Solodamu is a small village of approximately 20 families on the northern coast of Kadavu and 60NM south of Suva. It used to be located behind the mangroves on the coast but following the devastating storm surge in 1959 the Chiefs decided to relocate the village on higher (but rockier) ground. Solodamu takes its name – (literally Red Cliffs) - from the massive bush covered cliffs that turn a ruddy copper at sunset.
Today the forest on these cliffs is the last intact coastal limestone forest left in all Fiji and a breeding stronghold of endemic species including the endangered Kadavu parrot. Selected chiefs are said to have the power to call turtles out of the water from vantage spots on the cliff tops. Recognising the importance of their forest remnants the villagers of Solodamu have made the forest into a community managed conservation reserve. They have built 7kms of walking tracks, viewing platforms and a visitor information centre. As part of the FLMMA project (a major conservation success story in its own right) Solodamu has now added a marine reserve across the reef system at the base of the cliffs.
The reserve areas are also known to house substantive mineral reserves with initial drillings in the 1980s showing gold-silver-copper in the Solodamu Reef. Pluton Mining Prospectus 2006 lists expansion of the drilling programme as an immediate priority.
Economic opportunities are few. Solodamu has only marginal agricultural land. Many of the youth have to walk several miles to their gardens. Some excess yagona and taro and cassava are sold intermittently. Ecotourism had not produced visitors in any numbers. A recent Peace Corp initiative has seen honey successfully introduced – from 2 hives in 2005 Dan Kama now has 32 hives and in 2008 harvested nearly 500kg of Jungle Flower Red Rock Honey.
The village used to operate a 35ft plywood launch with 30hp outboard as a local charter vessel as means of making a cash income. Unfortunately the Drua is now too old and wornout to go to sea. This project began with asking what type of vessel could be used as a replacement.
Kadavu Island, Fiji
Kadavu (pronounced [kundarvu]), with an area of 411 square kilometers, is the fourth largest island in Fiji, and the largest island in the Kadavu Group, a volcanic archipelago consisting of Kadavu, Ono, Galoa and a number of smaller islands in the Great Astrolabe Reef. Its main administrative centre is Vunisea, which has an airport, a high school, a hospital, and a government station, on the Namalata Isthmus which almost cuts the island in two.
Suva, Fiji's capital, lies 88 kilometers to the north of Kadavu. The population of the island is about 10,000. Kadavu is one of Fiji's fourteen Provinces, and forms part of the Eastern Division, which also includes the Provinces of Lau, Lomaiviti and Rotuma. Kadavu also belongs to the Burebasaga Confederacy, a hierarchy of chiefs from southern and western Fiji.
The island is 93 kilometers long, with a width varying from 365 meters to 13 kilometers. The island is almost sliced in two by the narrow Namalata Isthmus, which connects Namalata Bay on the northern coast with Galoa Harbour on the southern coast. Within Galoa Harbour lie Galoa Island and the tiny islet of Tawadromu. Kadavu is characterized by its rugged and mountainous terrain. The tallest mountain is Nabukelevu, also known as Mount Washington, which stands at 822 meters high, on the western end of the island.
Kadavu still has 75% of its original rainforest cover and a rich bird diversity, including four species endemic to the island, the Velvet Dove, the Crimson Shining-parrot, the Kadavu Honeyeater and the Kadavu Fantail, in addition to several endemic subspecies (such as a subspecies of the Island Thrush). Offshore , stringing around the south, east and then away to the north, is the Great Astrolabe Reef, a large barrier reef that is one of Fiji's premier scuba diving resorts.
Kadavu is one of the least developed areas of Fiji. There are few roads, and the local economy is largely dependent on subsistence farming, supplemented by exports to Viti Levu. There are no banks on Kadavu. Tourism is becoming popular, however, with snorkeling and diving among the major attractions. The chiefly system in Kadavu gives much greater authority to local chiefs than most other areas in Fiji, where local chiefs are more often subservient to a few "paramount chiefs."
William Bligh was the first known European to sight Kadavu, which he discovered in 1792 on his second voyage to Fiji on the HMS Providence. He was followed in 1799 by the United States vessel Ann & Hope, skippered by C. Bently en route from Australia. In 1827, French commander Dumont d'Urville nearly shipwrecked the Astrolabe on the reef that now bears the vessel's name. The island later became hope to beche-de-mer traders, as well as whalers from Sydney, Australia and New England in the United States. Galoa Harbour became a regular port of call for vessels carrying mail between Sydney, San Francisco, and Auckland.