Kate Evans had a mask. She had a snorkel. She was missing her flippers. And that’s why she’s trailing behind environmental advocate Karen Stone and photographer Richard Robinson in the image above, swimming against the current in an attempt to reach the Tongan islet of Fonua’one’one.
The trio were trying to land on the islet, one of many uninhabited places in the Vava’u archipelago, because the rats living on it had been eradicated in 2016. Evans and Robinson wanted to see—and hear, and smell—what the end result of rat eradication might be.
As they discovered, a healthy island is a stinky island, at least in places. Since Stone’s previous visit, a bunch of red-footed boobies had started nesting there. “You could smell the guano immediately and you could see these white paint splashes of it on the leaves,” says Evans. Good news for the surrounding coral reef—guano nourishes all kinds of life.
“There are a whole bunch of these little tiny perfect tropical islands—white sand with forest sitting on top and a perfect coral reef around the outside,” says Evans. And, islet by islet, that life is being restored.