It feels like just yesterday that all of us were sitting at the blue lagoon and sipping on coconuts (free of plastic straws of course). The coral that we planted is thriving right of Nanuya island. It now provides a safe ecosystem to some of the many important species we surveyed and learnt about. Just think of those cute little surgeon fish eating algae off our coral and parrot fish darting past.
The area we snorlekeled and kayaked through is now a marine protected area and the local community has used our presentations to further their conservation work. The 1440 mangrove propugules are all thriving, providing important ecosystem services which help coral reefs. Captain Bill is still boating around challenging any who dare to a fierce game of volleyball. He remembers fondly our trip to the Sea Cave and the beauty of our voices as they echoed through the cave.
The murals we painted at the local Fijian school are still there, brightening students learning environment and reminding the kids of the day you all came and repeatedly fell over playing duck duck goose.
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
Tuesday June 18, 2019
After an early start all the students arrived bright eyed and bushy-tailed at Nadi Airport, despite a few lost bags there were big Bula smiles all around as we all headed back to Nadi Bay Resort to be greeted with a traditional Fijian welcome ceremony. The students were introduced over the kava bowl, kava is a ceremonial drink made from the root of a local pepper plant which some of the brave staff tried in order to respect locals customs.
After being shown to their rooms and given a chance to settle in and get to know their fellow roomates we covered a few basic housekeeping rules and health checks in order to ensure everyone is fit and healthy for some serious conservation work out in the field.
The afternoon was spent at Wailoaloa beach, named after the colour of its black, organic-rich sand. Everyone had huge amounts of fun playing games, paddling in the warm tropical water and generally hanging-out and enjoying the beautiful Fijian weather with a backdrop of swaying palms. Dinner was a traditional Fijian ‘lovo’, where meat and vegetables are cooked in the ground over baking hot stones, a technique that has remained unchanged for centuries.
The day was topped off with a fantastic Polynesian dance troupe who lit up the resort with their breath-taking fire dancing. Students were more than happy to head to bed early to catch-up on some much needed sleep in eager anticipation for tomorrow’s activities!
Wednesday June 19, 2019
First day for the students waking up to a beautiful Fijian sunrise started with a presentation on local culture, community values and Fijian history. On our way to eat a hearty lunch at the self-proclaimed ‘World’s Best Fish and Chip Restaurant’ we stopped to buy sulus – a traditional Fijian sarong integral to local custom and a necessary item for working in conservative communities.
Next up was a informative tour of the lush Gardens of the Sleeping Giant where students learnt about native Fijian plant and insect species. This was followed by a sweaty hike up to see a beautiful view out over Nadi to the ocean and the bay where the first settlers landed in Fiji. The students cooled off in the therapeutic thermal mud pools before heading home for a buffet dinner and well deserved rest!
Saturday June 22, 2019
The past couple of days has been crazy, it started with heading out to our idyllic home base paradise. After visiting our village friends in the local community who put on a traditional Fijian welcome kava ceremony called a ‘sevusevu’, we learnt about the threats of plastic to marine habitats and how to live more sustainable lives.
Students woke up to a delicious first breakfast on the island complete with a beautiful view over the reef. The first service day kicked off with an informative lecture about coral reef ecology, students then split and one group surveyed a newly established MPA (marine protected area) to look at its effectiveness whilst the other group helped to regenerate reefs lost from coastal development by building a coral nursery. The day ended perfectly with some local Fijian dancing and a delicious meal. After an intensive service day in the water we enjoyed an adventure day snorkeling in a sacred cave occupied by a 10-headed snake god!
Sunday June 23 and Monday June 24, 2019
We spent a chilled Sunday enjoying a typical day at the beach. The day kicked off with an island-wide scavenger hunt which included a picturesque hike up a hill to enjoy the view. The aim of game was to be the first back to find all the clues and impress the island chief!
After a well-received BBQ on the beach which included all-American hot dogs with a tropical twist student chilled out beach volleyball, kayak games and a marine biology snorkel. Day 7 started with a lovely breakfast with a view, right after our mentor Elle gave an informative lecture about the threats of the Crown-of-Thorns to Fijian Marine Ecology, we kicked off our service work by monitoring and retrieving this pest species on the house reef with data submitted to international COTS monitoring programmes.
After lunch we split back into groups to continue surveying the reef and planting baby corals. After service we had a GLA ‘pulse check’ to make sure everyone was in tip-top shape and enjoying the programme whilst giving useful feedback about what can be improved going forward.
Tuesday June 25, 2019
Everyone woke up to a hot and humid morning after a rainy night. After a delicious breakfast, the students learned about mangroves from Gabbi, our local director. They then went on a nature walk where the students picked up mangrove babies to plant later. After a beachside lunch, the students had some down time before they headed over to the village.
Once in the village, the students started planting the mangrove babies into the mud. A few students had some miss steps and ended up taking an extra mud bath. In total the students planted 1446 baby mangroves. Afterwards, the students played volleyball on the beach before sitting down for some afternoon tea presented by the villagers.
Wednesday June 26, 2019
Wednesday morning kicked off with a windy breakfast on the terrace of pancakes, followed by a presentation about waste management! Students were pretty shocked to find how easy it is for western people to deal with their trash compared to how much of an issue it is for developing nations like Fiji with little or no municipal waste removal. After the presentation students prepped their class on Water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH) ready to teach in a local primary school tomorrow.
After lunch students took a boat to a village called Matacau Levu where one group conducted household surveys finding out how community members dispose of their solid waste and greywater. The other group conducted a beach clean with a few little helpers from the village, the highlight of the day was definitely ‘Little Billy’, the adorable grandson of much loved GLA boat captain Bill. The women of the village made a delicious tea where everyone enjoyed stuffed roti, jan roll cakes and banana bread. We made our way back over chippy seas looking forward to an evening trivia activity focused on shark conservation.
Friday June 28, 2019
The last two days have been a blur! The GLA students spent the whole day yesterday at the local primary school. They presented to the kids on the importance of water converservation and how to properly wash their hands. The GLA students then painted murals and did other beautification projects around the school and played games with the children. It was so fun to be with the young kids all day and gain insight into another culture. The night ended with a barbaraur and a Polynesian dance performance at home base.
This morning started with the students having optional snorkel time or hula dancing lesson. For our final service project we traveled to the local village one last time to present to the villagers what we had learned and the data we had gathered. The students presentations were on community waste management, mangrove ecology, water conservation, the monitoring and removal of the crown of thorns starfish, and the reef check survey results. The students then had free time at home base to relax and enjoy the Fijian paradise.
Well what a way to end a hugely successful trip, after an emotional goodbye song in Fijian sang by Nanuya staff the volunteers set sail on rough seas to Nadi, thankfully everyone spotted an inquisitive Manta Ray en route which more than made up for the queezy conditions!
The last day was spent souvenir shopping in Nadi where students bought a selection of traditional Fijian handicrafts from war clubs to Tapa bags. The afternoon was spent reflecting on the impact of our project and the students contributions to the everyday lives of Matacaulevu community members and the pristine reef habitats they depend on so closely. After some truly heartfelt goodbyes and exchanging of contact details the students arrived at the airport ready to return home.