stream near some large piles of gravel at S19º 02' 059'' E178º 10' 834''. In the afternoon I went for a walk to the mangroves the other side of the airport to try and get a recording of Kadavu Honeyeater. No new birds today at all, not even trip ticks, but it was one of the best days birding so far. 27 species for the day.
Monday 4th September - As I was flying later today to Taveuni there was not much time for birding but I did manage to squeeze in a couple of hours in the western forest despite getting soaked as it was raining this morning, and at times quite heavily. Even taking shelter under a few big Mango trees was not very effective. Still they call it rainforest and if it didn't rain it wouldn't be there for us to enjoy. The flight to Suva left on time at 11.45 but I then had to kill about 45 minutes in Suva waiting for the connection to Taveuni which was actually on the same plane. This flight left about 10 minutes late but this was no major inconvenience. The arrival on Taveuni is quite impressive as you fly over the reef and I actually saw a Green Turtle from the plane. On arrival at the airport there are a plethora of taxis waiting for the flight so it was no problem to get one to take me from the airport to Naqara, about 18 kms and cost F$15. Once at Kaba's Motel I checked-in and asked about the arrangements that should have been made for a vehicle to take me to Des Voeux Peak, at 1195m Taveuni's second highest mountain. Unfortunately the reception at Kaba's was closed and the owner knew nothing about my plans also she didn't seem over keen to help so I decided to try the Garden Island Resort. The taxi from Kaba's to Garden Island Resort cost F$3 and once there I asked the reception if they could help me out. The reply was that they usually only provide that service for in house guests but they agreed to help anyway. I booked myself in for dinner which entitled me to be able to use the bar and so I had a few beers by the pool and watched the sun setting over Vanua Levu. After about an hour I was introduced to Ali who was to be my driver for the trip to Des Voeux Peak. We agreed on a price which included him waiting for me in case of bad weather, it was F$60 for the trip and F$10 per hour for waiting time. Departure was set for 05.30 from Kaba's and the receptionists said they would make sure that the gate would be left open for us. Kaba's Motel was F$45 per night for a room with a fan, TV, phone and kitchenette. The dinner at Garden Island was F$22 and the beers cost F$3.75 but this dropped to F$3 during happy hour (18.00-19.00). As today had mostly been spent travelling or organizing I did not see all that much but I did manage to add two species to the trip list. 24 species for the day.
Tuesday 5th September - Ai was very prompt and picked me up at 05.28 from the front of Kaba's Motel. The drive to Des Voeux Peak took us about an hour and the gate had been left open as was arranged. On the drive in the skies were clear and I could see many stars but as soon as it started to get light the rain started so at dawn I was on the top of Des Voeux Peak, in the mist and rain, wondering what to do next. The first bird of the morning was the local race of Island Thrush which seemed to be particularly common on the road just before dawn. The rain continued on and off all morning but during the odd short break or when it eased for a while I was able to get some birding done and it certainly was some good looking forest here. The Red Shining-Parrot was easy enough to find but I was certainly rather lucky with the Silktail. I was walking down the road when a strange call caught my attention, after about thirty seconds a Silktail flew from behind me, over my head and across the road. Then there was another one and an immature male Blue-Crested Flycatcher, the two Silktails remained in view on and off for just over ten minutes before disappearing into the forest for a final time. As I never saw either bird calling I can not be certain that the call which caught my attention was from the Silktails but if it wasn't then I'm glad whatever called did so at that moment. Also this morning female Orange Dove was easy but finding a male was a bit more difficult. These birds really have to be seen to be believed, they really are a fluorescent orange. So a successful six hours or so and then Ali returned me to Kaba's. I made arrangements that I would contact him this evening about my plans for tomorrow as everything depended on the flights. I wasn't due to return to Viti Levu until Friday but my success today gave me the option to return earlier and try a cruise for seabirds. I knew that my chances were not that good as the boat would always be within the outer reef but it was my only shot at Collared Petrel and so I decided to give it a go. As I suspected there was no problem in changing my flight and so now I leave Taveuni tomorrow. This evening it's back to the Garden Island Resort to celebrate a great day and to contemplate about tomorrow. Six species added to the trip list today and four of these were lifers - Orange Dove, Red Shining-Parrot, Blue-crested Flycatcher and Silktail. 34 species for the day.
Wednesday 6th September - I had arranged with Ali to pick me up about 06.30 this morning for us to try the area known as the Qeleni Road. It would definately be better to start earlier say about 05.30 to get the benefit of being in the area at dawn. This area is a little frustrating as the road passes through agricultural land and the forest is always some distance away. Still I managed to find a few male Orange Doves just on the drive. At the fork in the road we tried both right and left. Both are dead ends but the right proved the more productive as when we stopped near the house before turning round I was asked if I was a birdwatcher and if I wanted to go into the forest. As my main aim for this morning was to get some more views of Silktail I decided to accept the offer and so off we went. Initially I was not certain about the knowledge of these guys but eventually they came good and we saw at least seven Silktails, a few Orange Doves, Fiji Shrikebill and a few male Golden Whistlers of the local race plus the real star of the day an immature Shy Ground Dove. George, one of my guides for the forest, knew this species very well and informed me that they were common in the area but hard to see. He was confident he could find one and after about 20 minutes looking he came up with the goods. I was not expecting to see this species and so it was a real bonus. I gave the guys F$10 each for their time and got back in with Ali. It would seem that whilst driving from the Qeleni Road around to the area where he picked me up he had managed to break a bracket which held the spring for the rear wheel and so birding was cancelled for the rest of the day. Still no worries here as I had seen just about all I could have seen. The only thing was I got back to the airport rather early, 10.30 for a 14.10 departure. This also proved to be a good move as when I started to pack my telescope one of the guys asked if I was a birder. This turned out to be Paul, as mentioned in the report by Dave Fisher. I had tried to contact him before I found Ali but nobody seemed to know where he would be. But this impromptu meeting could be valuable for future visitors as I now have the mobile and home phone numbers for Paul. Just as a point of interest he knew the guys who took me into the forest, in fact I think he is related to them in some way. After a long wait in the airport it was good to get on the plane a be underway back to Nadi. There was a brief stop at Savusavu and then between here and Nadi I was the only passanger. The arrival at Nadi was a little hairy as the whole area was surrounded by storms and the air turbulance caused some interesting rapid changes of altitude for my flight. Once back on land I got a taxi back to West's Motor Inn where I was greeted like a long-lost friend. Two new species for the trip and one of these was a lifer. 23 species for the day.
Thursday 7th September - This morning I sorted out which cruise I was going to take tomorrow and then I hired a car for the afternoon to take a look at the tidal wetlands around Saweni and Lautoka. Not as many species of waders as I would have expected but at least I added three species to the trip list. 9 species for the day.
Friday 8th September - Picked up from West's by the courtesy bus to take me to the wharf at Denarau we picked up other people en route but it was obvious that not many would be on the cruise that I had chosen. I was booked on the Seaspray - Day Sailing Adventure which involved taking the fast catamaran to Mana Island and then getting on the Seaspray to cruise to Yanuya and Monriki. Seabird numbers were low but I did manage to get a reasonable variation even though the majority of birds were very distant. The highlight for the day was undoubtedly a Collared Petrel which decided to fly passed close enough for me to make a 100% identification. Fortunately there were only seven on the cruise and when the other six were doing the tourist thing the skipper, Tomasi Seru, would head for any birds he could see just so I could get a better look. After the cruise the skipper mentioned he knew someone with a boat who was prepared to go outside the reef and charged reasonable amounts - see phone number later. (Ring him at work and leave a message for him to contact you). I enjoyed the day on the whole and it was a nice relaxing end to the two weeks on Fiji. One new lifer and seven new for the trip list. 15 species for the day.
Saturday 9th September - Got a wake up call at about 04.00 and caught the courtesy shuttle to the airport at 04.55. Check-in was a bit of a worry as they could not find my name in the computer but it all worked out fine in the end. The flight back to Sydney left on time and so back to Australia for an overnight stop before flying back to England.
Approximately £1 = F$3
Dick Watling (English birder resident on Viti Levu) home 381322; work 383189
Paul (driver on Taveuni) home 880705; mobile 970816
Ali (driver on Taveuni) home after 18.00 880497
Biana's Accommodation (Vunisea - Kadavu) 336010
Kaba's Motel (Taveuni) 880233
Garden Island Resort (Taveuni) 880286
West's Motor Inn (Nadi - Viti Levu) 720044
Most of the information on the sites can be gained easily from other trip reports but I will mention here how I got to and birded all the sites I visited during my two weeks within Fiji.
Nausori Highlands - coming from the airport at Nadi, take the Nadi back road for 3.1km and then turn left. This is just after a private bus depot on the right which goes by the name of A. K. Naicker and Sons Limited. From this turning just continue on the road until you get to Nausori Village which is about 25.4km from the main road. After the village the forest patches start and I birded all the areas up to 9km from the village. Most of the Viti Levu specialities can be found within this area. I birded in these areas at all times of the day and there was usually some form of activity even during the hottest part of the day, the trick was to get into the forest during this time if you could find an entry point.
Nadi Bay - coming from West's Motor Inn turn left in the direction of Nadi. Then turn right onto Wailoaloa Road. On the junction with Nadi Bay Road was a small wet area with White-faced Heron, continue straight ahead at this junction to view the coast. I saw nothing apart from Crested Tern but it can attract waders. Scope was used when viewing the birds in the bay.
Saweni/Lautoka - from Nadi take the road towards Lautoka. About 6km south of Lautoka take the road which is signposted to Saweni Beach Motel. Drive past the motel and take the next track on the right to view the wetlands. These are best viewed at high tide but some birds can be seen at any tide level. Also to view other areas continue about 3km towards Lautoka on the main road and an area of tidal mangroves is viewable on the left of the main road. As my visit was early in the season I didn't see much but this area has great potential. For both migrant and vagrant species. Scope was used from various places to view the different tidal areas I found.
Forest area east of Vunisea - to access this area you need to walk a fairly long way or arrange a lift. I walked and it was a little further than I had expected. This may be the best forest accessible from Reece's Place (Nakuita Island Resort) but certainly for people staying in Vunisea the next site is much better. From the airstrip take the road away from Vunisea and then take the first turn to the right which goes uphill passed a pine plantation. Once past the plantation you can see the forest in front of you. As with the Nausori Highlands on Viti Levu it is difficult to get access to the forest but you can see most of the birds from the forest edge. There are a couple of old logging tracks which allow slightly better access to the forest but don't expect to be walking through the forest itself. You are virtually always on the outside and birding the forest edge. It is possible to see all the Kadavu specialities along this track but I found the Whistling Dove and the Kadavu Fantail rather difficult in this area.
Forest area west of Vunisea - this area is only about 15 minutes walk from Vunisea and much more accessible than the forest to the east of the village. Take the road to the hospital and soon after you reach a six way junction. At this junction there are three turnings to the left, one goes to houses, one to the bay on the north side of Vunisea and the middle one will take you to the forest. Just keep walking along this track. Only five minutes or so walk from the junction, in the first area of forest, I saw all the Kadavu specialities in about five minutes. Continue along the track and you will discover some excellent forest where the Kadavu endemics can easily be found.
East of Vunisea - the areas of mangroves and the bay to the north of the airport are also worth a look but don't expect too much.
Des Voeux Peak Trail - the only way to get to this area is to hire a driver with a 4 wheel drive. I guess it could be done with your own self-drive 4WD but a conventional vehicle is completely out of the question. To do it on your own you would need to get the gate left open which I guess could be arranged through Garden Island Resort or Kaba's Motel but you would have to speak to the receptionist at the latter as the owner has little interest in trying to organize things for the guests. I went with Ali who was quite good but Paul is also very experienced in taking birders so shop around. I know people who have taken the ride to the top and walked down but as the weather is very unpredictable I would recommend keeping the vehicle with you.