Earlier this year Jim Valentine opened his Flora Tropica Gardens just 3 k down the road from Daku and since then we’ve sent a lot of our guests to visit them. The gardens have a magnificent display of flora with an emphasis on palms – Jim has collected over 300 varieties from all over the world. The gardens are a jewel in Savusavu’s collection of places to visit, and they could hold their own anywhere in the world.
The palm collection includes sugar palms from South East Asia, a buriti from the Amazon, a black wanga palm from Sulawesi, peach palms from Brazil, a Marquesas palm, a snakeskin fishtail palm from Vanuatu, a foxy lady – a cross with an Australian palm and a Fijian palm, a Bismarck palm from Madagascar and the Blessed Palm from Madagascar which was discovered as recently as 2007.
Jim has lived in Savusavu for over 20 years, developing his plant nursery and landscaping business. The property is spread over 5 acres. The impetus behind opening the gardens for tours came from his wife Marijani who has effectively turned her artistic design talents to making the gardens what they are.
A solid timber walkway runs through the gardens, starting off at a tranquil lily pond at the bottom of the hill and then winding up through the plant beds. Apart from the palms, he has a variety of other plants including40 types of tropical fruit trees, a baobab tree, many types of heliconia, varieties of ginger, scented plants, many bougainvilleas and a traveler palm which is actually not a palm but related to the bird of paradise.
At the top there’s a sweeping view over the hills. Jim walks his guest round, describing the plants and displaying a considerable depth of knowledge during the 2 hours (approximately) it takes.
The gardens are open daily Monday – Friday.
There’s a regular tour at 10.00am (F$20) and you can make an appointment for a different time if it suits you (F$30). Jim asks people to let him know they are coming for the morning tour “so I can at least make sure I have a clean t-shirt” he says – so give him a call on +679 850 591 or mobile +679 921 4600.