THE Honour Fiji Journey finally begins as we have lowered the anchor in the bay of Nataleira Village close to Moon Reef.
The goal of our journey is to bridge the gap between traditional Fijian knowledge and modern science in a coerced effort to improve marine ecology during our 10-week tour around Fiji.
We're sailing in the tall ship Alvei with a crew of 12 from Fiji, the US, New Zealand and Europe.
Our first stop from Suva was Makogai Island where we picked up over 100 young giant clams to be seeded by Moon Reef.
The clams have to be seeded in couples, one male (reddish) and one female (orange) clam together in order for the clams to produce new baby clams.
Moon Reef has been chosen as our first official stop because of its status as a Marine Ecology Park and great cultural significance to the villagers — it is considered sacred and the home of ancestral spirits.
When arriving at Moon Reef we were welcomed by a pod of spinner dolphins who visit the reef on a regular basis.
They played in the bow wave and we were awed to see them. Apart from seeding clams by Moon Reef we also took pictures of the reef to see the state it's in.
We were happy to see a living colourful reef with lots of fish and very few crown of thorn starfish.
There are few places with damage, and here it is very obvious to see how much harm a single misplaced anchor can do to a reef.
The weather has been rough with waves and wind, but we donned snorkelling gear and managed to seed the clams in short time with one male and one female to each pair.
A few lucky males got two females
At shore there's also work to do to aid the reef.
We're planting mangrove trees, collecting a big bunch of the cigar shaped seeds as well as foot-long sprouted seedlings from the existing mangrove.
The seedlings are planted out at the edge of the mangrove, and we've also started a nursery for the seeds.
They're placed in plastic cups filled with sand to protect the roots and dug into the ground with about half the seed sticking up.
Once the seeds have sprouted, they'll be planted out to cover a larger area with mangrove.
The plastic cups can be reused for future nurseries and won't pollute the ground.
The mangroves are very important to the local ecosystem, protecting against coastal erosion which is a big problem and can cause entire villages to have to relocate further inland.
Furthermore, the mangroves act as a filter, trapping excess inland erosion from rivers going into the sea, and hence protecting reefs further out.
If there's too much erosion coming from the land to sea, the reefs can be smothered in eroded material which simply suffocates the reef polyps, keeps out the sun and causes the reef to die.
The mangrove can also filter spill water from villages without a sewage cleaning system, which is hard to incorporate and maintain in most small island villages.
Our methods are simple and don't demand any special equipment, but a shovel and some snorkelling gear, and still makes a positive impact on reefs and marine ecology.
? Nina Teisen is a member of the Honour Fiji Journey.