Where’s your itsy bitsy teenie weenie RED polka dot bikini?
At various times since September 2014, when I last filmed The Cave, I have bubbled by to check it out. No action to report until last week when all the glass fish, shrimps, coral trout and the Ornate Ghost Pipefish were there in all their glory (4 of them). It seems that they come with the cold water and they hang out at the same places each year, but where they go after is a mystery.
In my experience there is only one more exotic than these elegant creatures, that being the leafy sea dragon.
Happy bubbling, Jill, Grant, Jase, Katie and Corey plus Team Uepi
The NEPHTHEIDAE family of soft corals have bloomed in the past 18 months at Uepi. So there are lots of chances to find the soft coral crab (Hoplophrys oatesi) and observe these tiny critters close up and personal. No wonder they look like the coral they live in - the decorator comes out as it cuts a bit of coral, appears to chew or put some glue on the end and then plants it on its back. See what you think - fascinating huh??
Kellys and Uepi Crew
When the tide comes in with a rush it's time to watch out for everything. Chances are good for rays and sharks as well as a ton of fish. It is a challenge holding position with the water raging around, but well worth the effort just to catch a glimpse of the rarer and more elusive animals.
Stay with the rush!
Kellys Inc and Team Uepi
Our daily adventures underwater always include a lot of fish. Sometimes it's just a flash as they dash out of sight, however on occasions they want to be the star of the show.
Jill, Grant and Team Uepi
This action is not something I see often. The sharks are always wary of sharing their moment, however its always a treat to see them sitting up on their tails with tiny cleaner fish darting in and out of the teeth and the gills. Stay scrubbed!
Kelly's Inc and Team Uepi
You would think that living on a remote island resort would be a simple laid back existence. A timeless eat, dive, sleep sub-routine in an endless loop. Well that’s true to a fair extent but there are a lot of elements involved and at times some tricky complications filling in the imaginary gaps. The eating, diving and sleeping routine only strictly applies to our guests, lucky you!
Our last update left us with a cyclone damaged mainhouse leaf roof, cool water temperatures, good viz and plenty of Hammerheads. Finally in February 2016 we had a break to fix the roof. This turned out to be an ingenious affair. Consider that we had about ¼ of the leaf roof displaced and almost sliding off the rafters. You might think that leaf is light? Wrong - it is very heavy and hard to handle. Also the two load bearing corner posts were snapped at ground level but in defiance of gravity still holding up the roof, somehow. We assembled what tools we had, chain block, hydraulic jack, ropes, truckie tie down straps, small hand winch, crow bar and odd tools. After a lengthy team ‘stori taem’ working out our plan of attack we decided that we did not really have one so had to develop our ideas as we went. One plus was that Solomon Islanders have no fear of heights and can climb anything. They believe that any structure that is standing will remain so no matter how flimsy the support. So we proceeded. Someone would suggest tying a rope or belt or chain somewhere and in seconds someone else would have climbed effortlessly to that spot in the roof. Coming from Australia where workers rely on WH&S short films and subsequent Certificates as real life qualifications it is refreshing to work with Solomon Islanders who do their own risk management assessments on the spot, relying on experience and confidence in their own abilities. Watching small boys expertly wielding super sharp machettes, weighing almost as much as they do, without the benefit of having watched a safety video and been awarded a Certificate, is astounding to most of our guests. Centimetre by centimetre, push, pull, jack, winch, we shifted portions of the roof in turn until it finally was back in place and looking pretty good. It then took 4 days to remove the stumps of the broken posts, set in concrete foundations that were reinforced like an ISIS bunker, and finally get the new posts in place. All done manually. I have to say we were proud of ourselves.
In the meantime the water remained cool, 29C max and cooler at depth. and the diving remained great. The Manta Rays decided to stay home for New Year and 2016, the corals were thriving, and the fish schools were as big as ever.
In April Jill & I headed of to Dominica to freedive with Sperm Whales and broaden our appreciation of other destinations and operations. The whales were magic and we learnt so much from the biologist dive-leader and from the researchers of “The Dominica SpermWhale Project” http://www.thespermwhaleproject.org/. Disturbingly the whales are threatened and it was a lesson in how destinations and in particular native animals can be badly affected by tourism. Answers are hard to find. We learnt that there is so much plastic in the oceans (and planet) that these huge whales are swallowing plastic which can prove fatal. Looking around the Solomons I can only say that plastic is everywhere and anywhere, certainly less than Asia, but plentiful. Some plastic is of local origin, especially around towns and villages, but lonely remote islands have rows of plastic from international origin. Everyone, including myself, just has to do better.
In May the first of the biennial Marovo Medical Tours very successfully took place. This is a major program of “Solutions pa Marovo” the Uepi inspired charity. “Solutions” now has a new website which you might enjoy http://www.solutionspamarovo.org/ along with a FaceBook page https://www.facebook.com/SolutionsPaMarovo/
Late May we had the beginnings of the South East Trade Winds. Very surprisingly these have continued until October. We have enjoyed these prevailing winds, cooling the afternoon sun and providing natural air conditioning at dinner. Being SE they are perfect for Bapita day trips and the outside dive sites.
A bit about “THE WEDDING”. Uepi held its first in-house wedding in September when Katie & Jason married. The place was packed to beyond the rafters and the logistics were equally frightening, but somehow it went with only one hitch (ok not that funny a pun but how could I resist it). We served guests and staff about 250 meals a day. We miscalculated the beer, over-ordering by an embarrassing amount, ….and drank it all. The weather (especially ordered by Katie from Grant) was perfect. All of the staff joined the ceremony in a perfect setting. Katie was a gorgeous bride and Jason equally handsome. This event was a stimulus for some serious pre-planning and preparation, much of which remains in place. The Mainhouse deck was renovated. New solid slab wooden tables for dining were made along with a new servery, new seating and cushions, new cutlery and a lot more. With great insight Jason imagined 50+ people lining up for the single ‘antique’ guest toilet at the Mainhouse and promptly built 2 enormous luxury toilets accessible from the Bar. These have great acoustics perfect for ‘sing-a-longs’ and could double up as extra Cabins with en-suite if we get desperate in another sense. The gardens were given a lot of attention with masses of flowers especially Orchids blooming for the wedding. A special wedding menu was fully rehearsed by a combined ‘Cookie Team” of Chefs and on the night they used all of their new skills to perfection, presenting sublime food. Much of this new menu translates beautifully to our everyday menus …. Enjoy. The Volleyball court had been transformed into a no-holds-barred dance floor. After the wedding feast, until the small hours of the morning, several generations massed to show off their 70s, 80s, 90s and new millennium dance styles, many ‘fuelled’ by the new range of super Uepi Cocktails. The day following the ceremony was Staff Party day and all of the Staff and Guests spent a colourful and vocal day together as staff presented especially choreographed dances, sung newly written songs, played Bamboo Band and prepared a huge Motu’ meal to celebrate the wedding. Having seen and in some cases joined in with the wedding night dancing all Staff shyness had evaporated and we were exposed to some very confronting dancing at times. The “itchy’ dance which many of you will recall will never quite be the same in our memories!
Happily our guests will benefit from the new skills and resources arising from the wedding effort.
Jill and I had both purchased Olympus mirrorless cameras for Dominica (light weight for travelling) and we have continued to use them at Uepi. To keep up with the day-to-day activity at Uepi check out our posts especially our diving photos and videos on the Uepi Facebook www.facebook.com/pg/UepiIslandResort/. There is always a steep learning curve with new photo gear but armed with a tripod, new lights and infinite patience Jill is really getting some awesome video, take a peek. To quote recently crowned Noble Literature Prize winner Bob Dylan “the times they are a changing”. It’s a sign of the times that most diver(s) now arrive at Uepi bristling with new cameras, especially GoPros and Selfie Sticks. Now-a-days the guy, oops correction Homo sapien, oops (Homo sapiens translates as Latin: "wise man", those Romans were bad bad Trump like people), Ok I got it ‘sumfela’ (it has deep cultural Melanesian usage so is protected from PC warriors) … continuing at last… who wants to stand out as an individual does not sport a camera! The exponential growth of failed SD cards, battery chargers and flooded housings is a tribute to this growth. Many divers get some great shots. So if YOU have any special image/footage you took at Uepi you are most welcome to post it to our FB page. Frankly FB change their layout so often I find it confusing so I will leave resolving just how to do this up to you techno savvy geniuses (am I the only dinosaur left on Planet Earth?).
One activity that is really proving a bonus is paddling the Stand Up Paddle Boards known as “SUPs”. Its fun watching people learn and more fun watching some fall off. Duels are commonplace and fun. SUPs are great for using as a floating bar during a sunset drink and to keep the cheese & bickies dry (please bring plenty with you). SUPs can be a great workout, and they have proven the best way to see turtles most of which are observed in the calm water in front of the Cabins and the bay immediately beyond. Plenty of Rays are seen too, even a chance of a Dugong on rare occasions. Sure there are some restrictions but there is plenty of territory to explore.
In synergy with the Orchids, romance blooms at Uepi. Whether it is due to no TV or the unimaginably romantic setting I cannot say for sure, but having recently watched the woeful TV in Brisbane it must be the latter. Within two weeks following the wedding we had two engagements. If the question must be asked perhaps Uepi should provide the environment in which to ask it?
Leana Via from Grant for Jill, Katie & Jason
the Gray Reef Sharks, Sting-Rays, Hornbills, Dolphins, Mantas, Devil Rays, Nudibranchs, Green Turtles, Hawksbills, passing Orcas and Humpbacks, Blacktips, Whitetips, Octopus, Brahmony Kites, Squid, Cuttlefish, Butterfly Fish, Angel Fish, Surgeon Fish, Hawkfish, GTs, Spanish Mackeral, schools of Big Eye, Eagle Rays, Ornate Ghost Pipe Fish, Halimeda Ghost Pipefish, Crocodile Fish, Anthias, Decorator Crabs, Slipper Lobster, Crayfish, Clown Fish and Anemone fish, Monitors and other Lizards, Jellyfish, Starfish, Sponges, Ascidians, Holothurians, Crinoids, Triton Shells, Tail-Bobbers, Soft Corals, Sleeping Snakes, Osprey, Hard Corals, Pygmy Sea Horses, Chrismas Tree Worms, Giant Groper, Coral Trouts, Cleaner Shrimps, Hingeback Shrimps, Blue Trevally, MidNight Snapper, Red Bass, Mangrove Jacks, Gobies, Soft Coal Crabs, Banded Pipe fish, Fire Corals, Hydroids, Tree Snakes, Anemones, Cowries, Halimeda, Single Cell Algae, Flatworms, Barracuda, Isopods, and other critters we regularly socialise with at Uepi.
The movement of fish is not random but choreographed by the supreme authority Mother Nature. The saying "the world is my stage” is for once a truth. Within that epic global production the various Company Members display the full gamut of ballet’s nature, both individually and together. Perfectly rehearsed over millions of years they do not miss a beat, a cue or a performance. Perhaps the only recognition that fish receive from the Human Ballet Company is “Poisson (French pronunciation: [pwasɔ̃]; literally 'fish.') A body position in which the back is arched and legs are crossed in fifth position or the working leg is held retiré. This position may be assumed while jumping or in partnering lifts, as in a fish dive.” Perhaps they deserve better. Judge for yourself, relax in your front row seat at the Fish Ballet.
With the coral centres in some parts of the world in real crisis, I thought it best reassure evriwan, that all is good at Uepi. (I am touching LOTS of wood as I say this)
I did a quick shoot at Landoro Gardens to illustrate this, but Uepi Point and other dive sites are also looking good. The HOWEVER of it all, is that marine environments around the world are being changed by many threats, coral bleaching due to increased water temperature being only one. Crown of Thorns starfish, water acidification, pollutants from various sources, over exposure to fishing, land degradation, direct human impact are a few more and of course the enigma of EL Nino with its wilful ways, hovers around us every few years.
A healthy coral reef anywhere is a dynamic environment with all species reproducing, juveniles growing (and some dying) adults maturing and moving on to reproduce, (some dying) old age setting in and eventually all the species die, some even die of old age. Therefore even a healthy flourishing coral reef will have some dead species obvious – its just part of the life cycle. This of course can be directly compared to human environment where exactly the same process is taking place.
None of us have much control over the real threats to our precious corals. At Uepi we are constantly on the watch to do the small things we can, to minimise the impacts of the threats. But until genuine and radical global action is taken to severely restrict/change the human impacts that are causing the accelerated rate of threats, we are at the whim of chance – the luck of the draw – bad luck can hit anywhere, anytime. I could hide under the umbrella of denial, tucking volcanic action, historical events, China and others into my bulging brief of excuses to do nothing, but ACTUALLY that is not going to help he situation, it would just allow me to reassure myself that is all going to be OK. After all someone WILL invent something soon - to fix and stop this madness!! (really??)
Conversation is free and now easily dispensed. Happy conversing!
Plus Team Uepi
This year we have had many hammer sightings, some fleeting, some just the tails, but Jase managed to capture a good close up. Yesterday we had a very distant glance of a big (3 metre) Great Hammerhead at Uepi Point. It’s the biggest one I have ever seen, unfortunately it was down where we had been 20 minutes before and travelling very fast.