There’s something oddly calming in roaming a forest alone. Man-made structures guide you through the labyrinths of tangled trees, and the siren song of wildlife is a constant. On my first day in Fiji, I wandered through Kula Eco Park, a 28-acre untouched wildlife reserve in the Fiji Island of Vita Levu. Right now it’s “off season” in Fiji as most tourists tend to travel here in August through November, so I occupied this virtually overlooked spot by myself. While I initially dreaded the forecast — two weeks of straight rain — I’ve learned that during the day it’s warm and clear and the rain tends to come down, pretty heavily at times, in the late afternoon trailing into evening. As someone who retreats from crowds, I’m pleased that I’ve come in December, for the rain is bearable and the island serene and quiet.
But back to the Park! To be candid, I didn’t think I’d go in for a spot filled with indigenous + rare creatures (birds, reptiles snakes and marine life inhabit the reserve), but as I felt the tickle of iguanas race up my back (they tend to prefer high spots as a defense mechanism) and fawned over the exotic coral and peacock plumage, I fell in love with the tranquil of the forest. You could say that I felt protected. Arguably, that sounds a bit odd — taking comfort in a place where one could get lost — but I couldn’t encapsulate what I felt other than to think of the word mother. Which is not to say that I conjured old feelings and memories of years past, but the idea of a mother, the very image of one who cradles and protects, felt very apropos in explaining this experience.
Granted, I could have done a better job at jotting down the species of the feathered dwellers (I know my former bird-watching colleague, Ben, would have a field day with some of my photographs!), but it felt right to simply watch and listen to the deep.