Arriving at Nadi Airport exhausted and beaten-up from days of travel, hopefully you’ve managed to spend the last leg of the journey sleeping, you will be greeted by a group of merry men singing in skirts (the traditional sulu that you will come to love during hot days in camp) as you have your first encounter with the island culture of “Fiji time”.
Getting through customs will possibly take quite some time but the staff (just like the rest of the population) is very friendly and will usually check parties traveling together all at once which speeds up the process.
Luckily the time spent in queue will mean that your bags have probably arrived as you regain your freedom from the clutches of queue-life.
Here you can also exchange money you brought with you or if you would rather use an ATM there is one through the next set of doors.
This is also where you will be greeted by your project organizer who will shepherd you to your home for the coming weeks on Beqa Island (granted that you’re arriving on the first Monday of the month).
Next to the ATM there is also a Vodafone shop where you can pick up a SIM card if you wish.
There is both cellular and data reception on camp if you are willing to brave the mosquitos by walking a few 15 meter away from the tin can of a shed we call home.
There is also a café if you are hungry or thirsty, do your best to flirt with the barista and if you are lucky you can avoid choking on chicken bones in your sandwich.
When your group has met up and are ready you will board a local bus to either Pacific harbour (a small collection of houses and resorts by the southern shores of the main island) or Navua.
Don’t expect to get much sleep on the bus as it is usually filled to the brim by chatty locals, the speakers are always booming with reggae remixes of popular pop songs or audio from some obscure movie being played from the tv screen up front. The trip will take you between 3-4 hours but is a perfect moment to get to know your new fellow volunteers or rest your head by watching the beautiful scenery passing by.
Navua is a small but busy town being a connection point between the capital of Suva and Nadi, where most of camps resupply is done both from the shops and the open veggie markets.
From Navua you will board a small fishing boat that will take you over the water to Beqa.
Hot tip! Bring trash bags or any other means of waterproofing your belongings, Ziplock bags are a godsend for protection of electronics and wallets. You WILL get wet on the crossing and especially during the rainy season when water will hit you from every direction.
But don’t fret! The trip only takes 30-60 minutes and soon you will be arriving on the shores of (as been stated far too many times before) the Jurassic park looking island soon to be renamed Skull island in times of the next blockbuster.
As you are being greeted by the rest of the group from camp you will come to realize the full extent the task you have undertaken. To get to land you will first have to walk through the murky water and then trek the 200 meter up the hill to reach your mess tin looking shelter.
To stay clean, mud-free and unsweaty is an impossible challenge and something you will quickly abandon only to embrace the relaxed life of a group of carefree mothballs.
All that is expected of you now is to relax, catch up on some jetlag and start to adapt to camp life.
By Charlie Ahlstedt - Fiji Marine Volunteer
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