July 8, 2008

Bonefish!!! Aitutaki!!!

30 inch bonefish in Aitutaki. This is probably the holy grail of fly-fishing. I’m ecstatic beyond description…

Some more pics and a decription of my Cook Island trip below...

Cook Islands!

The adventure started with the work I had in the Cooks. Absolutely gorgeous, I love it. Think tropical Hermanus with Maoris! Great food, great people, super scenery. Place has an incredible art scene and vibe. Just had a awesome time. Of course I dived, shopped, hiked, snorkeled, cocktailed, sunset-ed, dined, danced, slept, worked. Oh, most of this was of course funded for the job – thank you to the European Union! [And financially NOT how things look like in Fiji!]. But in all fairness - got a lot of work done and things went really well. Had an “Island Night” on my birthday eve. So danced with Polynesian girls in those hula skirts and coconut bra’s – and INCREDIBLE drumming. Quite a show. Had 2 good dives – not as great as Fiji but saw sharks, and 2 eagle rays, awesome.

Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Avarua, Capital of Rarotonga, the main island in the Cooks. Scooters are everywhere!

Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Our workshop venue looked over this beach, literally just down the stairs. Its usually a wedding venue. Its actually ridicules working in a place like this, too gorgeous.

Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Lunch with friends and WWF colleagues Diane and Jyotishma.
(Johanni, I predictably had the crème brule!).


Orchid farm - I Iike the pic.


This is, without hyperbole, one of the most spectacular places on the planet. Rated by some as one of the seven natural wonders of the world. The watercolour is just indescribable – ranging from gin-clear to shades of turquoise, to the deepest beautiful dark blues. It’s a HUGE (45km across) tropical atoll/lagoon, dotted with about 15 islands, and incredibly has not been decimated by tourism (but of course their everywhere). About a 40min flight North from Rarotonga, I last minute tagged this trip on for some leave. Flyfishing here rates as one of the highlights of my life. Ill keep the description short, will update the guys on it in detail (email me)! I went out with a guide Butch Leone, who lives there. What a legend – he moved here from the US ten odd years ago, and a surfing and flyfish nut. First day, Butch was really disappointed – but I had caught more fish than in my entire saltwater flyfishing career. 2nd day fished on my own, “only” caught 2 (small) kings and lost a couple, but a great day out. Sat on a deserted tropical island having a lunch of baked beans (you can wade the flats between some islands). Next day, fished with Butch again, lost a nice king – bastards are really dirty fighters; which is why we love them. Well, in the late afternoon I hooked into that bone (fishing of a skiff, while getting poled along by Butch, sightfishing for kings and bonefish – which incidentally, is possibly the most fun you can have with your pants on, hell, probably with them off!!). Well after a 30min fight, and having him run me about 6-7 times into the backing, I got him. Quick pics (thanks for the pics Butch!) and of course a release. Butch was more happy then me – wants me to post him the pic in a frame to hang in the local bar! What a day…


1 Foot Island, Aitutaki. WOW! Look at that watercolour. I unashamedly did not take lots of pics – fished my heart out. This was the most beautiful island of them all!


Aitutaki from the air. Google it! I caught the bonefish in the inside of the curved island, Akiami, furthest to the right of the pic.

More Flyfishing pics!

The bonefish here are abnormally big. Really. As Butch puts it: “If you want to catch a bonefish, go to the Caribbean. If you want to catch the fish of your life, fish Aitutaki”.

Figure descriptions below:
1. Kingfish on! Nice fight but I lost him…
2. Bonefish. What a beast!
3. That’s me, fighting a snapper on a flat into a deep channel.
4. Fighting the bonefish. Where’s my backing gone!?
5. Butch standing on the skiff, scanning the flats.
6. The skiff.

June 8, 2008

Shark Dive (7 June)

I did a shark dive, without the cage… INSANE!!!

Divers take you down to about 25m, and you stand with your back to some coral, and hold on to a rope (for protection?!). the guides go into the “arena” (about 5m in front if you) and open up a bucket with some chum and things just get wild. There is a HUGE swirling mass of fish – biggest kingfish Ive seen, hundreds of remoras, huge snappers, hundreds of smaller reef fish. I even got to see a huge Napolean Wrasse – if you dive, you’ll know thats SPECTACULAR. Then the nurse sharks arrive, and gently take the fish out of the guys hands! All the time there where two silvertips swirling around, checking us out… They take divers in two’s into this the baitball, right in the mass of fish, and I got to stroke a 3m nurse shark, top to tail! WHOOHW! And then later out of the murky waters, BANG! a bullshark hits the bait and rips into it. Right in front of me. its simply crazy! (South Africans call them Zambezi sharks – quite notorious). I was scared in the boat, but never in the water with the sharks. A child like fascination just takes over and youre full of adrenalin… Pic above is from the web, same place - but with a tiger! Pity I couldnt see a tigershark, there is apparently a real hog that hangs around...

I guess a lot can be said about the ethics of sharkfeeding, its been debated to pieces, but I simply was in awe and had a fantastic time. All things considered, I support it. It was mind-blowing…

Turtle Ball!

We (the WWF) hosted a Turtle Benefit Ball to aid Turtle conservation in the region. The Turtle is a VERY big cultural icon here, and the ball was attended by Mr. Rambuka (the first coup leader, he’s very well respected by many Fijians – Kinda like having Nelson or Tutu at the ball!). So I borrowed clothes from 4 different people, and we partied like crazy!! It was a FANTASTIC evening, good food, music, decor, girls in gowns…

June 2, 2008

I haven’t been posting for a while but here goes:

I did some nice trips, see pics and info below. Other than that just been behind the computer working (yes that’s what I actually do here), and been really ill for some time. I went to an Indian wedding, which was AWESOME! Boring white dress and cake pales into insignificance against the way these guys do it. It’s a nonstop party for three days! Coming up: I’m going to the Cook Island for 3 weeks in mid june, and will take some leave to travel there. And yes I’ve already hooked up with dive operators and a flyfishing guide to take me bone fishing on the flats!

Sovi Basin Hike

I went hiking with the outdoor “Rucksack Club” in this is a rather remote stretch of primary rainforest, maybe 10000 hectares in size. Nobody gets up here, we where the first (and probably only) tourist group this year. Its one of the only remaining stretches of lowland rainforest in Polynesia. You first have to do a “sevusevu” (ceremony) at the village to get guides and permission. This involves a VERY traditionally ceremony drinking Kava (local narcotic drink – I love it!), and a lot of talking and sitting! Awesome! We hiked up the river, crossing it several times over 2 days. Hiked upriver some more, then took a single bamboo shoot ride down it! You squeeze it between your legs, jump into the rapid and off you go! This was a bit hairy, and I have the bruises to prove it. At night the guides made us some rourou (traditional veg) inside the bamboo on the fire and we spent the nights, drinking kava with them and chatting about rugby. Next day the guides built us a “bilibili” or bamboo raft, and we floated back to the village. It was simply spectacular, one of the coolest things ive done here!!

Sovi Basin: "Bilibili" the bamboo rafts we used on the return

Sovi Basin: A river crossing. It somtimes got a bit hard!

Sovi Basin: A river crossing.

Big trees huh? Their invasives from Africa!

Sovi Basin: We hiked up this gorge...

Sovi Basin: Hand on Kava

The SevuSevu is a gift, which we presented to the village. Here the leaders hand is on some Kave, while he is reciting something (a welcome? a prayer? I dunno - it was in Fijian!)

Sovi Basin: "SevuSevu"

This is a Tanua - bowl in which the Kava is prepared. It doesnt have much of a kick, but is really, mmm... relaxing!!


I spent a week doing some work on this tiny island nation. The place is just incredible, and hard to describe! It’s like the 4th smallest country in the world, and lies halfway between Hawaii and Australia in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Find that on a map! The runway is just about half of the island, you can just make it out on one of the photographs from the plane. An alarm sounds, and people need to clear cars and pigs off the runway, and as the plane lands there are lots of people waving and greeting you. The plane only lands once on Tuesdays and Fridays, so its quite an event! Its really remote (I think its about the most remote place on the planet Ive been so far) so theres very little fresh veg etc. The people are really friendly and welcoming, so its was a joy! I was meant to go fishing at night with some locals, which involves catching flying fish with a net (!!) but unfortunately the trip was cancelled last minute. Pity I couldn’t stay longer… It is at the forefront of the battle against climate change, a slight rise in sea level will inundate the place. One cant imagine such a world exists...

Tuvalu: Airport

Blue is the airport, orange a goverment building and my hotel behind it. Im standing on the runway, where the aircraft parks! Its about 50m from my hotel to the airplane!

Tuvalu: Child

Tuvalu: Outer reef from airplane

Tuvalu: Man standing over burning rubbish.

Being so small, the waste just builds up, and Tuvalu has a HUGE waste management problem. People live between the rubbish...

Tuvalu: This is Funafuti, the main island. spot the runway!

Diving and rafting on the Navua river

Did a weekend trip taking a boat up the Navua river, spending launch at a FANTASTIC waterfall up in a gorge, then catching “billiblii” bamboo raft down. Next day went on a wreck dive, again it was spectacular despite some heavy seas. I got to see garden eels and ribbon eels all on dive – GREAT! Thats a ribbon eel above…

April 9, 2008

Outdoor club - coming soon!

I joined an outdoor club yesterday. So coming is up is some mountain hikes, some river rafting and possibly a shark dive. With the chumming and the feeding and the tiger sharks, but without the cage… Mmm… should be interesting… Will update you on that!

South African film festival (7th April)

I was invited by our High Commission in Fiji (not a big deal, im one of 7 SA citizens here, and it was free anyway!) to a South African film festival in honour of Freedom day (which is only like 27th April!). It was SOOO cool! Drank Roodeberg and Windhoeks, which apparently cost them lots to import (although I try not to use imported goods much, for climate change reasons, I couldnt resist!). They showed “Yesterday” which is a pretty good movie, go watch it. It has some fantastic shots of the Drakensberg (which really made me miss… flyfishing).

EarthHour (29th March):

This campaign was pretty big here (Google it!). All the media got involved - 12 radio stations, all newspapers and the 1 TV station! The pics below was for the function on the night, we had traditional warriors carry a torch and light candles which paddlers released on Suva Harbour, symbolizing all the islands of Fiji. Korny, but it was pretty cool! Here is me with some of the EarthHour team...

Earthour: Warriors with torch

Earthour: Canoes in Suva Harbour

EarthHour: They showed this pic of mine on CNN!! Yea!

Nukulau Island (20th March):

As part of a community outreach we train guys to do coral reef surveys so we can remotely monitor things like coral bleaching, caused by climate change. It was off Nukulau Island, close too Suva, the capital. The diving aint great, but hey, it was free!

So here, while doing a survey the measuring tape broke, and I had to wound it up by hand (in my left hand). Not cool at 18m. But other than that – all OK!

Nukulau Island

Some of the community members we where training, just chilling on the pier...

Nukulau Island

After a dive with my survey team...

Nukulau Island

Drinking coconut, straight from the tree. One of the locals got it (its like 10m up the tree) and removed the husk. Its quite hard, I tried and made a fool of myself!

Nukulau Island

Doing the dishes... island style!

I watched a sevens rugby match… Please note the line-refs flag – a branch!

Diving: Benqa lagoon (in mid- March)

This is a world famous dive site, and WOW!! Im not even going to try and describe it… If you dive, you’ll know what I mean. Refer to the pic below!! What was a bit dodge was the lack of weights on the boat, and the dodgy equipment; I wont go with those operators again…

March 12, 2008

Action pic of me snorkeling in Caqalai!!

...with shirt on but after the sunburn... damit!

First a little introduction…

So after 5 flights on a 48 hrs transit, I arrived in the capital, Suva (and then slept for 18hrs straight). I’m working with the WWF the conservation group, not the damn wrestlers! see link right. I work on climate change mainly, but on everything from funding to coral reef surveys to press releases. Typical conservation work – loads of work, little funding or people to do it. But I’m enjoying the exposure of working with a major NGO. Staff are awesome and mainly Indian so roti’s and curries for lunch – Great! Suva is typical tropical 3rd world, hot and dirty and the people are ridiculously friendly; I’m loving it!! Ive only been out of the city once, to Caqalai Island, which the rest of the blog is about…

March 11, 2008

Tropical paradise...

This is the transport boat you come in with on the journey to Caqalai island, moored next to the island. That image you have in your head of palm trees and white sand and perfect turquoise beaches?? Well I found it!

Soft coral

Here is an image I didnt take of someone I dont know in a place in Fiji that I havent seen (yet!) BUT, really, this is what it looks like underwater!!!

Caqalai Island... (I took this pic!)

On the weekend I went to Calaqai Island, maybe 45min by car and another 30min by boat from the capital, Suva, with some Ozzie friends (pronounced Thangalie – the funny spelling and pronounciations make life hard finding a street etc. nobody understands me, but im picking up a bit of Fijian. But everybody speaks English well). The whole island is about 2 ha big!!! I just got back, sunburnt and tired as hell. The snorkeling is FANTASTIC! You guys have no idea. Millions of colourful coral reef wish and hard and soft corals in red, yellow, purple, etc. We don’t get much soft coral in SA so its great to see!! I stayed in the water for ever. Hence the burning. You will only get it if you have seen pristine coral. I cant wait to dive here, so glad I did the course…and, Ive seen almost 5 endemic birds now. And the food is great! One night they made lovo, which is fish and chicken and vegies whatever wrapped in leaves and cooked in a smoky shallow pit oven. Then you have Kava, a slightly narcotic drink which tastes like eating a tree. Very traditional. Complicated ceremony to have it; with one clap before you accept from the communal cup, then you down it, and three claps to say thanks. I was hoping for more of an affect, alcohol is prohibitively expensive here!!!

March 6, 2008

Something dull about the capital I copied:

Suva is the capital city of the Fiji Islands. It is located on the southeast coast of the island of Viti Levu. Suva is a city of vibrant cultural heritage with a population of over 80, 000 within the city boundary and caters to twice that number when we consider greater Suva and the immediate surrounds of the city. It is a multiracial city comprising of Fijians, Indians, Europeans, Part-Europeans, Chinese, & other pacific Islanders. English is the main written and spoken language, with Fijian, Indian and other Asian languages also being spoken by ethnic communities.