Sunday, October 6, 2013

Amongst It

Fiji has given us our first family snorkel outings since Tonga, which seems so long ago.  The pics below were taken at the Namena Reef reserve, our first stop out of Savusavu.  Divers and boat owners visiting the reef pay a small fee that goes to the village with traditional ownership of the area, and compensates the villagers for not fishing on the reef.  After all of the over-fished reef ecosystems that we've seen, this seems like a promising approach for conservation, though I can imagine a social downside through the loss of traditional fishing activities. 

Two-marine-biologist crew that we are, we went out of our way to find someone who could take our fee.

These are damselfish - blue-green damsels / Chromis viridis, if I'm not mistaken.  The damsels are the Pomacentridae - a ubiquitous, often beautiful, and diverse family of reef fish - our ID book lists 199 species.  I've been paying more and more attention to damsels lately.  They're always there, so that you tend to take them for granted, but when you start paying attention you see how hard they can be to ID, and how many different types are about.

These aren't damsels - they're anthias, and members of a completely different family (though I can see three damsels in the photo as well).   We've seen almost no anthias, so I was very excited to see this group, though I wasn't able to identify them.
Eric is a champ on our family snorkel outings, paddling along in goggles and life jacket, breathing through a snorkel even though he never puts his head in the water.  

The trouble comes afterwards, when we're showering off back on the mothership.  Eric hates having his face or hair washed - to the point where doing either involves a complete full-volume screaming/crying tantrum.  Who brought a three-year-old on this trip? I say every time.

The solution, we've found, is to shower him while he's wearing his goggles and has his snorkel in his mouth.  Alisa thinks he's still crying a bit, but that the snorkel mutes it...

Namena Island was a fun stop, but there is no village on the island, so we weren't really engaging with Fiji while we were there.  All that began at our next stop, Makongai Island.

These village kids are fast, Elias says. 

That's me above in my village-formal kit - a sulu to be exact - on the day we made sevusevu at Makongai.  As I noted in an earlier post, this spot isn't a village - it's a fisheries station dedicated to the rearing of giant clams and green sea turtles that occupies the site of an old leper colony.  But visiting yachts still do the proper thing with sevusevu - the traditional request for permission to be in the precincts of a village, with a ritual gift of yaqona.

Dressed up for a visit to shore.
Makongai gets heaps of yachts passing through, but the people living there give very little indication of being burned out with the endless visitors.

On our second night there was an "entertainment" for the yachties in the anchorage.  Normally we stay away from canned demonstrations of traditional culture.  But this was a fundraiser, with contributions requested to help pay for a trip to the main island of Viti Levu by the island schoolchildren, which is an obviously good cause.  And the locals were so gracious about the whole thing - the invitation so sincerely made, the entertainment attended by everyone living at the site and presented with such obvious good will, that we were very pleased to attend.

Eric isn't sucking his thumb - he's imitating Lisa's performance of a whale call.

The yaqona bowl.  Yaqona is more familiarly known to us by the Polynesian name of kava.  It's the traditional grog of Melanesia.  The triangular emblem on the front of the bowl traditionally points at the chief, and the guys doling out the yaqona made a big joke of making sure it was pointing at one of the yachties - who happened to be me.

A couple of Hungarian sailors who have spent the entire season in Fiji taught me to say "high tide!" to request a full ration when my yaqona cup was being filled.  They also egged me on to say "taki".  It's how the chief calls for another round to be served out, they explained.  Say it, say it, they told me.  Everyone will love it.

So I called out taki, twice.  There was a muttering of taki in the crowd on the pandanus mats, but no further round of yaqona was produced.  Then two men excused themselves and the sound of pounding started up nearby.  Instead of explaining that the yaqona bowl was empty, our hosts were graciously pounding the root to prepare more.

We knew that the entertainment had nearly finished off the local supply of yaqona, and I felt crestfallen at having been unwittingly rude enough to demand more.  My only consolation was that I had brought in a second bundle beyond my sevusevu contribution when the word went out that the local yaqona supply was low. 

The local kids have been practicing for an upcoming dance competition, and provided the entertainment.

After the dancing and singing was through, the second bowl of yaqona saw the yachtie-local fraternization deep into the night.  The Galactics, though, excused themselves early and got the younger crew to bed...

The end.


  1. I'd been following along since last year from my phone. There should be a disclaimer to visit the full site like I did today. Thanks for all the photos and on family cruising.


    p.s. snorkel showers are genius! I laughed a bit.

    1. Thanks, Adam, glad you're enjoying it. Spread the word!