30 Oct 2019

The Delightful Duff Islands

Tahua Island, Duff Islands, Secrets, N.Nightingale

Overnight we had travelled far to the northeast, to Taumako in the remote Duff Islands. In the morning we took the Zodiacs in through a shallow pass in the reef to a beautiful, wide sandy beach backed by lush, forest covered hills topped by towering craggy rocks. It was an idyllic spot. We spent the morning snorkelling and exploring the beach. Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Bar-tailed Godwits and Pacific Golden Plover patrolled the shoreline while the forest behind was home to Cardinal Myzomelas.

In the afternoon we visited a small coastal village on the same island. On arrival we were given garlands of flowers before the villagers entertained us with songs and dances during which part of an upturned canoe made a very effective drum.

We then spent time walking round this remote community. A clearing with the school was surrounded by palms and forest, in which there was a large roost of Solomons Flying Foxes as well as Palm Lorikeets. Talking with the villagers, we heard how infrequently the island has any supply ships - usually one every couple of months - but sometimes the gaps are up to six months. Spirit of Enderby is also the only tourist ship to visit, once a year. So everyone here has to be incredibly self-sufficient. However, they also explained how the outside world is affecting their lives through climate change, with hotter local temperatures, more powerful storms and the worry of rising sea levels.

This was brought home to us when we visited the tiny artificial island of Tahua, just opposite Taumako. It was about the size of 3 or 4 tennis courts and the thatched houses built on stilts were home to about 100 people. Built entirely from natural stone, its only protection from the sea were low walls, against which the waves were crashing. To those of us who live on land, it felt very vulnerable. This was a unique and isolated community, living in much the same way as they had done for generations, while the world around them is changing fast.

Image (c) Tahua, Duff Islands, N.Nightingale

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