ARO Blog: Cameron Hookey

4.2.14 Wuh-oh, we got hit with the bug. The best thing about living in a small field camp is that you are surrounded by people all the time. The worst thing is that you are literally surrounded by people all the time. Once one person gets a cough, a headache, or a pungent smell, everyone else soon falls with them. This last week was a little bit of a slow one, as everyone was taking turns missing dives because of sickness. But the good news is that everyone is feeling better!

This blog is being written in anxious anticipation of the new volunteers, who will be arriving this afternoon on the community boat. Fresh meat. It also means the next week will be busy with training and orientation, and we will once again work hard to get everyone survey ready ASAP.

Last Friday was a sad day for us, as we said goodbye to long term ARO Emma, and RA Cara. There were tears shed, hugs shared, and left over belongings shot-gunned. Kim got another bikini to add to her collection (thanks Cara)- she has managed to not wear a bikini that actually belongs to her in the last four days.

The weather has been beautiful for those of us hanging on the island this weekend. Mala the handiest of handymen has completed a brand new septic tank, which everyone will be very thankful for. The bathroom is actually located IN the house- how modern! Unfortunately the septic tank took the place of our pool. This was intentional and timely, as a recent outbreak of Dengue Fever in Fiji has led us to take extra precautions. And let’s be honest, after the pool became a hangout for the local frog gang, no one ventured in.

Should be lots to update for next week, as we are all excited about seeing some new faces, and beating them all in the cards games we have become professionals at. Over and out!

11.2.14 This was the first week we heard talk of missing the cold. Only for a brief second mind you, but the thought was there. Somedays it feels like your sweat is actually sweating. But then you are hit by a cool tropical breeze and are transported once again into paradise mode.  

This week we welcome 5 new volunteers and two new staff members. This addition also means we now have a resident dive officer, and will be able to conduct diving courses in our own backyard.  Just this week we have had lots of fun finishing up some open water and advanced diver certifications, and today got started on some new Rescue Divers. The location of perfect- we can practice rescue situations without having to explain to other divers and other boats that the “unresponsive” diver is in fact Felix, and perfectly fine.

This new group of volunteers (Shaun, Jaime, Nici, Kian, and Alison) are fast learners, having learned all of their indicator species in two days. Could be the case that we will have some survey-ready volunteers on our hands sooner than we expected. When we have not been training up the new volunteers or giving lectures, there has been some great volleyball matches in the works. Even the locals came up for a game or two, and showed us how bad we actually were.

The farm is doing well. Chickens have been let free for the time being until Navua gets in another shipment of chicken feed, the pigs continue to wreak havoc and get loose, and the kittens sleep all day and annoy us all night. Once again with a new group of volunteers, all the animals are getting love and attention, and in turn providing a small comfort of home to everyone.

This weekend we will say goodbye to a few new friends, and quite a few of the crew are heading over to Suva to “eat good food and watch movies”.  It  will be a nice break before the survey work begins.

By Cameroon Hookey, Marine ARO

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


Volunteer Blog: Celina Ramsay

Bula! I’m Celina and I have been on the FJM project for 2 weeks now!

The beginning of the week started off sad as we said goodbye to Ali Miles, who has completed his 20 week project in Beqa :( But the week carried on with plenty of dives including our Advanced open water training for PADI, which means all of us are all up to the right level for our training!

Kris also did an amazing thing and bought us our new volleyball net. Unfortunately haven’t been able to use it as the days have been disgustingly hot and have rendered us completely lazy on the weekends, which meant lots of movie watching (groovy baby, YEAH!)

We also got to do an amazing wreck dive on a 30 metre long fishing boat. All the advanced divers (including me) spent ten minutes trying to swim through the current to it but Felix, like a boss, snorkelled down to 20m no problem and made us all look bad haha!

The last week has been fun for everyone bar Calvin, who received the first ever water ban because of his overly scratched mosquito bites. But now his scabby little feet are almost 100% on the way to recovery so he will be back in the water this week, raisin’ hell and will stop his duties as boat girl.

That’s pretty much it for this week.

Stay excellent!

By Celina Ramsay, volunteer

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


ARO Blog: Cameron Hookey

What a week for diving! Early on in the workweek we had some of the best visibility since I have been here. Perfect for spot tests. With pretty much everyone survey-ready, we now have a week of data collection ahead of us.

We also have three new advanced divers in Brandon, Celina and Lewis. Greg came over midweek and completed the next level of training, teaching them about underwater navigation, buoyancy control, and even throwing in a cool wreck dive. Greg being here was a means for celebration, so our fearless leader Kris treated everyone to a highly anticipated chicken dinner.

Last week was also the grand opening of the FJM Tuck Shop, providing little pieces of luxury for the volunteers at a low price. So far we can’t keep Pringles on the shelves. Even the pizza flavor are selling, granted only when all the other options have been snagged up. All the proceeds of the Tuck Shop will be used towards camp upgrades, possibly a cooker?  The thought of it makes our mouths drool.

All the animals are doing well. KJ the pig has officially broken his carabineer, so congratulations to him. He has also learned that if he escapes and THEN takes a quick mud bath, he is much less likely to be rounded up immediately. The puppies have taken to idolizing the big dogs, competing in grossly unbalanced wrestling matches and putting on their most intimidating bark when an intruder comes around. They still won’t go near the cats.

We have also added another source of entertainment to the camp, a beautiful volleyball net. Now all we need is for Fiji to cool down a bit so we can use it properly. We also need to get better, as Mala continues to embarrass us on the court, along with his 6 year old son.

By Cameron Hookey, Marine ARO

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


ARO Blog: Cameron Hookey

Another successful week for the Fiji Marine Conservation Project. Calvin and Cara have been “spot on” with their underwater tests, and are knocking on the door to be survey-ready. Kim, Felix and Ali are surveying with their eyes closed, figuratively of course, and Lewis and Celina are working with staff and peers to learn the indicator species and become qualified “marine nerds”. Someday they too will be able to bring up obscure tropical fish species in conversation, impressing friends and family with their awesome marine lingo.

The animals are all doing well- Lucy the pig has become adept at shaking her collar, prompting Kris and an unlucky volunteer to have to wrestle her to the ground while she screams bloody murder. Ali has proven himself a worthy pig wrangler. Our puppies are still kicking it, and have acquired the names Trigger, Puffer and Damsel. Get it? If not, study your fish!  Kim wants to call Damsel “gooooat”, a classic dogs name- tensions run high. Everyone has a love/hate relationship with Trigger- she has the most personality, but likes to incessantly cry through the night for various reasons. Last night she got her head stuck in between two stairs like a wailing whack-a-mole, and Ali the pig wrangler had to dawn a new hat and become the puppy rescuer. That’s something to add to the CV.

Kris has been busy the last few days working on the data and getting the volunteers excited about the findings. It is always nice to see your hard work being turned into usable data that actually makes sense, and could benefit the area in the long run. For only having 6 months worth of data, we are already starting to see some pretty cool trends.

With the weekend upon us now, it is time to relax. With a few new volunteers to welcome, it will be nice to sit around and play a few games. There is nothing like Monopoly to make (or dissolve) friendships. I guess that will be an update for next week. So far Brandon has won all of the games, so there might be an anti-Brandon alliance in the works.

If all goes as planned and the weather holds, next week should bring on a few more Advanced diver certifications, Calvin and Cara getting their Rescue Diver, and a busy Felix working through his Divemaster.  It will be a busy week full of rescue scenarios and adventure dives on top of our regularly scheduled programming, the surveys. Hopefully there will be sharks and rays abound, fingers crossed.

By Cameron Hookey, Assitant Research Officer

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


Volunteer Blog: Felix & Kim

Felix and Kim at your service. The weeks been awesome. Saw some fish, caught some rays, saw a few sharks, got a bit burnt – you know the usual Fiji banter.

Image courtesy of Shannon Elizabeth, Fiji Marine Conservation & Diving volunteer

So the new guys are alright it turns out! They’ve been bashing through their spot tests (some better than others) over the last week. Some are even almost ready to survey with us! While spot tests we’ve seen some pretty gnarly stuff such as looooaaads of white tips, turtles (Kim finally saw her first one after 14 weeks of disappointment), MASSIVE trigger fish, a huge eagle ray, AMAZING visibility and of course Felix has seen millions of Nudibranches too.

We have been doing unsuccessful workouts… press ups some nights… Felix looks hunkin’. Ali’s man boobs are getting more pec like (THANK GOD) but sadly he leaves us on Wednesday… :( the tremendous trio will be no more (Felix, Ali and Kim).

We seem to have acquired 3 more dogs, now at a grand total of 7 dogs! Trigger (the cutest), Puffer (the fattest) and Gooooooat (the goatiest). All of them are adorable but not when they cry all night (Trigger I’m looking at you).

Kim (surprisingly) is now the brownest Scot on camp but there is not all that much competition… Felix is the most buff (no surprise there) and they are the two best looking on camp also. Sorry, not sorry. Celina looks ok.

The kittens are causing havoc as per, peeing where they shouldn’t and pooing in Kris’s clothes and fins (haha). Watch out they like porridge.

Infection has run wild on camp especially in two spots, Kim and Emma’s knee. Everyone has been very helpful treating the wounds with iodine and love. Kim’s knee exploded on her way down to the boat and so much puss came out it was unreal, it was like a volcano of puss and minging stuff. Emma’s knee exploded mid dive and not as much mingmong stuff came out. Kim wins.

Sunday was a Cava hangover day, so we watched movies all day. Movies including Blood Diamond (ya ya bru), The Other Guys (goodnight Sheila, goodnight Terry), Sex Drive (no brother of mine will take it in the chilli ring). Fantastic day to top off the week.

After Kris went shopping we finally have enough MILK POWDER, toilet roll and crackers for the long lost CRACKER PARTY! The week definitely ended on a high. Filled with love, crackers, movies and sharks……and nudi’s…..and Ali’s naked dive…… and Kim’s turtle.

Stay Classy Fiji Marine.

Over and out, put that kettle on.

By Kim Guthrie & Felix De Wattripont, volunteers

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