Fiji’s animals happen to be hiding in the most glorious of locations. Namely, lush islands packed with tropical palms, flowers and grasses – and white sand beaches that lead you to some of the world’s most ecologically diverse waters. Cloud forests sing with the calls of colour-splashed birds and idyllic waters shimmer with the glint of darting fish shoals. No doubt those shoals are busy evading Fiji’s sharks, though not every species is as daunting as they appear. Our wild guide to Fiji clues you in on where – and how, to see the best of Fiji’s animals.
It would be easy to think that Turtle Island is Fiji’s one stop shop for turtle experiences. And while those encounters will come beautifully packaged with a luxe private island experience, it’s not necessarily everyone’s idea of Fiji heaven. And that’s before we’ve dared to peek at the price tag. Happily, there’s more than one place to swim with, snorkel over or see turtles in Fiji. Resorts can get you on local tours, point you towards the best reefs or pop you in a kayak and wish you all the best in your search. If you’re looking for something a little more reliable, resorts such as Mana Island Resort and Spa are near turtle nesting grounds. These hotels work with rescue groups to protect nest sites, release turtles – and have turtles swimming offshore.
Orbzii tip: Fiji’s working hard to protect its sea life, and has brought in new laws to stop harassment of turtles. By all means snorkel and dive with them, but keep your distance.
If you’re going to get in the water with Fiji’s sharks, we recommend tagging along with the crew at Fiji Shark Dive. Experienced at diving in their local waters with various species, they have the know how when it comes to where and when to see these awesome predators up close. Join them for a dive and you could see 8 different species that cruise the Fijian corals. Whitetips, silvertips and blacktips are all here – along with grey reef sharks, tawny nurse sharks and the formidable bull sharks. Lemon sharks and nurse sharks are always a pleasure to dive with – and their placid nature should ease any fears newbie shark divers might have. And, if you need any further convincing, it helps to know that this is the team film makers and professional photographers use, if they are in the market for some great shots.
Fiji’s cloud forests and islands are full of opportunities to see rare and endemic species. But if you’re looking for the best spot to break out the binoculars? Head to Kadavu. Yes, you can spot birds anywhere on Fiji’s islands, but Kadavu’s really rocking it in the diversity stakes. And, that’s down to the different habitats the birds are flourishing in. Mangroves, mudflats and cloud forests all provide different prey, nest sites and cover – and a changing backdrop for you to explore. Four birds to put high on your ‘must see’ list: the Kadavu fantail, whistling dove, honeyeater and shining parrot. Only found on this island, you’ll not see them anywhere else during your stay. Shearwaters, frigates and terns make up the numbers – along with Fiji’s endemic goshawk and collared lory. Some might suggest you try to spot Peale’s ‘barking’ pigeon – but you’ll likely hear it before you see it. Give it a swerve and feast your eyes on the island’s more colourful residents.
Orbzii tip: Birding is generally an easy pursuit with little need for a guide. But, if you’re really keen to spot a certain species, have a chat with your resort or accommodation provider. They’ll be more than happy to hook you up with a local expert.
Every year, between May and October, Manta Rays glide through the oceans to Fiji’s welcoming shores. It’s unlikely they drop by the islands to snorkel with the many travellers who get in the water with them. But, who knows, perhaps they are just as curious about us as we are them. It would certainly explain why they stick around so we can swim with them. Talk to your resort if you want to join an excursion – these are usually arranged locally, depending on the Manta Ray’s location. Though, to up your chances, island hop to any one of the Yasawa Islands in North West Fiji, or book a stay on the aptly named Manta Island.
Orbzii tip: Manta Rays are a protected species – and tend to swim in channels where currents and conditions can be tricky to navigate if you’re not familiar with the area. Resorts such as Barefoot Manta rack up some serious eco-credentials and have an onsite team of scientists and researchers helping the conservation effort in Fiji.
Seeing Fiji’s kaleidoscopic underwater world is pretty much essential viewing. Happily, there’s a very futuristic solution for anyone who might have mixed feelings about dipping their toes in waters brimming with sharks, eels, rays and octopi. Hop aboard the Sea Venture. A high-speed, glass-bottomed hydrofoil tricked out with every bit of tech the captain needs to find the fish. The low-tech, but just as handy, swimming ladder lets more adventurous types access the water to swim over the corals or creatures. Of the tours you can take, the sunset and night tour is perhaps the best. Enhanced LEDs light up the ocean floor – allowing a glimpse into the murky, night time adventures of hunting sharks, sleeping fish and nocturnal sea creatures.