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Diving in the Solomon Islands



Jill and Grant Kelly, Custodians of Uepi Island


Grant Kelly's suggested best
diving sites

Uepi: Mongo Passage.
The Russells: May Island.
Uepi: Uepi Point.
Munda: Custom Shark Cove.
Gizo: Grand Central Station.
Gizo: Tao Maru.
Munda: Shark Point.
Central Province: Twin Tunnels.
Tulagi: RM Ward (deep destroyer).
Uepi: Point to Point across channel.
Kiche: Wilderness Lodge.

By Richard Moore

Diving in the Solomon Islands
Diving pictures pages

Jill and Grant Kelly live in a stunningly beautiful part of the world, Uepi Island in the Morovo Lagoon, and they are determined to keep it that way.

The pair own the Uepi Island Resort - a low-key operation of six spacious bungalows, two units and two guest rooms where 20 guests “is considered to be a full house” - and are committed to the environment having dedicated a large part of our lives to protecting it.

They also have a commitment to local people from the lagoon’s villages.

“We operate with the locals. Give them all sorts of opportunities.”

About 50 villagers work at Uepi Island Resort on weekly rotations of 25 staff a week. The money they earn is a major support for their villagers and families who live 20 minutes away at Chubikopi, or half-an-hour away at Vakabo.

And it isn’t just jobs, the Kellys buy every bit of local produce and back the very skillful local carvers by helping them sell their exquisite work.

They take no commissions and maximise the potential sales for the islanders by organising the carving market on the days when the resort is catering for the largest number of guests.

If the carvers are grateful then they don’t necessarily show it.

Jill says “The people of Morovo lagoon don't have a word for ‘thank-you’.

Jill and Grant Kelly, Uepi Island“Gratitude is not part of the culture. It is a culture of obligation. If you live in a village you are obliged to share.

“We are considered to be part of the village and are expected to contribute.”

“Other places take all the profits and that's that. We share the wealth of this village. Providing as much employment as possible and supporting the locals by buying goods, providing health services and education.”

The Kellys feed their workers, clothe them and their families, and make sure their health needs are met. The cost of emergency treatment is also covered by the couple.

Cigarettes, tobacco and alcohol are banned for the island’s workers because of problems that have occasionally arisen in the past.

An example is that many smoking workers would often spend their pay on cigarettes for themselves, their families and relatives and so it would actually cost them money to be working on Uepi. “There are no cigarettes here or tobacco now. We provided patches to help them.”

In 2013 the Kellys introduced a no-smoking rule for all public places on the island.

The couple, lifelong divers, are fiercely protective of their environment and will take on anything that threatens the beauty of the lagoon, whether it be logging incursions or dealing with what they see are corrupt politicians.

They are also determined to help young people in the villages and pay for children to be educated.

“There are 160 students at high schools because of us,” Jill says matter-of-factly.

“Otherwise these kids would never go to school.”

She and Grant allocate scholarships according to village populations.

Having listened to them talk about their place in the life of Morovo you know this is not a need to be the biggest fish in the lagoon, but a generous desire to do good where they can and improve the lives of those around them.

Jill says “I live a beautiful life. Does it make me money? No.”

And you know for certain that neither one really cares about that.



Copyright 2014 RICHARD MOORE