Time Capsule Letter
It seems like just yesterday that we were all sitting enthralled as captain Steve danced up a storm for the chief as he ushered in the Tambu, marine protected area, in front of Nanuya Boathouse. What is there to be said about such an incredible and unique experience. Our work contributed to the formation of Fiji’s first government gazetted tambu area. Your reef check survey data is the baseline data against which the success of the tambu will be measured.
Our COTS removal, mangrove plantings and nursery, soap pits and the community education projects we initiated are all now an important part of the ongoing community management of resources. The GLA staff were all so proud of all your hard work, the dedication and creativity you brought to your presentations and the laughter and joy you brought with you.
We remember fondly, relaxing at the blue lagoon and sipping on coconuts (free of plastic straws of course), sludging through the mangrove tunnel and whipping around the island on Captain Bill boat. We miss your laughter and glee as you rammed each other in kayaks and flipped each other off paddleboards.
The international staff Kelsey, Elle, Sam and Maria all miss you and hope you took something away from our night time activities and reducing plastic waste, shark conservation and how to be an activist. We remember fondly our time spent learning about conservation, the fun had in mentor groups and the times just spent relaxing on our little private beach.
We hope you took away amazing experiences, memories and friendships from our 2 weeks together in Fiji. We wish you all the best in your future endeavours and hope to run into you again!
-By Sam, Mentor
Sunday July 21, 2019
A big Bula from the GLA Fiji Marine Staff! All students have arrived and are settled. Although tired, everyone is in good spirits. We arrived at our hotel to breakfast and then some time to rest before meeting at the pool for our swim test. Our morning was spent getting to know each other and going through a program introduction.
In the afternoon we walked over to Wailelula Beach where we played games and enjoyed the afternoon breeze. After a nice dinner it was an early bed time for all students and everyone is super excited to get into the program tomorrow. We begin our day with a lesson on Fiji culture and a trip to the botanical gardens and healing mud pools.
Monday July 22, 2019
Today was our first full day of program! After waking up from a good night’s rest (everyone was asleep by nine p.m.) and enjoying our breakfast, we met Gabby -our Local Director- who gave us an introduction to Fiji and the Fijian culture. We then got on the bus and headed into Nadi town where we stocked up on sarongs and a few snacks for our time in the island before heading for lunch. In the afternoon we had a beautiful walk through the Botanical Gardens of the Sleeping Giant where we walked up to a beautiful viewpoint. The afternoon adventure ended with a fun mud bath – mud yoga included!
After arriving back at the hotel we had some down time before meeting up and dividing ourselves into our leadership groups: Social Squad, Wanda Warriors, Mum’s and Plastic Patrol. We enjoyed our first Chow Circle, a short moment where we meet before dinner and give shout outs to those that have helped out during the day in one way or another. Post-dinner we had a fun activity where we got to know more about our mentor’s and divide into mentor groups. Tomorrow will start early as we head out to the pier and onto the ferry for journey to Nanuya. We are all looking forward to getting in the water!
Tuesday July 23, 2019
Today we woke up early to finish up packing fill our stomachs with a hardy breakfast for the journey ahead. We boarded a bus to the ferry terminal, made sure our bags were checked in and then hopped aboard for our five hour journey to our new home – Boathouse Nanuya.
On the boat ride some of us adults slept, played games (cards), sat outside, and took some MORE pictures… we saw great things in the beautiful scenery. The island formations were great and the ocean a mesmerizing blue.
When we reached the island home base, local staff sang and welcomed us. We ate lunch and relaxed for a while before meeting up again for our snorkeling workshop.
When we entered the water and began snorkeling we saw different fish and marine life. At first some of us were more nervous than others but we all got comfortable in the new environment. After showering and warming up from our swim, we got together on the sun deck to enjoy our first sunset on Nanuya. To cap of our afternoon, Gabby -our local director- told us more about the service program we will be starting tomorrow. After dinner we participated in a discussion about Sustainable traveling and how we can reduce our plastic pollution.
Wednesday July 24, 2019
We started the morning with a workshop on basic reef ecology. Learning about the reefs and being able to step right outside to learn hands on has been amazing. For the day, groups split up to receive specific training pertaining to their service project. Group one went with Elle and Gabby (our local director) and learned to identify species in the reef in order to survey them.
Group two prepped “coral cookies” and learned how to identify COTS (crown of thorns starfish), an invasive species that eats coral. Each group went out to snorkel for basic training before afternoon service. Being in the crystal-clear water has truly been a beautiful experience. our afternoon activities we cleaned up, had break time, and went into our mentor groups. We ended the night with a traditional dancing and a BBQ dinner.
Thursday July 25, 2019
We began our day with a lesson on COTS, Crown-of-Thorns Starfish, and their destructive impact on coral reefs. Afterwards, the groups from yesterday switched roles for service. The group that previously did the COTS collection now surveyed the reef for an assigned fish, invertebrate, or the coral itself and the other group planted coral fragments. Unfortunately, the current was too strong to efficiently survey the reef, but on the bright side, that group was able to join in on COTS collection.
Overall, we managed to remove over 20 starfish. The weather was a bit gloomy which was perfect for afternoon naps in the sundeck before meeting with our leadership and mentor groups. During dinner we celebrated Isa’s birthday by singing happy birthday in both English and Fijian.
In the evening we ran a debate on Whaling rights for Indigenous communities where we had to put our personal opinions aside and represent the beliefs of a certain organization or group of individuals.
Friday July 26, 2019
Bula! Today GLA students left the seas and started our mangrove conservation project on a neighboring island. We started by collecting the prapagulles (baby mangroves) before heading inland and building a nursery for them. After completing the first half of our project, we headed back to the coast for lunch. Unfortunately we had to cut the project short because of strong winds and had to head back to home base.
After a short break we explored more of our home island in the hopes of finding some more prapagulles, and ended up wading through mud filled mangrove caves in an attempt to walk around the entire island. After our afternoon adventure we played “Get to know your mentor” which -after a nail bitting finale was won by Maria’s mentor group. We had a delicious Nanuya Dinner followed by traditional Fijian dancing and a village market where we were able to buy souvenirs in a way that directly supports the local community.
Saturday July 26, 2019
Yandra! Saturday morning began tentatively with an eye on the weather, but with optimism from Captain Bill we took to the motor boats and set off for a cave adventure. We entered a big cave and then swam through to another cave; which was completely dark! We kept swimming to the end of the dark passage where Captain Bill told stories of the cave and island.
After that, we headed back to Nanuya for lunch and some rest. Rain and wind didn’t stop us from having a hula dancing lesson, followed by a movie. After leadership and mentor groups, we headed for dinner and then for our night activity lead by Sam about “How to be an activist.” We’re hoping for better weather tomorrow!
Sunday July 28, 2019
Happy Sunday from Fiji! Today was a fun and relaxing day, as most communities in Fiji take it easy on Sunday. GLA students started the day with a scavenger hunt around the island organized by accommodation staff. They hiked up to the peak of the island and collected photos of important elements of Nanuya’s culture. The hunt ended at the Blue Lagoon, where they spent the day swimming, snorkeling, tossing a frisbee, and playing volleyball with hotel staff.
The group had a barbecue and enjoyed the sun before coming back to the boat house for paddle boarding, kayaking, and time to relax. This evening, GLA students will have leadership and mentor groups, followed by dinner and a bonfire. Everyone is feeling well rested for tomorrow! Social Squad (your student blog writers) want to wish their mentor and blog mom, Maria, a very happy birthday!
Monday July 29, 2019
Today was the start of another busy week for GLA students in Fiji! The group headed over to Vuake, a town on a nearby island, to continue their mangrove nursery project. Then, they headed further into the village where the local school was in session. Students gave the school dining hall a fresh coat of paint before heading to the boat for a lunch on the water. From there, the group went back to Home Base for rest, showers, and paddle sports.
At four o’clock, they reconvened to learn about their presentation assignment for the following day, for which students will meet with groups of school children and lead interactive sessions about the importance of mangroves for preserving the local ecosystem. After planning, students split into their leadership and mentor groups, followed by dinner. They’re looking forward to Shark Trivia with Maria this evening and another full day tomorrow!
Tuesday July 30, 2019
Today the GLA students focused on Waste Management in the community of Matacalalevu. We installed soap pits, which are devices to help filter out dirty dishwater, and dug a giant hole to help the village keep their trash contained. Afterwards, there was a bit of free time to interact with the kids and to drink fresh coconuts while waiting for tea with the people from the village.
After returning to home base we enjoyed the good weather by going paddling, kayaking and snorkeling while some sunbathed. Tonight we will watch “Chasing Coral”, a documentary highlighting the struggles that this fundamental ecosystem faces.
Wednesday July 31, 2019
Happy Wednesday! Today we journeyed over to Soma Levu island to go to the local school. We took the first part of the morning to beautify their water tank and finish up what the last session started. The students were in their exams so we had to keep quiet. When the recess bell rang we separated into three groups. We did a mini lesson in each group on why mangroves are important to their island. We also incorporated a game into each lesson which the students loved!
After the students had to go back to class we finished up our painting and headed back to home base for lunch. After lunch we prepared for a gathering taking place tomorrow where we will share our data with important officials. Then we took some time to spend in the water on paddle boards, kayaks, or to snorkel. We followed with mentor and leadership groups. Finally we ended the night with a presentation from Kelsey.
Thursday August 1, 2019
Today was an exciting day for GLA students, who were invited to participate in and present at the historic induction of the first government recognized marine conservation site in Fiji. The morning consisted of a goodbye swim in front of home base, we snorkeled, kayaked and paddle boarded. When tide began going down – and it was fast! – we continued prepping for our afternoon presentation. After our traditional lovo lunch, the festivities began.
There was an opening ceremony in traditional Fijian manner and various chiefs from the area spoke to the main chief. We boarded the boats and went off to see the official inauguration of the Nanuya Marine Reserve/Tambu Área where the chief marked the territory with buoys. Upon returning to land, students split into three groups to present information about mangroves, coral reefs, waste management, and the corresponding projects in front of the community, high chiefs, and press. The evening continued with more celebration, music, and dancing. The group closed out the night with some down time and star gazing.
Friday August 2, 2019
Our last full day in Fiji! Today was a bitter-sweet day for GLA students and staff. It was time to say goodbye to the wonderful staff and sights of Nanuya Boat House. Students began with sunrise yoga, followed by a hike around the island. They stopped briefly for homemade tea and doughnuts in the village before returning for lunch at home base.
After a goodbye song with home base staff, they loaded up for the ferry ride back to Nadi for dinner and down time. Saying goodbye to the Nanuya family was hard, but everyone is ready to make the most of tomorrow before saying goodbye to their new GLA Fiji family.
Our time in Fiji has come to an end. After breakfast we finished packing and brought out our bags for our last mentor meetings. Everyone had some time to think and discuss their OMG (One Major Goal) and how their learning and experience these past two weeks was going to be transferred back to their homes and communities. Before heading in to Nadi we had an appreciation circle where a few tears and lots of laughter were shared.
Our morning continued with some shopping in town and a delicious lunch at Mama Pizza. Unfortunately it was time for goodbyes to begin as two of our students had an earlier flight and went straight to the airport. The rest of the group then headed back to Nadi Bay Hotel for final surveys, ping-pong tournaments and chill out time before leaving for the airport. It has been an amazing two weeks and all our students are on their way home with a happy heart, many pictures and even more great memories.