The seldom seen Fiji crested iguana (Brachylophus vitiensis) is one of the few large reptiles living in the South Pacific and found only on a handful of islands in Fiji. Averaging 40cm in length (split evenly between body and tail), they are distinguished from the more common and slightly smaller banded iguana by three thin white stripes around the body and a mohican-style head-dress. If aroused, their skin turns from a pale green colour to jet black.

These fascinating creatures were first discovered by Australian zoologist John Gibbons in 1979 on the tiny island of Yadua Taba, which nuzzles its larger sister Yadua 20km off the western tip of Vanua Levu. The 170-acre uninhabited island, declared as Fiji’s first wildlife reserve in 1981, is home to around twelve thousand crested iguanas, which eat the leaves and flowers of the island’s wild hibiscus trees. Other habitats include Monuriki in the Mamanucas and several small islands in the Yasawas, although populations at these locations are small. The only way to visit Yadua Taba is on a scientific research project, but you can view the iguanas without disturbing their natural habitat at Kula Eco Park on the Coral Coast.

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