Monday, April 26, 2010

Not just a pretty Face!

No, great cleavage, too! (she's gonna KILL me for this...)

Meet Karen, marine conservation activist in Vava'u!

But before you get too excited & start booking tickets: looks are deceiving!
Dunno what possessed her on that day she posed in Tahiti, but trust me, dare walk up to her and whisper sweet nothings and she'll scratch your eyes out! Plus, there's hubby Paul and lemme tell you, never has a friendly all-American smile been more misleading - suffice to say that he hails from North Carolina, home to obscure Special Ops boot camps, WWE wrestlers and true Southern gentlemen!
Romeo beware!

Anyway, where was I.

Karen and Paul are the owner's of Dive Vava'u, by far Tonga's best dive and Whale watching operator - and yet, life is tough.
The local palangi expat community can be safely described as the South Pacific epicenter of, in no particular order, potheads, drunkards and Prozac junkies, new age whackos and neo-hippies, second-rate snake oil peddlers and scamsters, all fatally mired in smallville soap operas and drama and engaging in rabid backstabbing and gossiping and what an Italian friend once called la guerra dei poveri, a simply brilliant description - and I'm being uncharacteristically mellow!
Not a good backdrop for trying to run, let alone grow a business whilst keeping one's sanity!

And yet, whilst I decided to bolt, they doggedly persevere.
And more than that: against all odds and whilst Paul is trying to make a contribution to the Tourism Industry, Karen has continued to pursue an agenda of small, step-by-step conservation milestones.
It was her who convinced Henk and Sandra to act as the trailblazers for the Shark Free Marinas Initiative in Tonga and who then went to talk to Chris, the second registered operator; it was again her who took the initiative to join the Year of the Shark where she held several Shark presentations; and I also see her on the board of Vavau's new NGO, the Vava'u Environmental Protection Association where I also find Don Blanks, another one of the few that have not gone troppo; and if you read her blog, you will always find her at the center of initiatives educating the Tongan public about the need to assume the stewardship for their environment.

But above all, there's her love of Cetaceans.
Readers of this blog know that I'm not a fan, this mainly owing to what the whackos have done to them - must be that I just can't cope with preternatural beings, religious or otherwise. Consequently, my discussions with Karen have always been, uh, interesting, sometimes highly emotional - tho, and this is rather surprising, never abusive! Must be the effect of the ever-present Southern gent lurking nearby!

And yet, slowly slowly, we seem to be inching towards a common understanding.
This was great, as it totally coincides with my firm belief that we must first clean up in our back yard, where we hold some sway, before embarking on exotic, and often utopic crusades.
This however just blew me away! Bravo!

But why I'm actually writing this post, apart from having an obvious death wish is this: please, if you plan to travel to Vava'u, give Karen and Paul your business.
Not only because they really are by far the best, starting from the trivial fact that they are one hundred percent honest - and Vava'u insiders know what I mean. But principally, because they really are good people who care for the Environment and put their energy and their money where their mouth is.

People like that deserve our solidarity.

PS taken up by Patric here - with some noteworthy additional comments.


Anonymous said...

Ha ha thanks I think, we are hoping for some more effort here and some more wins locally.

DaShark said...

Looking forward to that!

Getting there huh? (-: