Every year we usually receive tourists in our village. We are known around the world for ‘turtle calling,’ and for this we created our marine reserve for the people coming to see it. We want to boost this project as ecotourism.
We have a special tradition. Before we go to see the turtles we have a kava ceremony and storytelling of the legend. Then we go down to the point and the women perform a special meke – a traditional song and dance, and the turtles will come up.
Our forefathers told us the story about how this came to be. The turtles were once humans. They went out snorkeling off the shores of our neighboring village and were caught by fishermen and put into their boat. The only way for them to escape was to turn into turtles. They melted through the boat and once they were back in the water, they changed into turtles and swam all the way back to our village, to the point (see photo at right). This is where we call the turtles.
Our old stories are interpreted through body language and musical instruments – a tradition called meke. As our forefathers didn’t have pen and paper, they relayed the stories from father to son in this way. We are very lucky to keep our natural heritage, which allows us to still be a turtle calling community.
And with the ecotourism, we won’t stop people from coming to see the turtles, but we still hold onto our old culture and we have to follow the traditional system for seeing the turtles. So if any of our neighbors from overseas want to come and see the turtles, they will follow the tradition also.
The most important thing for me and my community is to prosper and have a sustainable life concerning our marine reserve, since we now are facing problems within our marine areas – especially our consumption of fish, which we usually have in our table everyday – is now becoming so scarce. With the project, we hope that we will sustain and prosper our marine resources.
In 2004, Mr. Tawake and his team from the Fiji LMMA Network (FLMMA) began a workshop here in Kadavu at the government station in Vunisea. From this, I bring the idea to the village and have a meeting with the village to direct them in the ways for people to have a sustainable life with the marine reserve. With this marine reserve project, we’re very lucky. We Fijians have resources that other people in the world don’t have. We have the environmental resources but not the financial ones. But in the meantime we are keeping our resources intact in order to achieve a big future tomorrow.
Photos: Aminiasi (below left) and Turtle calling point of Namuana Village (below right), both by Toni Parras