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Michael Hodgson

Traveler at HI Travel Tales
Born to British parents in Canada, Michael Hodgson had been schlepped back and forth across the pond since he was a toddler. In college, he took the big leap and spent a few months in Kenya – and never looked back. His biology major somehow led him into a writing career, focusing on the outdoors, hiking and gear testing. Building on his lifetime of travel with travel writing was a natural, although he still loves to seek out the wilder side of a mountain – or a city -- for a good story. Michael also is a partner in a consulting business (www.NewNormalConsulting.com) built on a passion to help specialty businesses and brands succeed both domestically and internationally.
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While we will admit to being fans of visiting botanical gardens anywhere in the world, Fiji’s Garden of the Sleeping Giant is one that is truly special.  Yes, really. Even non-flower lovers and non-botanical garden enthusiasts – and there was one among us – should put this on their Fiji list. Here, you can easily spend a number of hours wandering past landscaped lawns, around lily ponds with trickling fountains and croaking frogs, and along canopy-covered boardwalks and paths winding through the rainforest, all the while gawking at over 2,000 varieties of Asian orchids and Cattelya hybrids. It is as visually stunning as it sounds. Plus, it changes with the seasons. Granted, some may note it’s not meticulous in maintenance, but hey we’re in Fiji not Switzerland here. It’s glorious in its lush abundance.

Wandering the lush tropical paths through Fiji's Garden of the Sleeping Giant.

Wandering the lush tropical paths through Fiji’s Garden of the Sleeping Giant.

Set in the verdant green foothills of the Nausori Highlands and at the feet of Mt. Batilamu (the Sleeping Giant in Koroyanitu National Heritage Park) 20 minutes drive north of Nadi, the garden was once owned by Raymond Burr – a Canadian-born actor who made his mark playing Perry Mason, Ironside, and other film and television roles.

Burr loved orchids. And he loved Fiji, which he referred to as his second home.

Garden of the Sleeping Giant brief history

In 1965, Burr purchased Naitauba, a private island in the Lau group off the northeast coast of Fiji’s main isle of Viti Levu. He also bought and meticulously landscaped a South Seas-style plantation house just 20 minutes by road north from the Nadi airport. But it was not until 1977 that he acquired and opened a 20-hectare (50-acre) nursery to hybridize orchids after looking for the best possible climate for them to flourish.  That is what is now known as the Garden of the Sleeping Giant. With his partner, Robert Benevides, Burr hybridized an estimated 1,500 orchid varieties before leaving Fiji in 1983. He even named one of the orchids for Barbara Hale, the actress who played his secretary, Della Street, in the Perry Mason series.

HITT Tip: While you can easily enjoy the gardens on your own be sure to avail yourself, at no additional cost, of a short, guided tour. The very friendly Fijian guides will regale you with a brief description of the property and a little history of how this mountain valley was transformed into the fantasy garden it is today, and then walk you through the grounds and put names (Spider, Dancing Lady, Octopus, Bee, Lady’s Nail Polish, etc.) and even stories to the hundreds upon hundreds of colorful and weirdly shaped floral faces you’ll discover. You’ll never imagine some of these are orchids. Have your camera ready!

Wandering along canopy-covered boardwalks and paths winding through rainforest, all the while gawking at over 2,000 varieties of Asian orchids and Cattelya hybrids is an amazing experience.

Wandering along canopy-covered boardwalks and paths winding through rainforest, all the while gawking at over 2,000 varieties of Asian orchids and Cattelya hybrids is an amazing experience.

The gardens, with dozens if not hundreds of varieties (depending on who you listen to), are open Monday through Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sunday from 9 a.m. to noon. Entry fee is FJD $16 (USD $8.50) per adult, $8 (USD $4.25) for children 6-15 years, and $40 (USD $21) for an entire family (including minor children). www.gardenofsleepinggiant.com

HITT Tip: Be sure to plan enough time to be able to comfortably enjoy a relaxing sit on the building’s covered patio at the main entrance with a complimentary glass of cooling tropical fresh-squeezed juice.

Flowering lilies add wonderful splashes of color in the ponds of the Garden of the Sleeping Giant in Fiji.

Flowering lilies add wonderful splashes of color in the ponds of the Garden of the Sleeping Giant in Fiji.

What to do in Fiji

In the map below, pins mark the exact location of the sites and places to see mentioned in our articles and travel tips on Fiji. Zoom in or out on the map using the controls. Switch easily from map to satellite view. Click on each pin to pull up a tooltip with the name of the destination or location as well as any additional information, including links to stories and articles. This map is the perfect place to begin planning what to do in Fiji for one, two, three or more days.

Garden of the Sleeping Giant

While we will admit to being fans of visiting botanical gardens anywhere in the world, Fiji’s Garden of the Sleeping Giant is one that is truly special.  Yes, really. Even non-flower lovers and non-botanical garden enthusiasts – and there was one among us – should put this on their Fiji list.

Abaca Village

Abaca serves as the Koroyanitu National Park headquarters on the Lautoka side and is a small village set in the middle of practically nowhere in a tropical and somewhat primeval forest wilderness framed by a backdrop of dark green and brown lava-formed mountains from which ribbons of cascading water tumble down into spectacular swimming holes. In typical “Fiji time” manner, the tiny shack of an office may not be staffed, but somebody will saunter over soon enough to sell you a map, tickets, guides or whatever you want. You may even get a visit from shy but curious village kids.

Heads up! This information on Garden of the Sleeping Giant was accurate when we published it on HI Travel Tales, but, as we know, traveling is all about changes (and inflation, sadly). Please be sure to confirm prices, transportation schedules, hours of operation, safety and health considerations, request for perfect weather during your entire visit, and any other important details before your adventure.