ARO Blog: Blue Raasch

This is my final blog and last week here on Beqa Island.  In the past three months I have exceeded my expectations and have accomplished more than what I set out to.  I wanted to come to Fiji and volunteer with a marine conservation program, teach volunteers and learn about local customs and traditions.  I have been fortunate enough to surpass these goals by finding this position as Assistant Research Officer with Frontier where I was able to interact with locals and teach volunteers.  While in the Yasawas, during the early part of my Fiji trip, I was able to visit local schools and teach younger children as well.   

I am extremely happy to report that being with Frontier has solidified my future goals; doing research and working as a professor one day is my ultimate dream.  I want to teach young adults about the importance of marine conservation, coral reefs, the biodiversity associated with them, and the dire condition future generations will be in if we don't start acting now to save this important marine ecosystem.  

Working side by side with volunteers was very rewarding for me.  Watching students learn, overcome challenges, and then participate in the collection of data used for future research made me incredibly excited.  Knowing that the data that we collected will help with future implementation of 'No Take' zones is very encouraging as well.  

Being in Fiji for six months, three with Frontier, has been an adventure of a lifetime.  I am blessed and very lucky to have been able to travel half way around the world, to a remote island, diving with species that will soon be extinct, and meet some of the nicest, most generous people.  Despite the extremely simple living arrangements, Fijians are some of the happiest people I've come to know.  They are kind, helpful, and would gladly lend you the shirt off their back.  They take sharing and caring to all new levels.  They give a new definition to generosity.  

I will leave not only Beqa, the island, but also Mala & Ateca, their children, and the Frontier staff and volunteers whom have become family to me over the past few months.  I have definitely become a better person after this experience.  I know that I will go home appreciating all the finer things in life and feel like a queen for all that I have in my life.  This experience really put life into perspective for me and gave me a better understanding of what is really important.  

Thank you Frontier, staff, volunteers, friends and family for making this experience possible, I wouldn't trade it for the world.  

Moce, and vinaka!!   
Yours truly,

Find out more about the Fiji Marine Conservation & Diving project.


Volunteer blog: Becca and Jon

We were all sad to see Caitlin and Jess but had a lovely leaving ceremony with Mala and his family. The camp was so desperate for snacks, eggs and noodles this weekend that Becca , Jon, Matt and Beth went to the village with a big mesh bag in the rain to stock up. The villagers welcomed us with a huge 'Bula' in our raincoats and sulus. Niki, Loli and Becca unexpectedly saw a hawksbill turtle on their practise survey dive which was quite exciting. All the volunteers made sand collection more fun and efficient with a relay chain playing Chinese whispers as we go.

By Becca and Jon, marine research assistant volunteers

Find out more about the Fiji Marine Conservation & Diving project.


ARO Blog: Nikola Piesinger

Bula Vinaka!

Niki here, ready to bring you up to speed on the week's activities on Beqa island. It's been an eventful week, so mentally prepare yourselves folks!  

The biggest thing that's been happening this week is our beautiful new kit room. Having arrived on the project back in February and not had one, it's a new luxury that everyone is taking advantage of, and it's very exciting! Everything is now able to stay dry and it'll help with the overall maintenance and upkeep of our equipment. As of today, it's 100% finished! We even have a tank rack to keep everything neat and tidy inside. It was also quite a fun task trying to keep the chickens and the dogs off the concrete foundation when it was being laid earlier this week.

Everyone has been involved with the building process. Mala is the chief builder on the project, and he lets us pass him nails every now and then. A few volunteers helped with the overall erection of the framework and the painting of the new shed (which has a fancy Frontier logo on the door)!

On the diving front, things have been great this week! The main highlight has been the fact that Beth and Jon have both passed their Advanced Open Water courses! Well done guys! Other highlights include a few shark sightings during snorkels AND dives, dolphins on boat rides, an oriental sweetlips, and a hawksbill turtle yesterday during a shore dive.

Unfortunately, we had to say good-bye to our two long-term volunteers this past week - Jess and Caitlin. We wish you both all the best in your future travels and endeavours. Camp won't be the same without you, we miss you both already! So do all of the spiders and the toads.

Well, that's it from me.

Don't forget to stay classy!

By Nikola Piesinger, Assistant Research Officer

Find out more about the Fiji Marine Conservation & Diving project.


Volunteer blog: Jess Playle

This week we welcomed 5 new volenteers into camp- Olivia, Katie, Beth, Jon and Loli. They have all settled in very well and have been busy snorkelling or diving, alongside learning their fish.

After exhausting sweaty work carrying sand and pebbles up from the beach and creek to make concrete, the new dive shed has finally been started. Other activities have included anchor painting, transect painting, boat cleaning, and volleyball matches.

Dan, Matt, Caitlin and I have been using lift bags during our dives to move numbered concrete blocks onto the old transect markers, in order to make surveying easier. The dives have been amazing, especially during a dawn dive where we had ridiculously good vis, which was perfect for Becca doing a spot test and our transect deployment.

This week we have been very lucky with all our meals. Dan cooked an amazing Thai curry and onion bhajis, whilst Matt and Jon mastered pancakes on Saturday. The newbies cooked pizza which was incredible and the arrival of an enormous bunch of bananas has kept us all happy.

After being here on camp for 9 weeks, I now only have one week left. Time here has gone crazily quickly and I will miss diving and all my fellow volunteers so much.

By Jessica Playle, volunteer research assistant

Find out more about the Fiji Marine Conservation & Diving project.


ARO Blog: Nikola Piesinger

Bula Rey! Another exciting week on Beqa has come and gone. Once again, I'm here to keep you updated on anything that you might have missed.

It's been rather quiet on base as we had to say good-bye to one of our long term volunteers last Friday. Calvin, we all hope you're having an amazing time in New Zealand! It's awfully quiet without you.

This week started off on a high, with a new volunteer joining our little FJM family - Becca! Becca has been diving for a while now, and so without any additional training needed, she dove straight into the science training. She's now passed her Indicators test with flying colours and is working on passing her Families test.

After a slew of indicator and family spot tests, Lizzie and Matt have both passed their Families tests and are doing a couple of practice surveys before they head out onto their real surveys with Dan, Jess, and Caitlin! Great job guys!

Diving this week has been great, with plenty of white tip shark sightings, a blue spotted ray - which was VERY exciting for me, a juvenile lion fish, and nudibranchs galore (they're my favourite!).

This Friday we had to say good-bye to Lizzie and Angie. It was great having you girls, and we all wish you the best of luck in your future endeavours. Our taste buds will definitely miss the great dinners that Angie cooked, and playing extremely competitive card games won't be the same without you Lizzie! :)

And finally, we also have had the pleasure of welcoming 5 new volunteers to our FJM family! Beth, Katie, Olivia, Loli and Jonathan, bringing our total number of volunteers to a whopping 10! We hope you enjoy your stay with us.

That's it from me! Vinaka Gina!

Don't forget to stay classy.

By Niki Piesinger, Fiji Marine ARO

Find out more about the Fiji Marine Conservation & Diving project.