Friday 12 July 2013

Fiji: Enter the Turtle

A Fijian resort is naturally a very controlled environment. There's plenty of nature on show, but it's present in the form of neatly tended tropical vegetation, or a postcard-perfect ocean view from a beachside restaurant.

But sometimes, nature in its wild form wanders in unannounced.

I was chatting on my recent Fiji visit to Talei Tora, communications manager at the Outrigger on the Lagoon, when she mentioned a remarkable thing which had happened at the Coral Coast resort earlier in the year.

On 11 April, guests looking out to sea could see a greenback turtle within the lagoon that sits in front of the resort, sheltered by a coral reef. The sea turtle was a big specimen, about 1.5 metres long, and had somehow found its way over the reef and was looking distressed.

These green turtles are remarkable creatures. They live in oceans across the world, migrating up to 2500 kilometres to spawn; can live up to 150 years; and weigh up to 300 kilograms. Despite international treaties protecting them, they're also endangered, mostly due to human practices such as hunting.

So it was heartening to hear of the human response on this occasion. Resort staff contacted fisheries officers, and together they nutted out the problem of how to get such a large creature back to deep water.

The solution was an everyday garden object: a wheelbarrow. The 80 kilogram turtle was eased onto it, then wheeled to a waiting ute. It was then driven to the nearby Shangri-La resort, where staff from the onsite dive shop helped the creature back into the sea off the resort's marina.

Fittingly, the spot they chose to release the greenback is known as Turtles' Wall.

For all the luxury and organisation of the Outrigger, I'll bet the strongest holiday memory of the resort's guests that day was of this unscheduled intrusion by the wild; a reminder that we're all part of the same green, interconnected world, no matter how much we might try to keep nature under control.

Disclosure time... On this trip I was hosted by the Outrigger on the Lagoon resort.

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