So here I find myself, Tovuto base, on a tiny island called Nanuya Lai Lai, lost in the South Pacific. I’m just about to start my third week as a marine intern with GVI Fiji. We, all 19 of the base’s newest crop of volunteers, arrived together from the mainland two Fridays ago on a blistering hot Pacific afternoon. But I think it’s still not quite sunk in that this paradise will be home for the next six months.
There are five of us on the marine internship program; Catherine, Jolene, Maria, Xavier and myself, the largest number the base has had yet. We got stuck in after our introduction to the base and the scramble for the dorms. We had a couple of days settling in, learning the base setup and its routines, how the dive shack operates and where the compressor is. Then we’re in the water for our check out dives and the studying is underway immediately too. We get our target species broken up into three groups, and the best way to learn them – get into the water and start diving!
The diving around the islands here is spectacular, the base is fronted by a white sand beach with fringing reefs a short snorkel trip out and some impressive deeper dive sites a short boat trip away. At this stage we’ve been all around the local area doing training ‘point out’ dives, with Alex and Jacson two of the experienced volunteers. We have been familiarizing ourselves with the local wildlife, and seemingly regardless of where we drop in there’s beautiful reefs and a proliferation of technicolour fish and invertebrates.
Mornings start early on the base, with breakfast at 7am and the days first dive normally leaving at 8. I certainly thought it would be a struggle when I arrived but you find that the pace of life is very different from at home here, run more by sunrise and sunset than by ‘time’ in the traditional sense. The best bit, of course, is that there is always plenty of time for a second outing on the dive boats after lunch. And it’s nice to always get a friendly smile from the education and construction teams when we arrive back on base in the evenings.
Thus far we’ve been focusing mainly on identifying benthic life forms, like hard and soft corals, and the many invertebrates seen around the Yasawa Islands, from octopus and lobster to sea cucumbers (the sea cucumbers don’t look like this back home in Ireland!). These are the first two targeted species groups. But we’ve also spotted some exciting macro-fauna, plenty of stingrays, inquisitive white tip reef sharks and even the odd shy Hawksbill sea turtle have been keeping us company over the last few days.
We’ve also been lucky enough this week to help out on dives to explore new sections of the reef, which has led to some exciting discoveries. Both for spectacular diving and for spotting some of the more unusual life forms we’re here looking for. I could go on about this bit for hours, but the best way to find out is to come and see for yourself!