A Good Day on Moorea

Brothers Terii and Emile Mau enjoy the simple life of fishermen on the tropical island of Moorea, 12 miles from Tahiti. On Sundays they attend the Haumi Branch of the Church, and almost every other morning of the week they awake before dawn, load their nets into outrigger canoes, and travel out to the edge of the coral reef where they spread their nets. Like many other Polynesian islands, Moorea is surrounded by coral reefs that leave beautiful, protected lagoons between the open ocean and the beaches. After Terii and Emile bring their catch in, they put the fish in pole-and-wire corrals in shallow water, so the fish will stay alive until they are needed. The brothers then hang their nets from trees to dry.

And because they love the water and because it is a warm January day, they decide to go fishing again, this time more for fun than food.

After the short paddle across Miti lagoon, they tie their canoes to the reef, don face masks and flippers, and holding their spear guns, slide over the sides of the canoes into the warm tropical waters. A glance in any direction underwater presents a world that looks like an ocean-sized, fully stocked tropical aquarium. Brightly colored fish of every imaginable shape swim everywhere, enjoying the sanctuary of the reef.

Today is a good day for the brothers—the swimming is good, they find some beautiful shells, and Emile catches one of the biggest apai that either of the brothers has ever seen.

[photos] Photos by Brian Kelly

[photo] Coral reefs surrounding Moorea create beautiful, peaceful lagoons

[photo] Terii finds a rare shell

[photo] Emile looks for fish under outcroppings of coral

[photo] The nets have to be dried after each morning’s fishing

[photo] The apai is both beautiful and delicious

[photo] Vine Mau, 11, can already handle a boat and helps his older brothers with their fishing