From Sangeeta, Expedition Leader:
I arrived yesterday in Apia, the capital of Samoa, just in time to celebrate the country’s 50th year of independence. It is the first time in 7 years that I have been back to the Central Pacific – the last time I was here was in 2005, for the third expedition to the Phoenix Islands.
First order of business upon arrival was sleep – I had to take two overnight flights from Bali, Indonesia to get here, and there was very little keeping my eyelids open when I arrived. Three hours later I emerged bleary-eyed and went straight to the Conservation International office, which is both my office and home for the next two days. I spent my day catching up with Sue Taei, who is a key supporter of the conservation and management of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area for Kiribati. She is a wealth of knowledge on what is happening in the Pacific!
CI office in Apia
So much has happened since I was here last. In the 3 years following the 2005 expedition, the Kiribati government with two key partners - Conservation International and the New England Aquarium – have moved forward and designated the Phoenix Islands as a protected area and listed it as a World Heritage Site. For an area that is 408,250 square kilometers and so remote (that it will take us 3 days to travel there by boat if the weather is kind to us), this is no small feat. I am filled with an incredible sense of pride of playing a small part in this, as I have been fortunate to participate in the first three expeditions (2000, 2002 and 2005) to document the rich coral reefs, deep sea and birdlife on these remote but pristine atolls.
At the UB40 concert with Mike Donoghue (CI head in Apia)to the L. Center = Sangeeta Mangubhai.
In between meeting and spending time with the Conservation International staff, I have been enjoying the birthday celebrations in Apia (Happy 50th!) and enjoying local food. The biggest highlight of my day was cramming into the local stadium to see a live performance by the band UB40, flown in for the birthday celebrations. I managed to get gold tickets for the area just in front of the stage with Mike Donoghue and John Watkin - it was a phenomenal night. You could not have found more devoted fans as there were in Samoa. Swaying to “Kingston Town” and “Red Red Wine” under a moon-lit Samoan sky, I could not help but think this is a great start to the expedition!
UB40 live in Apia!!