Since I was young I have always wanted to work with animals whether it was on land or in the sea. I decided to start with aquatic life because there is still so much unknown to discover and learn about but more importantly I wanted to gain more knowledge about what the global issues are. I came across Global Vision International’s Marine Internship while I was searching for marine volunteer work. This felt like a great place to start because it did not require any background knowledge or experience, only my PADI open water, which I needed for my internship. I will admit I was intimidated coming into the program because I had little knowledge on diving and aquatic life plus I figured there would be other divers and interns that have been diving a lot longer than I have. However, I reminded myself that this is all a learning experience, we all came for our own reasons but to achieve the same goal and that is to help make a difference and to gain more experience as well as knowledge in this field.
During my first two weeks on base on Nanuya Lai Lai Island I have already learnt and experienced so much. The first week was all about refreshing our dive skills and getting use to the new environment. This was a great start for me especially because this is the first and only place I have been diving since I got my open water, which was in a lake in Canada. My first dive here in Fiji was at the Blue Lagoon in the Yasawa Islands and it was so unbelievably beautiful; that is one dive I will always remember. As we pulled up to the Blue Lagoon, the water was aqua blue and so crystal clear just looking off the side of the boat I could see hundreds of different fish and every colour you could imagine. Coming from Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories, I have only ever experienced seeing Pike and Trout so this was a dream come true. We descended to the bottom and began a refresher on our basic skills, which went really well; everyone completed it with no problems and we all had a lot of fun. After the skill refresher dive we went to different dive sites to do ‘fun dives” (just diving to see some cool creatures) this was still for us to get used to our new environment and practise our buoyancy (sort of like being an astronaut in the water).
Once we had a chance to see where we would be diving and got use to the environment we started on our Advanced Open Water. The beginning was reading and knowledge reviews and now that we have completed them we are out in the ocean practicing. So far we have completed the under-water navigation dive, boat dive, buoyancy dive and under-water naturalist dive. It feels really amazing knowing I am so close to being an advanced diver. We have also learnt about coral, invertebrates (fish without backbones like sea cucumbers, sea stars and urchins) and soon we will be learning fish. It is really fascinating knowing that now when I go diving instead of just seeing aquatic life I will be able to identify them just by looking at their shapes and structures.
Apart from the diving and studying side of this program, the community around our base is also teaching us about how to live life so differently from what we are use too; this life is simple yet so beautiful and peaceful. All of the Fijians living around us have been so kind and welcoming; I definitely consider this my second home. Not only have the Fijians been so kind and welcoming but our staff and other volunteers on base have as well. With there being 31 of us from all over the world, you would assume it would be a mad house but it has been absolutely amazing. There are so many cultures that come together into one place and everyone is so unique in their own beautiful way. The chances I have had to sit with the people on base and learn about where they came from and who they are, are the moments I will never forget. To think I have only been here for three weeks and I have already seen so many places, creatures and met so many amazing people I cannot even imagine what I will have to write about after my six month internship. I have absolutely no regrets about coming here and I know it will only get better as the months pass. As the Fijians would say, Moce Noqoutau, good-bye my friends.
Danielle Gillard – GVI Fiji Marine Conservation Intern