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.
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.
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
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