Volunteer diaries from the Spinner Dolphin Project at Moon Reef

By 5 years ago
Categories Fiji Islands

Cake for breakfast yayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy! Our tummy’s full we board Green boat for the 20 minute ride to Moon Reef. Data collection inclusive of behaviour, acoustics and fin photo ID takes place throughout the morning and afternoon. Occasionally you may sample the coral café which comes with coffee, hot chocolate and lots of sugar before the research begins.

Behavioural research is recorded in 5 minute sessions, the 1stminute focusing on predominant group behaviour and the 2nd minute focusing on individual behaviour, this is usually done for a full 30minutes several times in the morning and afternoon Acoustics research is recorded by a C-POD which is lowered into the middle of Moon Reef each morning for the whole day. Further acoustics are recorded on a hydrophone for 5 minute samples as close to the dolphins as possible with the boat engine off. Photo Identification is tricky on an unstable boat however with a bit of practise, 1 in 30 photos may pass the test for fin identification. It is important that the photo is in focus and the contrast is correct, in order to identify particular individuals Dolphins’ tend to exhibit social behaviour such as tail slaps, leaps and their famous spins; usually more apparent in the afternoon sessions..                                                                                                             

The evenings at Natalei eco lodge comprise of kava, lots of singing and dancing with the community, and bonfires on the beach! Although the lodge is basic this is an amazing and unique experience, of which you can appreciate with the local community.” 
Sam Hook, United Kingdom
These past two weeks on the dolphin project have been an absolutely incredible experience. Travelling from Nadi to Suva, up to Dawasamu gave us an opportunity to see more of Fiji than initially anticipated. When we arrived at Natalei Eco Lodge we were greeted by a group of lovely ladies. Throughout the rest of the two weeks it was amazing to get to know the ladies who work at the lodge which is in partnership with the local village. They are always smiling and make delicious food for the guests.

Going out to Moon Reef, the main project site, is incredibly exciting. When you enter the reef the water changes from a dark blue ocean colour to one of turquoise green and bright blue. The depth is noticeably less and the life is much more active due to the close proximity of corals. The dolphins come to the reef every day to rest after a busy night of fishing and eating. Our objective out on the reef is to observe the dolphin’s behaviour to determine why Moon Reef is the only reef in Fiji which spinner dolphins continuously return to. To research this we take observative data, photo identification, and acoustic recordings. After a days worth of data it is inputed into a master copy which is then sent off to the University of South Pacific for further study. Seeing the dolphins in their natural habitat every day has been one of the highlights of my time on this project. They are truly amazing and beautiful creatures that need proper management and conservation. This is what makes the project so important for the betterment of the species in the reef.

It was so interesting to learn about the different behaviour and pattern of the spinner dolphins. It was something I would never have had the opportunity to do without this project offered by GVI. I would recommend it to everyone as a once in a lifetime opportunity and something I would do again without question. Vinaka vaka levu to the people of Natalei and Silana village for welcoming us with open arms.

Hayley Marshall- Canada