Thursday 20 November 2014

National Geographic Orion: Taveuni Island and Ringgold Islets, Fiji

NG Orion at anchor off Taveuni (R Eime)

by Rikki Swenson·Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

After a quiet night at anchor off the northwestern coast of Taveuni Island, we began our day heading ashore in various directions. Departing at first light were those interested in a birding walk on Des Voeux Peak. They were rewarded with sightings of 12 endemic bird species, most exciting being the beautiful silktail. The higher rainforest was lovely, loaded with epiphytes, and the rare tagimoucia, the Fijian national flower, in bloom.

Bouma Falls (R Eime)
The morning was brilliant with color, the rich cobalt blue sea complimenting the deep and bright greens onshore. After breakfast, our Zodiacs swiftly delivered the remaining guests to shore for their outings. Once again, we loaded up into the local open-air buses. A hiking group headed directly to Bouma National Heritage Park for a more rigorous trek to view the park’s lovely waterfalls. Others opted for a gentler outing, first heading into a nearby town. As we approached the Catholic Wairiki Mission, we could hear the soft sounds of a chorus of voices drifting across the grass. To our surprise, our five-minute stop turned into twenty-five minutes as we discovered the large church was half full of schoolchildren, seated on the floor, singing beautiful songs. The acoustics and their lovely voices combined into an absolutely magical moment as we stood in the doorways, listening and taking photographs of their cheerful faces. It was a bit of unexpected magic both for us watching, and for the kids who were delighted to see us.

After making a quick stop at the 180° East/West Meridian marker which lay on the far side of a soccer field, we continued on to Bouma Park on the far side of the island. A short walk led us to the stunning Tavoro Falls. There, a dramatic drop of over 70 feet splashes into a great pool of cool water creating a perfect place for a refreshing swim. And the water fell, not only from the falls but from the sky as well, a sweet tropical rain accompanying us, cooling the air as we walked back to the buses.

Back on board National Geographic Orion, we set off for the Ringgold islands where we found a great place to have our first platform snorkel on an outlying reef. There were a terrific variety of corals and colorful fishes seen and it was wonderful to enjoy the bounty of the warm Fijian waters.


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