Currently, the Reef Islands has no airport and barely any visitors make their way to this group of islands in the south eastern Solomon Islands. In fact, our ship is one of only four to make it out this year—with two other sailboats from our friends at Oceanswatch, and one intrepid sailboat rounding the world making up the other three. This makes the Living Oceans Foundation quite the spectacle to the locals, and whereas sometimes the adults tend to sit back and watch us quietly, these kids of the Reef Islands are never afraid to get as close as possible when they get a chance.
By far and away, one of my favourite dives of this trip was created by a troupe of curious kids. We were enjoying a small break between dives on our boat nearby a beach when a bunch of little children spotted us. They waded out as far they could and stood staring until one of us waved. They then waved back; and so began a little exchange of waving every moment or so, until a more intrepid kid, a boy of about 13, ran off to get a canoe and paddled out to us. He sat and smiled a little ways off—we smiled and waved—he smiled and waved.
Before we knew it, one canoe turned into four and almost 20 children swam, paddled and splashed both on and off of our dive boat. It took little encouragement to get them laughing and jumping off of our boat, and far from being disappointed when the time came for us to disappear underwater for our dive, the kids all stuck around and swam above us whilst we surveyed the fish and coral beneath them. Every now and then I’d look up and a group would be above me, playing with my bubbles as I breathed out, or swimming down as far as they could (with neither mask nor fins) to try and catch me. I’ve never laughed so much underwater—nor taken as many pictures!
Thanks kids of the Reef Islands, we had a lot of fun too :)