- Fiji has 10,020 square kilometers (3868 square miles) of coral reef, 385 sq kilometers (148 sq miles) of mangrove plus large tracts of island rainforest.
- There are over 398 coral species with 9 mangrove species in Fiji together with more than 1200 varieties of reef fish and countries invertebrates.
- Several species of turtle, including Green, Hawksbill, Leatherback and Olive Ridley are found in Fijian waters, along with a rare population of dugongs and migratory sea routes for cetaceans, such as humpback whales.
- Undisturbed islands in Fiji are crucial nesting grounds for seabirds like reef egrets, petrels and terns.
Coral reefs are living structures composed of millions of coral colonies growing on and around each other, creating niches for thousands of other creatures – from fish and crustaceans to worms and mollusks.
The reef has a framework of limestone that the corals deposit themselves – rather like a skeleton. Each coral consists of a colony of tiny anemone-like polyps. These can catch floating particles of food, but most corals rely on symbiotic algae living inside them to provide food through photosynthesis. This explains why coral reefs thrive in shallow, brightly lit seas. Coral reefs are also sensitive to temperature. They prefer water between 18-30 degrees Celsius (64-88F) restricting them mainly to the tropics.
Fiji’s reefs are recognised as some of the most diverse in the world, and their survival is crucial for many reasons.
They support 398 coral species and 1200 varieties of fish. As such they have provided the local inhabitants of the islands with a valuable source of food and the reefs of Fiji have been sustainably harvested for millennia using wisdom passed down through local knowledge and custom.
The reefs have also become a crucial asset to Fiji’s tourism which accounts for nearly 50% of the Fijian economy.
Coral reefs provide homes for more than a third of the known fish species and a myriad of other sea creatures. They are nature’s own front line defences protecting coastlines from storms and floods and they are also a source of medical compounds for treating leukaemia, skin cancer and cardio vascular diseases.
Coral reefs are threatened by commercial overfishing which is forcing many subsistence fishing communities to resort to poison, dynamite and other destructive methods to collect what little food is left. Fish and crustaceans are caught too young and natural breeding cycles interrupted. Reefs are also damaged by smothering run off from rainforest clearance, pollution, irresponsible tourism activities and climate change leading to rising seawater temperatures lethal to corals.
The Reef at Malolo
At Malolo we are surrounded by a beautiful and fragile coral reef eco system that is a protected marine sanctuary. While the ocean around Malolo Island is safe to swim and have fun in, please be aware that coral takes decades to grow (on average one to five centimetres a year) and only seconds to be damaged by stepping on it or brushing it with your flippers.
Marine Reserve “Na Tabu”
On the 19th July 2005, the Paramount Chief of the Mamanuca Islands, Na TuiLawa, declared the waters and reefs in front of Malolo Resort as a new marine reserve. The marine reserve is an environmental initiative of Malolo Island in partnership with the traditional owners to improve the fish stocks and allow the natural regeneration of reef and marine life as part of responsible and sustainable tourism. This Tabu means that any form of fishing or shell fish collecting is an offence and is strictly forbidden in the designated areas and applies to everyone, visitors and locals alike. As members of the Mamanuca Environment Society (MES) we are delighted with this decision. Wherever you see a pole sticking out of the water with a palm frond across the top it means that the surrounding area has had an official Na Tabu ceremony and is now a restricted marine park area.
The fringing reefs at Malolo are ideal for snorkelling and many hours can be spent exploring and observing a myriad of aquatic life. Some of the fish you may well see can be found here in the Malolo Fish Identification Chart.
Whilst swimming, snorkelling or diving, you will see a myriad of marine life including the occasional friendly reef shark. These are mostly less than 90cm (3 ft) long and are harmless. They will be more afraid of you than you are of them and generally swim well below your deepest diving depth.
Small stingrays occasionally venture into the lagoon and it is wise to tread carefully if wading in the shallows.
Scorpion fish, stone fish and Lion fish are also sometimes found on shallow reef as are cone shells and fire coral.
The banded Sea Krait sea snake is common around Malolo Island. They are extremely venomous but docile and non- aggressive animals. If you discover one, watch from a distance or move away calmly.
Small patches of tiny jellyfish are also found around the reef at certain times of the year. They are often mistakenly referred to as sea lice and while they may give pin-prick stings they are not dangerous.
Turtle Breeding Ground
The waters around Malolo Island are a designated turtle breeding ground and at certain times of the year you will see evidence of turtle activity in the sand and certainly may spot these majestic creatures swimming in the lagoon.
(Images credit: Dick Gamble & Juli Tracy, USA)