ARO Blog: Nikola Piesinger


Another week has come and gone on Beqa, and what an interesting week it has been.

A huge "bula" and welcome to our newest volunteer, Laila! Welcome to the Frontier Fiji Marine family. We hope you enjoy your stay. Laila is due to complete her Open Water course this week with Clare and then move on to her Advanced Open Water soon. Exciting times ahead!

The beginning of last week marked Kian's first official survey! After blowing through and absolutely nailing his practice surveys he was excited to get started.
Flo managed to pass her indicators test at the beginning of the week and quickly moved on to families and ended up dominating that test too! She actually just had her first practice survey today, and she did very well!

We've had quite a bit of luck last week as far as visibility was concerned. We went to Mala's Rock for the first time (for many of us) and the visibility was out of this world! It was as good as any of us have ever seen it, which was very exciting. There were lots of things to see - including a cute teeny tiny little juvenile sweetlips, a swimming flatworm, plenty of nudibranches, and the odd grumpy grouper hiding in little caves.

Can't wait to see what this week will bring.

Don't forget to stay classy.

By Nikola Piesinger, Marine Assistant Research Officer

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


VOLUNTEER BLOG: Carolina Ricchi (Lina) and Florence Atherden

Chapter 1, Some people went diving.
Lina and Flo finished all their dives for their Advanced Open Water Diver and are just waiting on the results of their knowledge reviews. They are pretty confident. Brandon had his last dive and saved Lina and Niki from getting lost! But Lewis, Calvin, Alison and Kian couldn't dive because of minor cuts; nobody wants infection!!!  

Chapter 2, The Storm
So this week was dominated by rumors of Cyclone Lusi who threatened to dampen our spirits over the weekend. A long awaited trip to Suva had been planned, but instead we had to prepare and hunker down. This included duct taping some of the holes in our house, pushing the boat on land, and moving all the dive equipment and tanks into Niki's room (she had to move out and sleep next to Calvin – the poor dear). On Thursday the weather was fine and clear, leaving some of us suspicious of this so called Cyclone, until Claire showed us the weather report and most of us had texted our parents just to check that is wasn't an elaborate ruse to surprise us with a trip to Suva.... But it turned out it was! Suva Suva Suva! (Claire and Niki still insisted there was no plot but Lusi chickened out and we got the community boat at 7am on Friday Morning)

Chapter 3, Reunited again
Whilst in Suva we happened to run into Jamie and Kris! Kris has lost some of his tan and some of his hair but Jamie was looking much better and ready to come out and sample some culture with us! Or so we thought... Instead we were left to make friends with the Suva volunteers without her! Who were lots of fun, and we have arranged another play date with them this weekend – but this time its at our house!

Chapter 4, Suva itself!
Everyone fully exploited the air-con, cold drinks and chocolate on offer leaving some out of pocket by the end of the weekend. Lina brought the biggest bag of food back ever. EVER. Flo dropped a cake, but everyone still ate it anyway and Calvin dropped some vodka, he is a huge disappointment. Calvin belly flopped at the waterfalls, twice! The local Fijians enjoyed it very much. Alison made a trip to Micky D's which was very very interesting, and nearly got her burping crown taken from her. Nearly. She is making up for it now in camp. We had our goodbye meal with Brandon on Saturday evening where Niki ordered incredibly well and was willing to share (much to our delight). We then had another meal with Brandon on Sunday night because it's Suva and we could. We will miss Brandon very much, he was the unsung hero of camp. Boredom on Monday morning resulted in Lewis's first piercing! He was a massive baby, and now has a water ban.

Chapter 5, Home sweet home
We returned to find that the cats had not peed on our beds! We also found some new arrivals! Chicks! Sadly we think they belong to the Fijian chickens, not ours. Lucy the pig is still loose and we have some bananas! Jamie is back so that means banana cake! And it's Lina's birthday today which means even more cake (except flo is unreliable)!! Looking forward to our weekend with the Suva Volunteers and then meeting the new arrival on Monday!

By Carolina Ricchi (Lina) and Florence Atherden, Volunteers

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



Last week the weather was good and we managed to dive every day. I finished the advanced courses with Flo and Lina and they finished all the theory so they are now both fully qualified Advance Open Water Divers –congratulations to them both. Flo had a great Navigation dive as the visibility was very poor but she still managed to navigate a square and find the boat again, very impressive. Lina particularly enjoyed her peak performance buoyancy dive during which she learnt to hover in a Buddha position, like superman and upside down! Lina now only needs one weight to dive and she started out with three, good job!

We also said goodbye to Brandon last week. Brandon has been a great volunteer with a huge knowledge of pretty much everything. After his final dive Brandon demonstrated Newton’s law of motion that everything has an equal and opposite reaction by floating vertically at the surface and using his regulator as a propeller to turn himself around! All on camp will miss him and we wish him well for his future travels with Frontier in Central America.

This week we welcome Jamie back after she spent some time recovering in Suva. We hope to get Jamie and Kian survey ready this week. We also hope to get Flo and Lina through their indicator and family ID tests.

On Thursday we were planning for a cyclone (Lusi) which we expected to hit us on Thursday night or Friday morning so we had to batten down the hatches, move everything into the house and, thankfully, the storm didn't it us after all! Therefore on Friday all the volunteers went on a well earned R&R trip in Suva. It was a surprise for the volunteers who didn't think we were going to be able to go. Everyone had a goodtime and they returned to camp on Monday ready for another weeks diving and surveying.

By Clare Brown, Dive Officer

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



Bula everyone! My name is Niki and I'm a volunteer Assistant Research Officer (ARO) here on the Frontier Fiji Marine project. It's crazy to think that I've only been here for about a month, but I can safely say that I'm loving every minute of it.

This past week has been quite eventful. We welcomed two new volunteers to our little family: Carolina and Flo! They have settled in nicely and are both wonderful. They are currently completing their Advanced Open Water course and are on their way to becoming great surveyors.

The diving has been great, apparently it's shark season now so we're all keeping our fingers crossed for some big shark sightings. We've been confined to a few sites and rather limited diving this week due to the weather (hello Fiji monsoon season!), but we've managed to keep ourselves entertained. It's safe to say that a few of us have got a little bit of cabin fever but we've been ignoring that, and we have been eating our feelings.

Speaking of food, it's been pretty awesome these past few days. I usually try and stay as far away from the kitchen as possible because I tend to burn things and generally just get in the way, but I volunteered to help out with dinner on Saturday and we made vegetable and mackerel pies - which were glorious. I helped roll out the dough and make individual pies for everyone. It was very exciting. Brandon managed to make us breadfruit hash browns the other day and we actually just ate some sausages with onion gravy, fried kasava, and vegetables (thanks to the re-supply!).  

This week we're saying good-bye to Brandon, a delicate Canadian flower. He's been such an amazing part of this project and whenever anyone has questions he's always the first one that everyone runs to. You name it, any question at all, whether it be about fish, cooking, cleaning, or just random general knowledge questions, The Brandon will know. He knows everything. To say that he'll be sorely missed is an understatement.

Oh! Also! Almost all of us have started or finished reading Game of Thrones which has become a hot topic of discussion/arguments depending on who you talk to.

That's pretty much all I can think of right now. Also, Kris, we love you and miss you stupid amounts. Come home soon!

Don't forget to stay classy.

By Nikola Piesinger, Assistant Research Officer

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



ARO Blog: Clare Brown

It has been a good week on camp this week. Shaun, Alison and Nici are survey ready and both Shaun and Nici managed to complete one survey before they left camp on Monday morning. Alison is working well and has completed a couple of practise surveys and one real survey so she is now able to go out and collect data. Jamie and Kian are working well and have completed a number of spot tests so it will only be a matter of time before they are out there surveying with the rest of the gang. Felix also left us on Monday morning having completed his 20 weeks on camp. He also managed to complete his dive master qualification before leaving us so is now a fully certified PADI pro! He will be missed by all, especially for his ingenuity and his skill in finding the mooring sites, but we wish him well for the future.

The new dog, Lucky, has settled in well and has taken to sleeping in my room at night. So now I have my own personal guard dog (although she is a big softy so I'm not sure she would be much good at guarding me)! The puppies are both growing well and their coats are looking much better than before and they have both developed a taste for banana porridge. The other dogs, cats, pigs and chickens are all well and continue to provide much entertainment on camp.

On Friday after we completed our days survey diving I took six of the volunteers out for a night dive on a reef called Vuvale. It was an adventure as only one of the group had been night diving before. We saw crabs, feather stars, shrimp and a fleeting glimpse of a reef shark. The highlight was the bioluminescence which could be seen when we all hid the light from our torches and moved our hands through the water. It is like looking at the stars under the water as tiny organisms glow with a beautiful fluorescent light when disturbed. Everyone had a light show on the way back to base too. We could see the bioluminescence in the wash from the boat but there was also a lightening storm at the back of the island. Every time the lightening flashed the whole island was illuminated, it was spectacular. A good day all round.

By Clare Brown, Dive Officer

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