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July 13, 2012

Joining Forces

Written by Kirsty Barnby

Island Spirit joins with the Honour Fiji Journey

This collaboration came about after meeting the Director of the Honour Fiji Journey and feeling the we had similar goals. Island Spirit facilitated the groups activities whilst they were staying on Taveuni.

The island activities included four days of applied conservation on the island of Taveuni. A group of eight young individuals from all over the world joined myself (Kirsty), my friend Rochelle and helper from the local village, Ben, to take part on our projects including:

  1. Mangrove planting
  2. Crown-of-thorns clearance
  3. Fish house building
  4. Coral gardening

This special group sailed the ‘Alvei’ tall ship from Tailevu on the main island of Viti levu to Taveuni especially to take part in Island Spirit’s activities. The ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ style tall ship took captain, Evan, eight years to build from a decrepit fishing vessel. It now is as authentic as they come with a 1950s engine, six huge sails and all the old fashioned characteristics of a traditional tall ship.

4th July 2012 – Coral Gardening in the shallow waters at Beverly Campground

Underwater sightings:

  • Small eel in newly planted coral
  • Baby lionfish
  • 2x batfish
  • 1 x banner fish
  • lots of anemone fish in four or five new anemone coral
  • 1 x Yellow and black spot
  • 2 x Pipefish

5th July – MPA snorkel trip, a Taveuni history start telling by village elder and fish house building.

We clambered abroad the minibus and clattered our way along the coconut highway past palm filled verdant valleys and forest vilages to Waitabu, our project village, where Tiko, the Marine Park Manager welcomed us.


Having waited around a while in the warm breeze under the community bure – in typical Fiji time fashion, our motorboat pulled up on shore and we hopped in to be introduced to the Marine Protected Area (MPA) and Fishing Area.

Larry, our guide, told us all about the 13 year-old MPA and how it’s the longest running in Fiji. He told us that our help to build the fish houses is greatly appreciated as the village men farm all day and women fish and look after the houses so there is ofen not enough time to do other things. Our team would help to raise awareness and motivate the younger generation to take part and enspire a habit of giving back to the sea.

Fish houses

5 built in two hours. Equipment included:

  • A piece of ply to mix the cement on
  • Quarter of a bag of cement
  • Sand
  • Water
  • Light weigh rocks
  • Rubber gloves

6th July – Crown-of-thorns clearance,  and more fish house building

We went snorkelling in partners at high tide, each donned with a pair of BBQ thongs, a pair of gloves and an empty oil drum tied to our wrist. The process is easy if you know how but accidents do happen. The reason we use BBQ thongs instead of spearing is because the COT needs to be removed gently so they don’t release their eggs. It you take it easy and don’t panic all will be fine. The problems occur when people start rushing, panicking or showing off. One of our trainees stood on two COTs once they were out of the water because he wasn’t looking where he was going. Ouch. I have never seen a grown man in so much pain before. We had to put a t-shirt in his mouth to help him relieve the pain.

We scrambled over cliff-lined boulders under the canopy of drooping trees to get to the beach on which we were to continue making fish houses which a previous group had started to make. We found a comfortable place on the sand and got to work. The trick is to use lightweight stones as the main material and cement to bind your construction together. It should lean in slightly at the top so the walls don’t collapse and as many crevices and bridges, holes as possible should be make to make it as real as possible. It’s a fun project because the more creative you are (within reason!) the better.