10 – 14 April 2013

Kia Island in the horizon surrounded by the Great Sea Reef.

Kia Island in the horizon surrounded by the Great Sea Reef.

Google Earth Map - Kia island

Google Earth Map – Kia island

It was a long 4 hour boat ride from Nukusa Village to Labasa Town where we stayed overnight before heading to Kia Island. We armed ourselves for the next stretch of island village living, quickly shopping for a million little things like Milo, laundry detergent, more mosquito repellent, mosquito coils, junk food and most important – getting new pairs of glasses made, all in one rainy morning before heading to the island nearest the GSR!

In Udu Point, while he went snorkelling, Yogi’s glasses shattered in the supposedly safe Pelican case. Very old spare glasses made Yogi see poorly, so we couldn’t believe our luck that Labasa Town had a wonderful, efficient and obliging optometrist! Dr. Kishore Singh whipped his magic and made Yogi 2 brand new pairs of glasses (and me 1 pair because I got envious) in a few hours, cutting his thumb with Yogi’s old shattered glasses in the process! We had to take a picture of his office while we looked for frames. The good doctor found new frames which matched Yogi’s old frames exactly (a third of what it cost us in Australia) which he purchased from a supplier from Perth! Who would have thought?! We love unexpected “finds” like these.

A classic lab and office. Labasa Optometrist who made Yogi's new glasses in one morning!

A classic lab and office. Labasa Optometrist who made Yogi’s new glasses in one morning!

With super service, we were picked up by Akuila Tutora, the Turaga Nikoro or village leader of Ligau Village of Kia Island. The morning downpour stopped by noon and all our gear were carried to the open fiberglass boat as we headed to beautiful Kia Island – the nearest inhabited island to the Great Sea Reef. It took us around an hour from Labasa to Kia Island. We were right smack in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean and it was a beautiful sight. There are three villages on Kia – Yaro village with the sunrise views and Ligau & Daku with the sunset views.

Kia mountain dominating the landscape while the men of Ligau Village play rugby in the school field one beautiful afternoon.

Kia mountain dominating the landscape while the men of Ligau Village play rugby in the school field one beautiful afternoon.

Kia Island menfolk of Ligau Village play rugby natural running with bare feet on the beautiful school fields of Kia Island

Kia Island menfolk of Ligau Village play rugby natural running with bare feet on the beautiful school fields of Kia Island.

View from top of the mountain showing the turquoise waters of the Great Sea Reef.

View from top of the mountain showing the turquoise waters of the Great Sea Reef.

Just to put this place in context, here is another map to point out where Kia Island is in the South Pacific.  A small island with a monolithic rocky mountain cradled by a barrier reef! And on top of the mountain is an old cannon. To this day, the locals don’t know who owned the cannon. It is a steep climb up with rocks to get there with tall grass hiding the pathways. No, we didn’t even attempt to do a climb…

(click image for full size) Kia Island in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean.

(click image for full size) Kia Island in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean.

The men from Ligau Village had just come back from fishing when we arrived. More than a dozen frigate birds flew very close to the beach picking up discarded baitfish and fish offal, as the fishermen cleaned their fresh catch of the day.

Opportunistic frigate birds swooping in on discarded bait fish and fresh fish guts by the shores of Ligau Village after fishermen come back from fishing and cleaning fish.

Opportunistic frigate birds swooping in on discarded bait fish and fresh fish guts by the shores of Ligau Village after fishermen come back from fishing and cleaning fish.

Fishermen gut out freshly caught fish by the shores of Ligau Village in Kia Island.

Fishermen gut out freshly caught fish by the shores of Ligau Village in Kia Island.

Soon after we arrived and settled into the home of Akuila and his lovely wife Diana, the menfolk played rugby illuminated by the warm afternoon sun, quite a contrast to that morning’s pouring rain in Labasa! After the rugby game, we were treated to a spectacular sunset – our very first in Fiji! I asked the kids following us if they had sunsets like this everyday and they said yes. I asked again, “as in everyday?!” They answered yes. I couldn’t believe it so I asked again, “as in everyday??” And a boy answered “E VERY DAY!” That shut me up with my stupid questions.

Sunset from Ligau Village coast.

Sunset from Ligau Village coast.

For the next four days, we quietly photographed this lovely village. We went to the marine protected area and snorkelled the reef, with Akuila skippering the boat. We watched all the fishing activities that went on from morning to night – fishing being the main source of income for the village. With no electricity in Ligau Village, we photographed how life looked like illuminated by kerosine lamps.

Patricia Mallam WWF South Pacific Communications Manager chats with Kia Island village teens.

Patricia Mallam WWF South Pacific Communications Manager chats with Kia Island village teens.

Night stars out as villager wife with lamp sees her husband out to sea to go fishing.

Night stars out as villager wife with lamp sees her husband out to sea to go fishing.

Preparing early evening supper for the family of Diana and Akuila Tutora in Kia Island in their homey outdoor kitchen.

Preparing early evening supper for the family of Diana and Akuila Tutora in Kia Island in their homey outdoor kitchen.

Akuila Tutora throws a cast net to catch bait fish locally called daniba by the shore.

Akuila Tutora throws a cast net to catch bait fish (locally called daniba) by the shore.

Fijian village men from Kia island preparing their fishing lines.

Fijian village men from Kia island preparing their fishing lines.

Uncle Laitia fixes the Ligau Village community fishnet full of holes. He must pass on the sewing skills to the next generation.

Uncle Laitia fixes the Ligau Village community fishnet full of holes. He must pass on the sewing skills to the next generation.

Fishermen with freshly caught and cleaned fish weigh and sell their fish to the Ligau Village fish trader Penny who in turn supplies it to a Chinese buyer from Labasa.

Fishermen with freshly caught and cleaned fish weigh and sell their fish to the Ligau Village fish trader Penny who in turn supplies it to a Chinese buyer from Labasa.

Man holding up freshly caught reef fish silhouetted against the sunset from Ligau Village coast.

Man holding up freshly caught reef fish silhouetted against the sunset from Ligau Village coast.

Beautiful shallow coral reefs in the marine protected area near Kia Island.

Beautiful shallow coral reefs in the marine protected area near Kia Island.

Split level of shallow coral reef and Kia Island

Split level of shallow coral reef and Kia Island.

WWF Flag unfurled with the community members of Ligau Village and the Freunds.

WWF Flag unfurled with the community members of Ligau Village and the Freunds.