project review

Fiji Volunteer Diaries

Review submitted by Frontier
Review date 19 nov. 2019

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Upon arriving in Naviavia we were greeted and welcomed by a host of the friendliest people you will ever meet - the Fijians. Those who arrived in the evening were treated to some traditional Fijian food, a great meal after the long boat journey.

After spending a few days on camp to get settled, we began training. Lessons began in "the classroom" and despite finding it difficult to fit studying in around diving, snorkelling, and visiting local villages we all managed to learn a few things. Those who were discouraged by the thought of studying quickly caught the enthusiasm of the instructors, who are all really passionate about the work.

Now we're in our fourth week, and many amusing events have taken place. To start, day-to-day life on camp has varied - although the food will not. So if you don't really fancy rice and lentils for breakfast, lunch and dinner bring a big supply of chocolate, smash, stock cubes, ketchup, mayonnaise and basically anything else you can lay your hands on and get through customs, because we bet you will be fantasising about all after a week.

One of our most prized and luxurious items on camp is our brand new ‘Long drop throne', before which toilet facilities left us all scarred for life. Transporting the concrete throne from its previous home on the bottom of the sea gave all us girls on camp the opportunity to watch the men of the group flex their muscles.

Another of our luxury items is our 400m2 "bath", i.e. our little bit of the ocean. Unfortunately we do have to share it with numerous little creatures including the grunts which seem to have developed a taste for Serena's bottom!

Other inhabitants of Naviavia who we share our camp are Carra the dog, Yossi the cat and PeePee the rat, although you will probably be pleased to hear that we think the rat has been eaten. Either that or our incessant chanting from the ‘Burrow of Doom' has chased it away.

As for night life on camp, most of us think of a late night in the week as past 9pm, although sometimes we do live dangerously and stay up until 10 playing pit and gossiping in the hammocks. We do make up for it on a Saturday night, when the alcohol flows. Saturday nights are our party nights and you will be expected to dress up, so bring your face paint and costumes if you can, although you will be surprised at how inventive you can be with a little duct tape and some palm leaves.

Despite the lack of alcohol in the week you can and will be involved in numerous grog (cava) sessions with the locals. These are slightly more civilised that Saturday nights, but no less fun. The locals from Somosomo and Nawaikama are probably the friendliest and most generous people we have had the good fortune to meet. If you're lucky the whole village will descend on to the camp bringing scones and grog and plenty of singing and dancing.

To round up camp life isn't necessarily easy but it certainly isn't boring. We've met some amazing people, forged strong friendships and had a bloody good time... and it's only just at the beginning!

Science Update

Work is continuing on the main project regarding the status of the fringing coral reefs of Gau. We are looking at local fish populations and abundances, coral coverage and biodiversity, algal influences and populations of key indicator invertebrates. We have currently covered a quarter of this large island and with the new group hope to increase this to the entire west coast of this island. We are also extending our coral work here to encompass coral recruitment, coral bleaching and coral growth, with special attention paid to the local marine reserves and their function in increasing fish stocks.

Recently we have begun work on more diverse topics such as identifying patterns in occurrences of our population of manta rays with some progress being made on the photo identification of these animals. These animals are being seen regularly and local knowledge is proving true thus far - that they are normally seen when the weather is about to change.

Additionally we have started work on the turtle populations of Gau with RA's and staff reporting occurances and locations. We have even begun a photo library of individuals encountered with the hope of being able to track movements of these turtles. Turtle meat is part of the diet of our islanders and with it being the Year of the Turtle in the Pacific we hope to improve local awareness of the plight of these endangered animals.

Our community work continues with the new group as well. So far Frontier-Fiji have run two workshops for the local communities covering topics such as sustainable fisheries, Marine Protected Area design and coral reef ecology which was met with enthusiasm and has already resulted in changes of marine resource use in some of the communities. We hope to continue this work and improve local knowledge of their marine environments in an attempt to reduce the impacts felt on the surrounding reef communities to increase the sustainability of the fishing efforts on the island of Gau.

Find out more about the Fiji Marine Conservation and Diving project