Welcome to GVI Fiji's Community Development Programme blog. Here you can keep up to date with our projects in Fiji.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Sarah's Spinner Dolphin Blog

I was originally drawn to this project due to my strong interest in wildlife conservation research. I had not long completed my degree in Animal Science, in which I had completed a conservation based Honours project. Following the completion of this course I had gained a position as a clerk in an environmental lab. After close on a year working in an office I decided I needed a career change back to something field based!

I got to Fiji a couple of days ahead of the project to allow me to get some sort of bearings in the culture of this new destination. The projects small group met up to commence the project in Nadi and we were greeted by our very enthusiastic Project Manager, Howard Foster. We all sat around a table with respective beverages and ran through the project and briefly and began to get to know each other. This session continued onto dinner where we further discussed the project, our backgrounds and our interest in the project. The group was very mixed in regards to the volunteers’ ages, nationalities and careers however we all had one common interest, a passion to study the unique Spinner Dolphin population of Moon Reef.

The next morning we set off to Suva and then the Dawasamu tikina to our projects destination at the Natalei Eco Lodge via a scenic route around Viti Levu’s coast. Upon arrival at the lodge we were greeted by the very friendly staff. We were also then introduced to the brains behind the project, Dr. Cara Miller.

We eagerly started the next morning with Cara discussing in detail the project and our part to play in it. We went over our training in theory and then in the afternoon we put it to practice as we headed out to Moon Reef for our first observations of the dolphins. Without fail, the dolphins made their appearance within the reef and certainly did not fail to meet the group’s expectations as we were soon struck by the personality of these cetaceans. It wasn’t long until the dolphins showed us how they had gained their name by stunning us with their spins as well as other numerous fascinating social behaviour. Our first observations of the dolphins had been very satisfying and or efforts over the following days were continuously met with impressive displays. We completed our audio, behaviour and identification observations on the reef with a trip or two a day, broken up with some great activities including snorkelling outside the reef, hiking to a local waterfall for a refreshing cool dip and enjoying the Fijian culture. The evenings were spent entering data, watching movies, ‘enjoying’ kava, socializing and generally relaxing.

The local interest, which was so crucial to the project’s success, was made evident to the group evident with a visit from the Fiji Times who came to report and spread awareness on the project’s efforts. The local Fijians also showed a strong interest in increasing their scientific knowledge to complement their relationship with the land and enable them to continue conservation efforts within the reef after the project’s completion.

Working amongst people with similar interest is not only highly satisfying but also very inspiring as it gives hope towards a better future and the conservation of not only the Spinner Dolphins studied in this project but also biodiversity worldwide. I have found this project to be very rewarding and the group of people on the project was great to spend time with. I was continuously inspired by the other volunteers’ experiences both relating to similar projects and their general life experiences. Spending time amongst similar minded people is also a great way of finding out what other opportunities there are out there. There was also the great opportunity to draw knowledge from Kara’s extensive knowledge. The locals enthusiasm was very hopeful. Spending time with them and hearing their perspective on the dolphins and the potential ecotourism opportunity that may arise was a great experience.

I would definitely recommend participation on this project to anyone with an interest in conservation of marine, aquatic or terrestrial wildlife or ecosystems. Despite the close proximity of Fiji to home, there is definitely a strong cultural difference in Fiji compared to the western world however, pushing ones boundaries can be the best thing you can do and is one of the sure ways of making a difference. It is also very important to experience another way of life, and where better a place to do this than in tropical Fiji?! At only the halfway point, I am sure there will not be a dull moment and I highly anticipate the remaining experiences I will gain from this work.