If wading through murky water with legs knee deep in mud and your wet T-shirt bulging with plants sounds cool, then propagule collection in the mangroves is for you.
I had only been in Fiji a couple of days and was really looking forward to getting my hands dirty. I was not disappointed. On this day we were collecting not just for the mangrove nursery but also needed loads more for the upcoming Corona music festival at Uprising Resort, where we were setting up a stand to teach people about the valuable role of mangroves in Fiji’s coastal ecosystem.
The mangrove collection takes place near the small village of Vunibau near Pacific Harbour. To get to the mangroves we had to first walk through the village in our Projects T-shirts and sulus. where we were all welcomed with “bula” and friendly faces. Once down by the mouth of the Navua River we slipped off the sulus and got down into the mud. “You might have to crawl on your hands and knees,” said Sydney with a slightly wicked smile as we waded in. “Sometimes that’s easier.”
The mangrove propagules can be found on the muddy shore, in the water floating, or still attached to the branches ready to be picked. The high ones are for the tall people who haven’t sunk down too far into the mud.
Some people are happy going barefoot to avoid losing their flip flops or shoes. I kept my aqua shoes on, and seeing some of the rubbish in the mud and trees I would definitely advise having something on to protect your feet (dive booties worked well for others, too).
We collected hundreds. As we trudged back muddy, hot and carrying our bags of precious mangrove pups, the smiles on the faces of the children in the village tell a great story. Somehow I think they are grateful that we also care about their home, their livelihoods, their mangroves.