My review is not only about this lovely garden but also a couple of other interesting places around Nadi in Fiji.
Incidentally Nadi is pronounced Nandi in Fijian
Unless you are interested in adrenalin seeking activities such as skidoos , banana boats, rafting down a river, swimming with sharks, scuba diving or deep sea fishing then there are limited things to do in the Nadi area. The most obvious experience is to sail and visit some of the smaller islands in either the Mamanuca or Yasawa island groups.
We decided we would take a trip to see a couple of the islands in the Mamanuca ( pronounced Mamanutha) group on one day and I’ll write about that in another review.
NEXT STOP -THE GARDENS OF THE SLEEPING GIANT
This is an orchid and tropical garden set up by Raymond Burr of ‘Ironside’ and ‘Perry Mason’ fame. It cost us $12 Fijian each to enter the gardens and this fee included an ice cold tropical fruit juice as you finished your visit. You could chose to have a guided tour or just wander around by yourself. We decided on a self guided tour and not only enjoyed the wonderful orchids but also went part of the way round a jungle walk. As we only had about half an hour here we didn’t take the full walk around as it was quite a lengthy walk and Tom suggested that half an hour here would be enough.
These beautiful gardens get their name from the mountain or hill which looks like a sleeping giant, the hills are actually the Nausori Hills. The gardens are quite a reasonable size and cover about 20 hectares planted with lush tropical vegetation. Many of the trees and plants in the garden have medicinal or health improving qualities according to our guide.
It was a lovely peaceful place to enjoy some truly beautiful orchids as well as water lilies and while we were walking around we also saw a number of different birds which were attracted to the tropical flowers on the bushes.
The highlight for me was the beautiful orchids as I think they are simply stunning flowers. The plants themselves are not that attractive but the flowers have to be some of the loveliest ones you can find. There are about two thousand different ones in this collection which was Raymond Burr’s private collection at one time. This is reputedly the world largest collection but i am not convinced that there were more orchids here than there are in the Singapore Botanic Gardens, maybe it is the world’s largest private collection.
The covered area with the ferns was also a bit like a fairy grotto but we did notice a few mosquitoes in that area so we didn’t hang around too long in there. The gardens are open from Monday to Saturday from 9am to 5 pm so basically closed on Sunday.
It is possible to enjoy a picnic in the gardens and we were reliably informed that it was possible to have your wedding in the grounds too which sounded rather exotic to me. We were not told that Raymond Burr’s old holiday home was next door and that this was also open to visitors but obviously Tom, our taxi driver/guide didn’t fancy visiting that or maybe it wasn’t open at that time. It would have been interesting to see but never mind, he gave us a really good look at a number of sites around the Nadi area on our trip with him so I can’t complain.
SRI SIVA SUBRAMANIYA SWAMI TEMPLE
This beautiful temple was built on the site of an old Hindu temple following the Golden Jubilee celebrations in 1976.The building work was not actually started until 1986 and was finally completed and consecrated in July 1994 nearly twenty years after the initial decision was made to build it.
This Hindu temple is the largest in the Southern Hemisphere and is typically brightly coloured and intricately decorated. It is quite strikingly beautiful and has a very calm atmosphere about it. It is one of the few places outside India where you can see this traditional Dravidian architecture. The wooden deities were brought from Indian and the temple is maintained with obvious care and pride.
The second largest group of people after the Fijians are Indians brought in by the British to work in the sugar cane fields. Most of these are Hindu although a small number are Islamic. They have had quite an influence with the food on offer in Fiji and in Nadi a lot of the shops seemed to be owned and run by Indians.
This is Fiji’s third largest urban town or city and it is on the Western side of the main island of Viti Levu and it has a population of about 43,000. The airport is just outside Nadi and the reclaimed Denarau Island with its expensive houses and smart hotels is not too far from the town.
There really isn’t much of any interest in Nadi except the shops and a very large fruit and vegetable market. There are a number of cafes and restaurants but they were not sufficiently interesting or different to entice us back for another visit. We spent almost two hours in the town and found that that was an hour too long. The shops were offering similar souvenir and craft items, there were a lot of Indian shops selling saris and fabric, a couple of supermarkets, a department store called Prouds and a large gift and clothes shop which seemed to have a good reputation called ‘Jacks’.
We were advised that Nadi was quite safe during the day , provided you took the normal precautions with your bags etc but that it was unwise to go there at night. The town has a very multi racial mix of people with a large number of Indians who were originally brought into Fiji to work on the cane plantations.
So that was our exploration of the area around Nadi and these seemed to be the highlights in the area. You could take trips further afield but nothing really seemed worth spending the time or the money on to go and see. We felt we got a bit of a look at the area with this day trip and learned a bit about village life.
We also saw several crops and vegetables growing including, pawpaw, cassava, banana, taro, tobacco and lots of sugar cane. We also saw the sugar train that took the cane to the factory for processing. We were shown two different ferns that were eaten in Fiji but as yet have not found this on a menu.
I think the area where we were staying is one of the best as we are not stuck on an island resort which although can be idyllic does not allow you to explore much beyond and find out about the things outside the resort. We were based on Denarau island which is a piece of reclaimed land with luxury hotels and residences but we were still able to get a bus into Nadi or take a taxi as we did to explore the area and see the sights on offer.
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