You’ve probably heard of Fiji – a tropical paradise located in the biodiverse, warm, clear waters of the Pacific. But Caqalai – you’re forgiven if you haven’t heard of that.
Caqalai is one of 106 inhabited islands that make up Fiji, along with the other 226 uninhabited and 522 smaller islets. Caqalai is ideally located just off the east coast of the main island northeast of Suva, the Fijian capital. It is part of the Lomaiviti Islands archipelago.
Volunteering on a marine conservation trip in Caqalai will give you the chance to make a difference and to grow personally. Looking back, you’ll be telling your old friends about your new friends and bragging a little about your new dive qualifications and experiences.
But you will also have made a positive impact by helping to gather important information on Fiji’s coral reefs and marine ecosystems. This helps to empower communities to make informed decisions that guarantee food security for future generations.
Spend time with other volunteers and the community
With GVI, you can spend two to 24 weeks with a group of international volunteers, mingling with the local community, diving or snorkelling on weekdays and taking in the culture and customs during downtime.
When you’re out of the water, life, at times, might seem a little slower. Your accommodation will be traditional bure-style housing set back a short way from the lapping waves and complete with a thatched roof and small deck. You can quickly learn to love the simple pleasures in this location, such as watching the sunset, or checking out the local bird life.
Perhaps you’ll spot a banded sea snake below the waves and later be lucky enough to encounter another sliding across the lawn. Don’t be surprised if life (and your heartbeat) speeds up for a moment as one of the Fijians rescues (you and) the snake, raising it delicately by its tail and returning it to the ocean.
You might be invited to partake in a local beverage, kava. Enjoying kava the traditional way requires a couple of handclaps and then sipping from a coconut cup. If you’re lucky, local musicians will provide some island music to accompany the kava ceremony.
You’ll conduct important marine research
After settling on the island, you’ll be introduced to the more serious side of the assignment. GVI program objectives contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). You will learn about these and the specific goals of the projects you’ll be involved with at your location.
You will also learn about coral reef ecology and conservation issues facing tropical marine organisms and the communities that depend on them.
Important marine research is undertaken as part of the volunteering program. You will be involved in the collection of marine inventory data from research dives at 14 different sites around Caqalai.
The surveys look at around 170 species of fish, invertebrates and benthic life forms. This research is then shared with local communities and organisations to help them plan better for the future.
Diving research is undertaken on weekdays. Volunteers not qualified to PADI Open Water level can attain the qualification over an eight-week period.