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Friday, 10 May 2013

Serendipity strikes at the Vailima Botanical Garden

Serendipity strikes at the Vailima Botanical Garden

Entrance to the Vailima Botanical Garden
On a recent weekend I decided to go down to Mulinu’u Peninsular to take some photographs of some plants and landmarks (I will be posting the photos in a number of posts later on). Afterwards I decided to go on for a drive on the East Coast Road and take some photos. However, I had this strong feeling of unease about going and just after the bridge at Letogo I decided to listen to my intuition and turned around opting to go up to the Vailima Botanical Garden instead and maybe up to Tiavi also.

When I got to the Vailima Botanical Gardens there were two cars and a motorcycle parked in the small parking lot and not a soul to be seen. I took a couple photos of some Ixora that were in the parking lot and made my way through the main entrance although to be honest I was already disappointed as for a botanical garden what I could see through the chain link fence was pretty dismal.
Ixora (flower buds)
No doubt Cyclone Evan is in part to blame but there really was not much to be seen. There seemed to be some effort to make paths and beds but there was not much growing so I moved along up to where the path to the Pool of Apaula’s Tears and the start of the trail known as O le ala o le alofa which is usually translated as the Road of loving Hearts although as with Robert Louis Stevenson's Samoan name Tusitala being translated as Teller of Tales I have serious issues about the accuracy of the translation but will address that in my blog "The Blood of Souls" which is about language, etymology and translation since this blog is about plants and critters.
Since there are two ways to get to the top (short and steep or long and gradual) I am not sure which one is the original trail cut by those bearing Stevenson’s body up to his final resting place.

I know from previous visits that often there are quite a lot of nice plants that flower along the trails in ideal locations for photographs. That is no rubbish or other human detritus to detract from the photos. But as I approached the start of the trail I saw a sign advising that the trails were closed due to damage by Cyclon Evan and any entry was at your own risk.
Aside from the questionable legal ethics and issues inherent in an official notice stating that the trail is closed and then leaving it open to people to take at their own risk ... I decided that I did not really feel like scrabbling over fallen trees and missing bits of trail especially in jandals with my camera.
Instead I decided to go to the pool and take some photos for a post I want to write for another blog as well as some other writing projects. But again I was thwarted this time by the sound of laughter and splashing and the realisation that some people were no doubt having a Sunday swim. As I did not feel like dealing with people and have never been comfortable taking photos when people are around staring at me I decided that the whole trip had been a bust and that I would do better to come during a week day when the only likely visitors would be tourists if anyone is there at all.

Many-coloured-fruit-dove Ptilinopus perousii

I was just near the gate when a movement in a tree caught my eye so I stopped and all of a sudden the whole trip was salvaged and more than worthwhile because perched up there without a care in the world was a bird I’d never expected to see. A Many Coloured Fruit Dove (Ptilinopus perousii) known in Samoan as a Manuma.

Many-coloured-fruit-dove Ptilinopus perousii

Although the distance was perhaps ten meters or so and the lighting not the best due to the angle of the sun not to mention that the dove was partially hidden by leaves I managed to zoom in and take some photos. Then as I fiddled with the camera, keeping it focused on the dove as I tried to switch through the options to video (to get a clip for the Internet Bird Collection) I accidentally got a setting that greatly improved the lighting and contrast.
Many-coloured-fruit-dove Ptilinopus perousii

After taking a number of photos I decided to try and get some photos from the other side of the tree. Exiting the botanical gardens I saw that I could actually get a much clearer shot of the dove even though it was from behind. Still, it turned its head a few times as if to let me get it in profile. Then lo and behold it turned around and gave me an excellent frontal view turning its head to either side every now and then as if posing for me.
Many-coloured-fruit-dove Ptilinopus perousii

When it finally flew off I was quite satisfied as now I had some pretty decent photos of a bird I had been hoping to see but doubted I would ever get to see.
Many-coloured-fruit-dove Ptilinopus perousii

I ended up going up to Tiavi as well as Papapa Falls and got some more excellent photos including some of a Cardinal honey eater ... which I will share in a later post.
Incidentally after looking it up on the internet to confirm my identification and find the binomial name I saw that it was indeed a Many Coloured Fruit Dove but more specifically a female as the males have more white plumage and lots more colour as well.
Many-coloured-fruit-dove Ptilinopus perousii
Getting There

Take the Cross Island Road up to Vailima. When you approach the big white concrete and Iron fence of the Vailima Estate take the small road that runs along the side towards the mountain. The car park is clearly marked.

Additional Information:

Binomial Name: Ptilinopus perousii
Common names: Many Coloured Fruit Dove (English) Manuama (Samoan)


  • Order: Columbiformes - Family: Columbidae - Genus: Ptilinopus - Species: Ptilinopus perousii
  •  Order: Gentianales - Family: Rubiaceae – Subfamily: Ixoroideae – Tribe: Ixoreae – Genus: ixora

Wikipedia Entry on Many-coloured fruit dove LINK
The Internet Bird Collection LINK

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My other blogs

· Flora and Fauna - Plants and Critters (on plants, animals as well as gardening, conservation and environmental matters):

· The Blood of Souls (language, translation and etymology) :

· Whiskers on Kittens (Life with Kittens and Cats in general) :


  1. WOW!! u have some beautiful shots of the Manuma. What an awesome photo shooting of the pigeon, and was blessing it turned around and more great pictures of her. Vincent, you were just blessed to spot her as this pigeon is very rare. Love all the flowers along the trail to the pool, always see these flowers in Samoa...I call it SUGI in Samoa. Thanks for sharing ur beautiful work in Samoa,very interesting and informative.

  2. Thank you. Yes I need to edit the article and include the information on the ixora / sugi, I usually include the common names in English, Samoan etc when I have them but forgot (I blame the dove for that).I also need to find out what it is called in other pacific island countries. I need to ask my friends in Tonga, Fiji, PNG and around the Pacific.
    I have several varieties of Ixora growing at our place at Alafua (Dwarf Red, Large Red, White, Yellow, Orange and Pink).