Take a stroll along the central Matavera beach and you should be pleasantly surprised by the absence of plastic, glass and other manmade rubbish.
This narrow strand of pristine white sand is maintained in its natural state – dotted with coral rubble and boulders, and strewn with coconuts and piles of clean carbonate shell hash.
Rows of seaweed and new growth of tamanu and coconut trees on the foreshore mark evidence of their deposition during high tides and storm surges in recent months.
Remnants of the ancient reef mark part of the shoreline, testimony to the geological dynamics that helped shape the island.
Here you can enjoy sightings of the many seabirds that fish the lagoon, and when in season you might glimpse an occasional humpback whale.
Except for a devoided inlet, no other shore erosion is apparent. Vegetation is thick and healthy along this beach, with storms and high tides effectively limiting their expanse to the foreshore.
Vines, shrubs and trees help hold the rocks onto the sand, and new vegetation continues to renew and flourish after every storm event.
There are no rubbish bins on this beach. Here, we are fortunate that local people have such high regard and respect for the lagoon and foreshore, where many come to fish, to collect sea cucumber, eke and urchin, and to gather medicinal plants. In general, whatever one brings to the beach is also taken away upon exit.
Nevertheless, garbage does wash up on the beach and foreshore.
By inspection, much appears to have washed in from boats – nets, ropes and anchors. But the majority appears to have come from carelessly monitored rubbish piles, probably along streams that lead to the lagoon. Lots of burnt plastic and broken plastic receptacles, many encrusted with barnacles, which indicates a long journey to get here.
Storms also bring in many large items. There have been 2x4 timber posts washed up – once even an entire wooden staircase. Not to mention a wide assortment of plastic products of all sizes, ranging from small specks all the way up to a round tub measuring almost two metres across.
For more than 10 years now, Friends of the Environment has provided free, voluntary beach and foreshore cleanup to maintain the integrity of this beautiful beach.
Now we ask you to join us in maintaining all the beaches on Rarotonga.
We have described a beautiful and natural beach and invite individuals and the many youth and community groups on the island to help continue keeping our beaches clean.
Just choose a section of beach or stream near to where you live, work or hang out – a manageable size that you can commit to keeping clean.
Make a commitment to thoroughly clean up your area at least once per month. Get a reusable bucket or other receptacle and just start picking up what doesn’t belong there.
Sort what you can, and according to WATSAN, break up your non-recyclable items for general waste pickup.
Join us on Facebook at Friends of the Environment Cook Islands to post your progress and see what other individuals and groups are doing to help. Help preserve our natural heritage. Stay tuned for awards, recognition, and technical support.