project review

Fiji Volunteer Diaries

Review submitted by Frontier
Review date 14 nov. 2019

header

After eight weeks on Naviavia I'm really sad to be leaving but I've done and seen some amazing things during this time.

I joined the project with no diving experience at all and was really nervous at first doing all of the skills. However, the dive officers were really patient and now I'm leaving with my Advanced Open Water certificate. I even had time to do the Emergency First Response course, which whilst it has a serious element to it was a lot of fun pretending to faint and spurt blood everywhere. The definite highlight of my Emergency First Response course was the multi-car pile-up on the beach that we staged for one of the scenarios.

One weekend, we challenged the local high school to a rugby and netball tournament. This was a great opportunity to meet the local people and really experience their culture. We were shown around the school, which is set halfway up the hill with stunning views over Nawaikama Bay. Unfortunately we were well and truly thrashed at both rugby and netball (although the girls did win one of their games) but had a really enjoyable day.

We recently abandoned Naviavia for a three day satellite camp to the south of the island in a very bumpy truck to stay in the village of Lovu. Spending 3 days in a Fijian village eating typical food and joining in on evening activities (i.e. drinking grog) was fantastic. We also had a chance to explore a totally different area of reef.

Highlights for me were definitely swimming with manta rays in our bay. Being that close to them was awe-inspiring and, of course, waking up with the knowledge that I would spend the day exploring the coral reef was amazing.

Science Update

We have recently expanded our science program following the excellent groundwork started on our first phase and continued on in this phase. Whilst the main bulk of the program is still concentrating on assessing the health of the fringing and patch reefs of Gau with special reference to their marine reserves we have made room for more diverse projects that will complement this work.

Our most recent project involves the turtle populations of Gau. We have identified 3 species of turtle; hawksbill, loggerhead and green with locals telling us that leatherbacks have been seen before. We are attempting to assess the size of these local populations and assess the impact that the local communities' marine resource use-especially fishing-has on these animals. For this, research assistants and staff log all sightings from boats and whilst diving including size, species and location. One turtle has already been spotted twice in the same locale 1 month apart. We are also trying to locate possible turtle nesting beaches using local knowledge.

This year in the Pacific is the Year of the Turtle so part of our work will be to teach small workshops to the schools and decision-making groups of the island into turtle biology and highlight their plight at present in the world.

Another new project recently implemented is to look at coral bleaching, growth and recruitment in the marine reserves and outside the marine reserves. For this there are a number of permanent quadrats and belt transects set up so that we can return month after month to record changes in the make up for the hard corals of the reefs. We hope in time to teach local fishermen from the villages to help us collect information on this which would allow us to set up transects all over the island.

One of the most fun projects for staff and research assistants alike is the constant search for manta rays. The beautiful large animals are regularly seen in the late afternoon generally just before bad weather comes through. We are compiling a photo library of the markings on the underside and topside of these animals in an attempt to assess the size and territory of these animals. Often this involves staff and research assistants piling into boats and driving along the coast desperately searching for the telltale dorsal fins and shadows in the water so they can jump in and swim with them to take photos.

Find out more about the Fiji Marine Conservation and Diving project