What I didn't know about Fiji. Until now:
Cast Away, the movie
Fiji was once known as the Cannibal Isles. Yes, indeed, the ancestors of some of the village chiefs I met might have eaten missionaries or chiefs of tribes they conquered. I've heard two different stories about why the Fijians engaged in cannibalism. One, that it was the ultimate revenge to eat your conquered enemy. The other was that it conveyed power.
The last person eaten was an English missionary, the Reverend Thomas Baker of East Sussex, who arrived in 1867 to the village of Nabutautau.
That's a hell of a wrong turn. But then, the village suffered bad luck (or would we say karma?) for decades. They felt they were cursed. So just a few years ago, the village invited Baker's descendants to Fiji so they could apologize. Things seem to be going better for the village these days. How nice.
Boa constrictors can give you a nice, cozy hug. But there are very few snakes of any kind in Fiji. The mongoose was introduced in the late 1800's to control rats scurrying around the sugar cane plantations on the main island. Bye-bye snakes, land-dwelling birds and amphibious creatures. Hello mongoose crossing the road.
The snake you see here is housed at Kula Eco Park on the Coral Coast of Viti Levu.
Strange thing about this particular snake It was male (that's not the strange part) and very calm with me. The handler says it's because this particular snake likes females.
He says the snake (didn't catch its name) tried to slither away from the men who held it, but was relaxed and "happy" hanging with me. A snake can tell the sex of the person holding it??
Its other end, which you can't see behind my back, gripped me tightly. It was an interesting feeling...snug. Seriously, like a hug. Try it some time.
2. Cannibal Forks, from Jack's, the major souvenir chain in Viti Levu, Fiji.
3. Me, boa constrictor friend, at exhibit hall of Shangri-La's Fijian Resort and Spa
Photos 1 and 2: Ellen Perlman. Photo 3: Ung Beng Huat, general manager, Warwick Fiji Resort and Spa, Coral Coast