the journey

Fiji Seacology Trip

Bula (hello) and Vinaka Vakalevu (thank you so much) still want to tumble from my lips when I reflect upon the last week with my parents, members of Seacology, and the people of Cousteau resort. I can clearly see everyone's smiling eyes and feel our elevated spirits as we easily slipped into a delightful week together.

Meeting my parents in Fiji was motivated by two goals. Primarily it was to spend time together in a place that would be very comfortable and inspiring for all of us. Secondly, it was a time for us to visit some Seacology ( projects and learn more first hand about the work they are doing to preserve islands around the world.

Initially, our days were filled by enjoying waking in sumptuously clean sheets (a real treat for us), eating delicious meals harvested from the organic gardens, reading the stacks of magazines brought by my parents, talking, holding hands with my mom and exploring a newly established marine reserve. We waddled down the pier daily to plunge into the reserve just off the resort or to hop into one of the boats that took us to a local snorkel site. These were all delightful family adventures.

Exploring the reef and talking with Pete a spokesman for his village, Nukubalavu and activities man at Cousteau we learned how quickly the year of no take fishing had affected the reef. We loved exploring the coral bommies that seemed to be blooming with tons of juvenile parrot fish, baby sharks, beche de mer cucumbers, giant clams (a reintroduction project), and schools of small mullet, a turtle, not to mention one 2 foot grouper (all important food sources and identifying species for healthy reefs). In addition, we were continually struck by the beauty of the black and white sea snake, eels, lionfish, and clown fish we searched for during our daily ritual.

When we came back with reports to Pete of the key food species we spotted he has a sparkle in his eye and explained that most of this was no here a year ago and already the village and townspeople who used this reef as fishing grounds were beginning to see the spill over, further solidifying their support for Seacology and the Marine Protected Area (MPA). The great thing about all of it, Pete said, is that there is really buy in by the villagers who were once skeptical because they are already seeing results and will continue to do so as fish grow and spill out of the reserve into current fishing grounds.

There was something really special about visiting these villages, sharing it with my parents, and seeing how proud and joyful the people were for choosing to preserve a marine area or a forest and for receiving a kindergarten or community center in return.

The people of Nukubalavu and Ketei villages genuinely welcomed us into their hearts and were touchingly grateful for making their choices possible through Seacology. It would have taken 10 years for Ketei to raise the funds to build a community center that they built in exchange for 900 acre forest reserve with a rare tree living within it. Feeling how proud and appreciative the people were and seeing the reef protected and beginning to come back to life we were given hope for the future for the people of Vanua Levu and for us all.

Vinaka Vakalevu for giving us inspiration and hope.