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From kilts to kava

Kate Findlay
Tuesday, November 08, 2011

IT'S three months into my adventure interning with WWF-South Pacific and I'm living the dream - tagging along with our inspirational boss Kesaia Tabunakawai (the office's first female and indigenous head) and Dr Isabelle Louis, WWF's director of the Asia-Pacific, as they tour our field sites in the Macuata province in honour of WWF's 50th anniversary.

Coming from Scotland, I feel tiny and pallid in this land of giants. I flew to Fiji in July a day after graduating with Honours in Zoology in a whirlwind that took me from kilts and whisky to sulu and grog to start my new life as what I call a 'real person' - with a career and flat of my own in Suva.

On Monday, I'm up at 4am. My taxi leaves at half past to take me to the ferry bus stop and I haven't even packed!

I run out the door half-dressed and half-packed only to run back in when I miss the ordered taxi.

Next, a frantic scramble to tear out taxi numbers in the Yellow Pages and back outside my apartment to wait.

On a wing and a prayer, I manage to successfully catch a taxi to the bus, seconds to spare. Oi lei, how very un-Fijian of me, I need to relax!

Arriving in Labasa at 4pm, I join my two crisp and fresh-looking bosses who took the 45-minute flight from Suva, rather than what amounted for me to a 12-hour taxi-bus-ferry-bus-taxi 'adventure'.

While I enjoyed the journey, noticeably starting to fall asleep in a meeting with two eminent figures in my field is something I do look back on with embarrassment.

Fiji's most biologically significant marine site lies just offshore of Labasa.

Under cover of the ocean where few get to see, lies a massive 200km long reef, called Cakaulevu or the Great Sea Reef, which is longer than Vanua Levu itself. Home to myriad coral species, the humphead wrasse (varivoce), migratory and resident sea turtles, spinner dolphins, manta rays and sharks, it's a zoologist's dream to see and a conservationist's challenge to protect.

Join me on my travels in this column as I transverse Vanua Levu on a mission to see the great things WWF has achieved in its 15 years of marine work in Fiji; and what we're doing today to achieve our mission: ensuring the richness and resilience of Pacific Island ecosystems are managed and conserved in harmony with the sustainable development needs of its people.

* To be continued next Tuesday.





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