After spending one month on Caqalai I decided it wasn’t enough so I extended my stay
After spending one month on Caqalai I decided it wasn’t enough so I extended my stay, only for a week, unfortunately, because I have other projects in September.
This is how much I love it here. I come from Belgium, I studied journalism and environmental management. I’ve been diving for 12 years now but not as often as I would like to as Belgium is not exactly a diving paradise.
I was travelling for 4 months in Australia and had one month with nothing planned so I decided that joining GVI for a month on Caqalai would be a great way to spend this free time. So here I am now, changing my plans to be able to stay a little longer!
This month has been incredible, I have learned so much about the ocean, the corals, and the marine life around Fiji and about GVI. In addition to diving every day, which is awesome, learning to identify corals and invertebrates, which is awesome (who doesn’t love to be able to name the things you see when you’re diving?!)
I can really feel how the project makes a difference in the local Fijian community. Firstly, it is great to be sharing Caqalai with a Fijian resort, where we can learn a lot about Fijian culture and even immerse ourselves through Kava (or Yaqona) ceremony! Other than that, teaching children at UPS school on Motoriki was a great experience, as I would never have thought that I could actually enjoy teaching! And I can see how they enjoy the participation of GVI in the teaching programme. Last week we were all invited to a fundraiser at MDS and, especially as I never had been to this school before, it was awesome to see how we were welcomed and how they prepared the whole day for us, with great food, cakes, meke, singing, and cava. It was a truly wonderful day.
There are also so many great projects going on at Caqalai. The seaweed farm that we started to build is a great project and I really enjoyed being involved in it. It’s another great project for the local communities, seaweed farming is a very good way to diversify incomes and empower women. I’m really glad I had the chance to be part of the construction of the seaweed farm, even if tying endless knots can get a bit boring after a while! That is always the great feeling with this project, actually making a difference. It’s also very nice to see that Caqalai is a model of a sustainable island. I always thought that Belgium was quite great in waste management but Caqalai is even better! We sort absolutely everything, reuse as much as we can, for example in upcycling sessions at school, and we try to inspire the local communities to take Caqalai as an example to reduce the amount of waste they burn.
What I found best about the programme, is that on Caqalai you are encouraged to start your own projects! I decided to do an Opisthobranch survey project that I could actually finish within a month. The objective of my survey is to study the diversity and the abundance of opisthobranchs around Caqalai. The conclusion will probably come in the blog next week! So what are opisthobranchs? One of the tiniest and coolest things you can see while diving! They are basically sea slugs, but they look far more beautiful and interesting than land slugs. They come in all kinds of shapes and colours, and nudibranchs are the largest and most well-known order of opisthobranchs. They are very interesting, some have incredible ways of defending themselves, they ingest the poison residing in what they eat (corals for example) and keep it in their system until they can use it to poison a predator. The opisthobranch that we see most often is the Loch’s Chromodoris, which is a dorid nudibranch, mainly white with a bit of blue, and on the house reef we also regularly see the blue headshield slug. I have attached a picture of Funeral Jorunna, a beautiful and big (6cm!) nudibranch that I took a photo of on a survey on the house reef.
To make our experience on Caqalai even more incredible, last Thursday we had an unexpected visit -a humpback whale and her calf! And to make it truly unforgettable, we had the chance to snorkel right next to them!
To conclude this post, I’ll say one more thing that makes this place such a great paradise, it’s that all the volunteers, interns and staff here form a great family, within which it’s nice to live!
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