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Fiji

Fiji

ISSUE 21 ARCHIVE - GREENFORCE IN FIJI

Chantelle Wyatt

Remote is not the word for this fantastic project that houses up to 40 volunteers per phase of its project in its busiest months on a small island just off the coast of Vanua Levu in Fiji.

Greenforce invites people to head out and get thoroughly involved in projects on a stunning south pacific island surrounded by crystal clear blue water and a vast world of flourishing marine life. They not only give you the opportunity to engage in activities such as playing with the energetic children, spending time with your adopted families, eating lots of food, drinking kava, going to church and finally relaxing, but also dive on exquisite coral reefs collecting vital survey data, with a brilliant Marine Biologist, to help create a Seascape multi-use reserve in partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Coral Reef Alliance in Fiji.

Greenforce offer long-term commitment to at risk regions to help establish sustainable communities. In addition their training programs offer Volunteer Research Assistants the opportunity to work alongside scientists to make a real difference and also develop their own careers in conservation.

The 1992 Rio Earth Summit, Section 3c stated that host countries should undertake base line biodiversity inventories to ascertain what areas need protection. If a signatory is unable to do this survey they can request assistance from international aid agencies. Greenforce is one of these agencies.

Although you can dive from here all year round, the best diving in Fiji is from April to October. November to January tend to see the most rainfall, with the rainy season officially extending into March. Prime visibility is during the winter months of July

to September when the surface can be a little choppy and potentially as cool as 22°C. During the November to April summer months the water temperature can reach a balmy 30°C.

The reefs surrounding this part of Fiji form the Namena Marine Reserve, which is a great place to spot large animals, enjoy fabulous visibility and for learner and new divers, creating the perfect environment for such a project.

The Greenforce camp might not be your ideal luxury diving holiday experience with 5 star hotels and Mojitos on tap, but it is a trip with a difference that will stay with you long after you°ve returned home to the rain and drizzle. I interviewed afew past volunteers regards the project to get their view on living life on the basic side...

Chad Sinden and Hannah Govan who run the basecamp, diving and marine education, amongst other things, are truly committed to protecting and recording information regards their dive sites and ensuring that all volunteers leave with a new outlook on why it is all so, so important. Both are very qualified and vibrant individuals and they run a tight ship with full schedules and lots of work to do. To balance it all out they provide a fun and lighthearted atmosphere that is easy for anybody to slip into. Group meal times with discussion about the days dives, movie nights screening educational documentaries about all things Ocean related with popcorn of course and fish, plus ID games help to encourage everybody to learn in a numerous array of media.

So what about the diving? Well, it is Fiji. It is a marine reserve and it is bordered by a tropical island. How could it be bad in any way! Fish thrive in the nutritious water and schools of barracuda and trevally are never too far away. Reef sharks and turtles are spotted regularly and soft corals bloom gorgeously.

The Namena Marine Reserve, along with the near-shore locally managed Marine Areas (LMMAs), are considered "qoliqoli" and are managed by the 10 village chiefs, making up the District of Kubulau.

In everyday Fijian language, "qoliqoli" is an area of sea where customary native fishing rights exist. The people of the Kubulau district have traditionally relied upon the qoliqoli for their livelihood.

In the 1980s and 90s, an increase in commercial fishing posed a serious threat to Namena’s reefs. The chiefs of Kubulau responded in 1997 by placing a total ban on fishing through the creation of the Namena MPA. The reserve is known to be one of the best diving spots in all of Fiji, this exclusive site is home to many endemic and rare species. Surrounding the tiny island of Namenalala, the approximately 70 square kilometer Namena Marine Reserve was established in 1997, stretching between the two main Fijian islands of Viti Levu and Vanua Levu.

The Namena MPA and associated barrier reef system are home to a remarkable variety of fish, invertebrate and coral species. They are also home to the only known humpback

whale calving site in Fiji. Additionally, the beaches of Namenalala are a significant nesting site for endangered hawksbill and green sea turtles making this an extremely bio diverse location. Greenforce is a great project for anyone, whether it be for individuals looking for a career break, young people on a gap year or just finishing their study and in need of a break or 23 for people starting out in the industry of conservation. The theory behind the project is right, the staff are great, the location is stunning, the diving is epic and the fish are being saved. A perfect concoction but one that will always need more people to maintain it's work and encourage good practices. Why not make your next holiday a productive one.

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