Saving Paradise, One Island At A Time
Several days after publishing my article, I received an email from Joan Moody, who along with her husband, Tom, are proprietors of Namena Resort. Joan was a bit dismayed that I had not captured either the ambiance or the “true facts” relating to the resort and its ecologically sensitive approach to resort, island and tropical reef management.
Embarrassed by my lack of thoroughness, I promised Joan that I would reread the information on their website, review other sources and correct the errors in my original article, which I gladly did.
In addition to providing me with detailed information on how they run the resort in the spirit of minimum impact on resources, Joan also told me about how she and Tom came to lease Namenalala Island and create their Pacific island treasure. You may read a detailed report from The Pittsburgh Tribune Review on why the Moody’s, who are American Citizens, left Panama for Fiji in the early 1980’s, but in her own words, here is what Joan told me:
“We left the US in the mid-60's, as we had found ‘our island' in the San Blas Islands off Panama (Caribbean side) called Pidertupo Island (black bean island). It was a tiny flat island about three feet above water and about 3 acres total land! It was there we built our first resort and stayed for 15 years until Manuel Noriega's goons decided to get rid of us (they were in the drug-running business) and shot Tom in the right leg, leaving him for dead. He survived the attack although he nearly lost his leg and we then began our search of the Pacific to get away from all the drug business in the Caribbean.
We came to Fiji in 1983 after discovering a deserted island away from the mainstream (Namenalala). It took us several years to clear the undergrowth and put up our first four guest bures, our bure, kitchen and clubhouse/dining bure. We have tried to keep the island as ecological sound as possible, 'developing' less than 10 of its 110 acres. This island is a seabird sanctuary (lesser frigate, red-footed booby, terns, long-tailed tropicbird) along with many land birds, which are quite friendly and have accepted us humans.
We leased the entire island (native lease for 99 years) in 1983 and developed our upscale ECO resort. I agree with you that we have some of the most diverse diving on the Namena Barrier Reef, now a marine reserve, using the tag system, as does Bonaire (in the Caribbean).
We assisted the local Fijians to make the waters within the Namena Barrier Reef a marine protected area - both financially, educationally and spiritually - so they would have a heritage for future generations. Tom and I wanted to leave a legacy when we were gone (hopefully to heaven); Tom will be 80 this year and I just turned 72 so we aren't 'spring chicks' anymore! It isn't easy surviving on a place as remote as this island but we are proud of what we have accomplished in the 25 years we have lived on Namena Island.”
At the end of her most recent email, Joan said, “Anyway, I'm still here many years and many (tropical) cyclones later. I suppose we both are stubborn old mules.”
These days, we take our children to “super hero” movies about rugged looking men who wear red and blue tights, flexing their muscles as they save humanity. After both visiting Namenalala and hearing Tom and Joan’s real-life story of adventure, dedication and the thoughtful stewardship of a unique and beautiful part of our world, I know who my “super heroes” are. If there were a Nobel Prize for “Outstanding Citizens of Our World”, I would nominate Tom and Joan Moody.
Update: January 4, 2011 - Marijo Panich, recently wrote to me regarding the death of her mother, Joan Moody.
According to Marijo, "Her passing was very quick and unexpected. Cyclone Tomas was approaching Fiji in March 2010 and was headed right towards Namenalala Island. Mom and her sister Lil were on the island and my Dad (Tom Moody) was back in the United States with me for his annual visit. The cyclone diverted around them at the last minute, but my mother had been so worried that she was not eating and her legs were swelling terribly.
They took her over to the hospital on the mainland and she was there for about a week and improved enough to get on a plane and return to the United States for a good medical checkup. Soon thereafter, she was in congestive heart failure and slipped into a coma, complicated by a massive stroke. The doctors did what they could to resuscitate her but were unable to do so. She died on March 22, 2010, four days before she was due to come home for her annual visit.
Dad is still on the island and running the resort with the help of his manager, Nigel and his wife Aggie. He is doing remarkably well for his age (82) and plans to keep the resort open.
I am attaching a copy of my mother’s obituary that ran in the Fiji Times. (Click HERE for the full Joan Moody obituary).
Author's Note: Joan and Tom Moody lived their dream, helping to save an island paradise for the rest of us to enjoy. Moody's Namena Island Resort is the living legacy of Joan and Tom Moody. "Be of Service and Expand Joy", could well be their motto. Although I did not have the pleasure of meeting Joan Moody face-to-face, I consider her a friend for life. In my original article, I called her a "World Citizen". Now, she expands that realm to encompass All that Is.