Namena's people

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Namena was uninhabited 20 years ago when Tom Moody signed a 99 year lease from the native land board. In fact, namena means uninhabited in Fijian.

These days, Namena is lightly inhabited. Tom & Joan Moody live there year round, along with 12-18 staff (depending on how busy the resort is) and no more than 12 guests.


Tom & Joan (pronounced Jo-ann, I kept embarrassing myself by forgetting and calling her Joan) are native Pittsburghers, but have lived outside the US for over 40 years. They founded a posh resort in Panama in the 70s, but were chased out in a horrific incident in 1991 that ended with Tom in the hospital for two months and the resort abandoned in haste. Undaunted, they started over and after scouring the South Pacific, found Namena.

Tom's 76 now, and starting to slow down a bit (the shooting in Panama didn't do him any favors) but he was a motorcycle hellion and an avid diver back in the day so he has a lot to slow down from! He has more stories and tales than anyone I've ever met. Tom spends his days directing improvements and maintenance and enjoys meals with the guests.

Joan manages the business end of things. She's got a computer, runs the communication systems, handles reservations and local transfers to the island, and has a lot of connections around Fiji. Joan took her meals away from us, as she was suffering a cough and didn't want to infect the holidaymakers. So we didn't get to spend too much time with her, but I think she has nearly as many stories as Tom!

Jone plays ukulele; M'bola flanked by two "boat guys"; Victor the dive master

The staff are fabulous. Tom calls them kids, but they're not really all that young. Jone (pronounced Johnny) is the "waiter" and seemingly uncle to most of the rest of the staff. The three girls on staff are sisters and Jone's nieces. Everyone else is a cousin in some fashion. Which is good, because this working family doesn't get off the island too often. They have to get along or they'd be miserable.

Cook mixes up some kava; Vijay nimbly scales a coconut palm; a "boat guy" watches the dock.

Despite the fact that we were there for a week and there are only 12 people taking care of us, I still didn't learn everyone's name. Victor is the cheeky dive master. Don drives the boat. M'Bola and Vijay do everything that's required--from loading boats to leading the guests on jungle treks. Benny's the kitchen boy who is a great dancer and has a shy smile. There is also a cook and several "boat guys" seemed to hide behind the scenes to get things done.

And of course there were other guests on the island. Our stay was divided neatly into two sections by the departure and arrival of guests. Everyone we met was memorable and interesting.

Bradley on the launch ready to leave; Mike and Kim enjoying kava; Nancy on the launch.

The first group was two diving couples: Nancy and Bradley from Santa Cruz, and Mike & Kim from Auckland. Mealtime conversations were lessons in oceanography, conservation and diving lore. I am keen to learn to dive now.

Deborah in the window at sunset; Sara and Jerry wave goodbye to us; Gerard contemplates departure.

They left on Monday and Tuesday and were replaced by Sara and Jerry, married filmmakers from Melbourne who were decompressing after the Athens Olympics, and Deborah and Gerard from New Zealand who were there to work (!) gathering material for a program for Radio New Zealand and an article, respectively. We talked world politics and a little shop over dinner.

People have rarely figured so prominently in my holidays. I enjoyed it very much. Namena's remoteness attracts unusual travelers.

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Mmmmmmm, Victor the cheeky dive master, hello!

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