First two weeks at Caqalai Island

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February 17th 2016
Published: February 26th 2016
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Already within the first two weeks I have forgotten about the cold UK winter that I left behind as you settle in with your new family of people from all over the world. Presently there are 32 of us- all different ages and all different backgrounds, but with similar passions- marine conservation and diving.

So many volunteers have previously said that Caqalai is like living in a documentary, and that was proved by our second week when a night hawksbill turtle started laying her eggs beside one of the bures (a traditional Fijian house). We were lucky enough to watch her as she began hiding the last of her eggs before heading back to the sea. On our 4th open water dive out at one of the marine sites, we saw white tipped reef sharks, turtles, giant clams and a sea snake. During the second dive the group took part in researching a type of species that had only been discovered 50 years ago, with many species still not identified. These are a mollusc family known as nudibranchs (sea slugs) that live on rock and coral.

There is never a dull moment on the island with everyone becoming part of the community and volunteering to maintain the base. This involves taking turns to cook meals, clean up and prepare for future dives. In addition to diving and training to dive, volunteers teach at the two local schools about environmental sustainability & marine conservation once a week and arrange beach clean ups. Although I have been involved with student campaigns before, I have never taught school children before, so I am looking forward to that challenge.

Although I had previously dived, this was 10 years ago so I wanted to begin my PADI Open Water qualification again. The instructors are very professional and have done 1000’s of dives between them. Safety is always a top priority on the island. Over the first two weeks there were reports of a cyclone called Winston which has been passing between Australia and towards New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga. Each day there are updates on where the cyclone is heading. So far the Moturiki District in Fiji has not been affected, although we have had the occasional strong winds. When this happens dives are cancelled, to ensure the safety of everyone on the island.

During the weekends you are free to go wherever you want in Fiji. A common retreat is to an island resort on Leleuvia island, a 15 minute boat ride from our island. Complete with chocolate cake and ice cream this island is a great place for a mini holiday from your holiday on Caqalai island. The snorkelling is fantastic with regular sitings of parrot fish, sea cucumbers, trigger fish, lionfish and even the odd leopard snowflake eel. This weekend we are going to visit Suva, the capital of Fiji and head out to the rainforest for a day there, before heading back to Caqalai for another busy week of dive training and marine conservation research.

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