The research team here in Fiji has been in the small town of Savusavu on Viti Levu for a few days now and we’ve all decided this is one of the most perfect spots in the world. The town lies along a tranquil stretch of water with dense mangrove forests and craggy, cloud-tipped mountains as our backdrop. The bay is filled with yachts, stopping off on long-distant journeys – although from the sleepy vibe I get from the sailors I get the feeling that no-one is in a hurry to move on. I’ve begun to dream about how rich I would to be to buy a yacht and spend the rest of my days floating across the waves like some kind of modern-day Captain Nemo.
This evening, as the sun sank down behind the mountains, I swam across the channel to the little island that faces our guest house. The water was cool and clear and quickly dropped down beyond my reach. I got within only a few feet of the island’s beach when my feet touched the seabed again. I sat there for a while in the shallows on the coarse coral sand to watch the world go by. A heron with yellow feet flapped by. And a few mangrove seeds came bobbing along with their pleasing buoyancy that has them floating just at the surface pointing up with their tips above the surface. One had germinated with a crown of proto-leaves that looked like a tiny squid.
While we’ve been staying in Savusavu we’ve taken a boat ride out to our study sites – a 40 minute drive west along the coast. The drives have been a glorious part of our day as we all marvel at the blue clear water and beautiful tropical scene we find ourselves in. But tomorrow an even greater adventure begins. We’re moving into the village – Nagigi (pronounced Nai-ini).
We briefly visited a few days ago to conduct the sevu sevu welcoming ceremony (more on that later). And on Friday we dropped off Abigail to start her social science interviews the fisher folk of the village. She’s finding out about how their perceptions of the coral reef and their fishing has changed over time – trying to get a handle on how far the ecological baseline here has changed and what the people here of different generations consider to be ‘normal’ and ‘natural’.
She came back from that first trip beaming and full of stories of the people she had met and spoke to, and the rest of us are excited to get involved in village life for a few days too.
So we have packed up our mobile lab and are ready for a very early start in the morning to get to the village, set up all our stuff, before heading out once more to the reef for more sampling. It’s tough work, but someone has to do it.