Mighty Mangrove Mania

During our stay on the reef shelf around Nawi Island away from the noise of Savusavu town we were the proud guardians of a mangrove garden paradise just outside the galley windows and a short walk at low tide from the bottom of Aluna’s very practical stern ramp. You look at this vegetative phenomenon for too long and your brain sizzles in wonderment. A dense maze of roots levitates a thick canopy of leafy green off the sandy bottom just enough to clear the high tide mark. Like a thousand-legged spider this intertidal forest formation lives in constant expansion. It stretches its air roots arching claw like out from its perimeter, where they grow first slightly slanted upwards, then gradually lower in a perfect circle segment until it inevitably touches the sand, where it immediately starts digging in to grab a sturdy foothold. The roots become anchored there firmly enough that not even the fiercest cyclone winds can pull a mangrove bush out. The stems of the bushes or trees provide anchor points for all kinds of vessels during those times of violently blowing tropical curses, for them to attach lines to for making fast the craft. Those lines of solid anchoring will break themselves or rip out whatever they’re attached to on the boat long before uprooting anything of the mangrove realm.

CameraThat root system shelters layers of dark muck and mulch that accumulates on the sandy bottom below, resembling the carpet of decomposing leaves on a land based forest floor. There in turn a furious flurry of critters gorges themselves on it or fatten up otherwise by running after the foragers in a never-ending dance of hunting and being eaten.

CameraA sexual propagation further enhances the already vigorous vegetative one of the mangrove plant. Seeds grow from pollinated flower clusters with miniature white petals emerging from little green capsules. They are elegantly shaped, resembling wool work needles and grow to almost a foot long before falling off the mother plant. Once they do detach they float away on the diurnal tidal currents, and wherever their tender tip touches bottom long enough, far away or right next door, they stop to root and start a new establishment of the mangrove mania.

CameraThere is a serene calmness if you step gingerly over the network of sturdy roots, which easily bear the weight of a human, and inside the maze under the green canopy. The wind is blocked here almost totally and the noise of the outside world muffled faint carpet of barely audible hiss. It’s a little bit like you have just been swallowed by a gentle creature of the vegetative kingdom. This creature now holds you in peaceful suspension in its verdant womb. Should the chaos outside, where cities, streets, airports, businesses, terminals, marinas, court houses, shopping malls and other blemishes of human civilization lure, should this commercial, stress-inducing conglomerate of craziness turn every little thing dear to you to shreds and pieces, then you could easily find yourself in a soothing pagan temple of eternal green and everlasting bliss. You then just might learn to grow mangrove-like roots from your toenails and sprout green, flat and chlorophyll-filled appendages from your fingertips. Those you could then spread out towards the burning sun, which rides overhead along a majestic arch in its precise and punctual daily ritual, and perfect your transcendental existence by listening to the little wavelets breaking gently on the outskirts of your new supreme residence, and by contemplating to sequester huge amounts of carbon in your veins, while exhaling pure oxygen from the pores in your skin into a world that is desperately running short of it.

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