10 – 14 July 2010
S8 43.279 E157 26.611 – Tetepare Island
Tetepare is the largest uninhabited island in the South Pacific where a tiny portion of its massive land is a dedicated research field station and a cooperative ecolodge run by the Tetepare Descendants’ Association or TDA. Many stories circulate why Tetepare Island (Tetepare meaning wild boar) has remained uninhabited for more than 150 years. One story is because of contagious dysentery, a disease that wiped out majority of its population more than a century ago. Another is its people fled in fear because of the threat of headhunting. Or the story of a Sea-Devil’s curse that brought black magic leading to a great famine in the island. Another story is an underwater volcano close to the island erupted and poisonous gases scared the original inhabitants away. For whatever historical reasons it may be, Tetepare has remained untouched resulting to having 120 square kilometres of primary lowland rainforest in a country which has lost a lot of its forests to commercial logging.
We went around this massive island with two on duty Tetepare Rangers and Tingo Leve of WWF Solomon Islands. We left the station at 9am and came back by late afternoon! Yes, it was massive.
The TDA has permanently closed a 13km stretch of Tetepare’s reefs, lagoons and coastal waters and established an MPA. They called it the Tetepare Marine Protected Area. This no-take zone includes the land from the low water mark to 500m inland. Dolphins, dugongs and crocodiles are known to roam different parts of this island’s rich waters while land reptiles like snakes and monitor lizards, birds, bats and of course, wild boar inhabit the land’s thick forest area.
While we were there, six young teenagers paddled their dugout canoe in the wild waters of Tetepare. They came from the neighbouring Rendova Island and went beyond the no take zone to go camping and hunting for wild boar. They had four dogs to help them hunt in the forest. After three days, and three wild boars later, they paddled their way back home. It was a long way back and the waves were big and the winds merciless. Their canoe flipped over and they lost two pigs and a dog which swam to shore. They were met by the rangers and still in good spirits amidst their near death experience, they gave the rangers some wild boar meat which we got to eat for dinner!
Tingo, who does the Reef Check for WWF told us of a transect dive he did in Tetepare’s reefs. Noisy dolphins swam around him underwater during the entire dive preventing him from doing his job properly! When we reached the dolphin area where he did his reef survey, the waters were too choppy and there was no chance of us diving there. But, we found the big pod of dolphins!
We were able to see Tingo do his underwater reef monitoring work.