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Coral Reef Research in Fiji

Dive into the crystal blue waters of the South Pacific Ocean and contribute to coral reef preservation efforts in Fiji.

Program Code: FJYW0802E

Program Information

Participating on this program means conducting important research with our key partners, and making a direct contribution to preserving the corals in the Caqalai region. Coral bleaching is a global marine crisis: 50% of the world’s corals, which house a majority of marine life, have already been wiped out in the last thirty years, making it an intergenerational problem, requiring as much active action as possible.

United Nations
Sustainable Development Goals

Overview

This project is geared at providing long term research to support sustainable use and preservation of marine resources, with benefits to the local communities through strategies designed to help guarantee a rich diversity of marine life remains for future generations.

Weather permitting, you may participate in 1 or 2 dives or snorkels each day, for 5 days a week. Prior to diving, you will complete extensive training, in order to prepare you for the research you will be involved in. Our GVI staff will supply you with all the training you need to be certified up to a PADI Advanced Open Water diver. You will also obtain the exclusive PADI Coral Reef Research Diver Distinctive Speciality qualification on this program.

Non-divers are welcome to join for 8 weeks or more, but the 4-week duration is only open for qualified Open Water Divers. Non-divers who want to attend the program for 4-weeks can qualify through local dive centers before their intended start date.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Learn how to identify coral reef species and/or habitats, including benthos, invertebrates and/or fish in the South Pacific Ocean.

  • Improve your diving skills and experience

  • Develop the techniques you need to survey coral reefs

  • Increase your employability by developing your hands-on conservation skills

  • Experience true cultural immersion in the Fijian way of life

  • Contribute to UN Sustainable Development Goal #14, Life Below Water


 

Program Details

Program Type: Volunteering
Location: Australasia - Fiji - Caqalai

Select a Start Date

  • 2019
  • 2020

Select a Duration

Select a start date first.

Life On Base

Caqalai Island plays host to a diverse mix of marine conservation projects, which participants will experience while living an island-style, communal environment with fellow participants and GVI staff. The island is on the edge of an expansive reef system, which provides volunteers and interns with the opportunity to see extensive and exclusive underwater life, generating a vastly in-depth, explorative experience as a whole.  

Accommodation Tour

ACCOMMODATION

Accomodation on our Caqalai base is just a few meters away from the water, providing participants with a once in a lifetime experience. Participants are traditionally housed in dorm rooms for the duration of their stay, with shared bathrooms facilities and communal relaxation and social areas.

MEALS

The core of Fijian cuisine consists of taro, rice, cassava, coconut and fish. Participants take it in turns to prepare meals for the group as a whole, which is all part of living on a GVI base. Food consists of primarily a vegetarian diet, though meat is provided on base roughly once per week. Breakfast varies, but could include porridge, fruit or toast, and lunch and dinner are a mixture of lentils, beans and vegetables with pasta, rice, noodles, roti, cassava or dalo.

COMMUNICATION

Considering the unique, remote base location, participants will have limited access to long-distance communications while on a program in Caqalai, so be sure to give your friends and family a heads up about how often they can expect to hear from you. Consider this your opportunity to take a well earned sabbatical from the hustle and bustle of the modern technological age. There is no general internet access on base, though it is possible to purchase a pay-as-you-go wifi modem, however internet signal remains intermittent in the area.

CLIMATE

Fiji is warm and sunny, providing you with a real island-living experience. April/May and October/November is a great time to visit Caqalai, given the pleasant air temperatures during the day, with cooler temperatures overnight. Depending on the season, there may be quite a bit of rain during your visit, so be sure to pack accordingly. During summer months (December to March), the water temperature rises to a very comfortable 27-30°C (75-80°F).

What's It like?

If you’d like to find out what the experience of joining a GVI project is really like, simply contact us and we’ll put you in touch with one of our many Alumni.

We’ll try to match you to an Alum based on your location, nationality, age, stage of academic career, gender, and program interests. This allows you to gain insights into the experience that is most relevant to you.

Depending on your location you might be able to speak to an Alum over the phone or online, or meet up with them face-to-face at a coffee shop nearby. We also run a series of small events around the world where you can speak to GVI Alumni, Ambassadors and staff members.

Live Updates

Follow GVI Volunteer-In-Caqalai's Facebook page for live updates straight from the field. Get an idea of the types of projects you might be involved in, meet our staff and participants, experience life on this GVI base, hear about free time activities, and learn about the local culture and environment.
 
GVIfijicaqalai

Arrivals

When it comes to support, we ensure that each participant is provided with unparalleled, 360 degree support, from your initial contact with the GVI Family, all the way through your program, and even after, as you become part of the GVI Alumni Team.


As part of this promise, we will ensure, whenever possible, that one of our dedicated staff will be available to meet you at the airport. In most locations, we also set up a Whatsapp group to help with managing airport arrivals. We will arrange with you prior to your departure that, should you arrive in the agreed upon pick up window, a member of our staff will be there to welcome you, easily identifiable in a GVI t-shirt or holding a GVI sign and wearing a friendly smile. This means there will be someone there to greet you as you land, and from there you will be transported to your GVI base to start your adventure and meet the rest of your team.


 
 

Flights

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As GVI is providing this portal as a service we are not responsible for the accuracy of this site.

We are also not responsible for any loss, damage (including loss of profits or consequential damages), injury, illness, harm or death in relation to your flight and travel arrangements.

Meet the team - Senior Field Management

Claire Ogg

Program Manager

Meet Claire, the Program Manager at GVI’s base in Caqalai, Fiji. Claire is originally from the UK and has a degree in environmental sciences. Her line of work over the last ten years has included working with many different NGOs in marine conservation. Her work has taken her to variety of unique locations across the world. These include the Philippines and an island in the Caribbean. She is also a dive instructor. She loves diving and helping to train of the participants.

Dora Szabados

Country Director for Fiji
Meet Dora. Dora is originally from Hungry and is the Country Director of Fiji. She is based in the capital Suva, Fiji, and holds a Bachelor's Degree in Foreign Relations. Turns out Dora has a identical twin sister and also is the world's biggest fan of Stephen King!

Meet the team - In-Country Staff

Ana Ciriyawa

Science and Engagement Officer
This is Ana, a GVI Local Leader who is in fact originally from an island in the northern part of Fiji. Ana has been working with GVI for the last 18 months as the Science and Communications Officer, which ties in closely with the degree she has in Marine Biology.

David Cooper

Assistant Base Manager

Introducing you to Cooper. Cooper is the Assistant Base Manager and the Community Outreach Officer at GVI’s Calalai base. He is originally from the UK, and his educational background is in Marine Biology. He has had various jobs in relation to this, however, he feels this one with GVI is definitely his favorite! He has done a lot of traveling while working in the photography industry and finally he loves to rock climb.

Your Impact

All of our programs have short, mid and long-term objectives that fit with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals or UN SDGs. This enables us to report on our collaborative impact across the world in a streamlined manner, measuring which UN SDGs we are making a substantial contribution to. Furthermore, this will help our local partners and communities measure and visualise their contribution to the UN SDGs.


Upon arrival to base, you will be educated about the history of the UN SDGs. You will learn about the specific goals of your location, the long-, mid- and short-term objectives, and also clarification of how your personal, shorter-term involvement contributes to these goals on a global level.


Our aim is to educate you on local and global issues, so that you continue to act as active global citizens after your program, helping to fulfil our mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.


While on a GVI program, participants will make an impact while assisting with the conservation of a staggering 1500 species of marine animals, all of which are found in the region. The communities we work with in Caqalai often do not have access to sufficient resources to carry out regular data collection in their fishing grounds. Access to data provides greater insight into how to address coral reef and fish stock related problems, which can be hampered by natural disasters and unsustainable fishing practice.


Data collected on our programs is provided to the local community and our local partners along with alternative livelihood methods and management strategies to help stakeholders make informed decisions with regards to their existing marine resources and long term food security.


Our Partners In Caqalai

Project Objectives

 


GVI Caqalai, Fiji Long-term Objectives:


1. Protection and monitoring: Collect long-term data on the reefs around Caqalai and Moturiki, in order to inform the communities of Moturiki and support them in developing a sustainable resource management strategy.


2. Education: Provide the communities of Caqalai and Moturiki with information on their natural resources, including the threats and means of protection, to empower them to make the best-informed decisions when looking after their resources.


3. Livelihoods: Introduce methods of alternative livelihood to generate income for local communities to reduce dependence on damaged fisheries for income.


4. Moturiki Yaubula Management Support Team (MYMST): Support the continued development and training of the MYMST and their management strategy.


5. Waste Management: Conduct regular clean-ups of beaches and sea on and around Caqalai and Moturiki with the hope of further developing a more permanent solution for waste management.


6. Water Resource Management: Support the communities of Moturiki in securing access to water resources, which can be very scarce in dry season.


 


Training

A GVI program is an investment in your career. No matter which you choose, you will be working toward improving your employability by mastering new social skills, gaining further technical expertise and earning qualifications in many cases. Most of our staff are, in fact, GVI Alumni, and we have helped many of our Alumni discover, move toward, and earn their own personal dream jobs. Each program includes introductory workshops, ongoing presentations, as well as on-the-ground professional support provided by our very own trained staff members. In addition, our training programs are critical for helping us to ensure the long-term impact of our sustainable development projects around the world.


For All GVI Participants

Welcome Presentation

Introduction to GVI as a whole and the work in your specific location. Learn about the short, mid, and long-term objectives of the sustainable development projects at your base, which United Nations Development Goals they impact most directly, and which local partners we work with.


Health and Safety Training

Learn about the Emergency Action Plans in place at your base, the full Risk Assessment, and best practices for personal safety.


Child and Vulnerable Adult Protection Training

Learn about the importance of child and vulnerable adult protection best practices and how to apply them while on project.


For All Participants at Caqalai

Survey Training

The best way for the staff to improve and assess your fish, invertebrate and benthic life-form knowledge is to use multiple teaching methods. GVI’s teaching method in Fiji incorporates slideshow presentations, fun workshops (fish bingo anyone?) and most importantly, what we call “point out dives & snorkels.” Once basic dive training is completed at the beginning of the expedition, each diving day you will participate in 1-2 point out dives or snorkels.


GVI Fiji Species List

You will be assigned the responsibility to learn either fish or invertebrates and benthic life forms first based on the length of your stay, 1 month volunteers learn invertebrates, 2 to 3 month vols either fish or benthic lifeforms depending on the needs of the survey team. The reason for this division of species is to get volunteers into the water collecting data as soon as possible and thereby maximising the effectiveness of the survey team.


Survey Methods

The baseline method employed by GVI during the underwater surveys was designed to complement existing survey methods used in Fiji by the Department of Fisheries and the Fiji Locally Managed Marine Area Network (FLMMA). GVI uses three separate methods for our marine expedition, Point Intercept Transect (PIT), Invertebrate Belt Transect (IBT) and Underwater Visual Census (UVC), all conducted as a team along one transect.


Data Collection and Analysis

During your expedition you will help to enter raw data that you collected into the GVI database where it can be further analysed by our science team. There are 14 sites around Caqalai where we collect data once a year, of which seven will be surveyed for a second time, all at three different depths. Once a year a comprehensive annual report is produced detailing the analysis of the data collected and any conclusions that can be drawn. Data collected on crown of thorn surveys, dives against debris, beach cleans, coral bleaching surveys and The Great Fiji Shark count will be shared with relevant partners.


Exploration

Joining a program not only allows participants to collaborate with communities or work toward preserving unique ecosystems but it also offers plenty of opportunities to explore the surrounding area or travel further to see what other parts of the region have to offer.


Long term field staff are a great source of advice, and have helped us put together the following information on local travel options. Many decide to travel before or after their experience (subject to immigration restrictions), solidifying the lifetime friendships established on program. Please note that the below suggestions are not included in the program fee, and are for the individual to organise at their own expense.


Weekend Trips

Fiji Museum

Participants could also plan to visit the Fiji Museum, where they be able to see ancient tribal artefacts, one of the best exhibitions on tribal art in the Pacific, or read up on Fiji’s cannibal past.


Levuka

The old historical capital of Fiji, Levuka, which makes for an interesting day trip, is accessible by ferry and small boat and located on the nearby Ovalau Island.


Suva

Fiji’s capital city, Suva, is only a few hours from the GVI base, and known for its relaxed atmosphere, energetic nightlife, large farmers market and atmospheric port.


Forests and Waterfalls

Participants could also opt to hike into forests and swim in hidden waterfalls, or visit one of Fiji’s famous island resorts.


Moon Reef Dolphins

Starting locally, participants will be just a short boat ride away you from the famous pod of dolphins that reside year round on Moon Reef.


Regional Exploration

Fiji is a beautiful and exotic destination where you will find picturesque white sand beaches, world class dive sites, and Fiji’s famous culture of hospitality and warmth. As an island nation, many of your potential activities will be water based.


Further Travels

Dry Land Exploration

Staying on dry land, you might consider a trip to the Sigatoka National Park, where you’ll find a miniature desert of rolling sand dunes or a more relaxing option would be the Coral Coast and the Kula Eco Park, Fiji’s only wildlife park.


Pacific Harbor and Bega Lagoon

From Pacific Harbour, join a river safari into the heart of Fiji or dive with bull sharks in Bega Lagoon, one of the world’s most famous shark dives.


A visit to Nadi

A little further afield, the possibilities are endless. Explore the town of Nadi with its bustling market, nearby hot springs at Sabeto or get a feel for the local atmosphere at a rugby match.


Cultural Immersion

Engaging intimately with a new context teaches not only global awareness but adaptability and critical thinking, skills highly valued in the modern marketplace. Local and cultural immersion is encouraged on all our programs around the world, and is also one of the most enjoyable aspects of your experience. Luckily, there are many activities you can get involved with in your free time, or before and after your program. On our community programs the focus is on cultural topics, while on marine or wildlife programs the emphasis is more on the environmental element. Use your evenings and weekends to explore diverse and eclectic topics like Theravada Buddhism in Laos or how plastic pollution and climate change affects Indian Ocean coral.


Caqalai Immersion

Caqalai Island is a mystical, exquisite location, so mysterious that travelers often arrive without even knowing how to pronounce its name (say it with us now so you’re taken care of when you get there: “thang-gull-eye”). The island is a 14 acres big coral island south of Ovalau in a sea known as the Moturiki Passage. Caqalai is the perfect place for all those that want to get away from it all and experience real laidback Fiji Island life.


The Locals

Fijians are generally some of the friendliest people in the world, so provided you respect their traditions and customs, locals are typically warm and eager to welcome you as a guest into their villages and communities. Doing so provides you with fascinating insight into traditional Fijian lifestyles and will add another layer of depth to your time on a GVI program.


Flavors of Fiji

Traditional Fijian cuisine consists of sweet potatoes, taros, bananas, coconut, fish and leafy vegetables as primary ingredients, but it is the wonderful amalgamation of flavours that makes Fijian cuisine so interesting.


Culture

Fiji has had a rich and somewhat tumultuous history. It is made up of a diverse population varying from Indigenous Fijian, Indian, European and Chinese heritage. Its culture is predominantly informed by indigenous traditions and values.


Our Ethics

Below is a list of core ethics and best practices we believe are essential to the operation of high quality, ethical volunteer and sustainable development programs. We believe that all responsible volunteer and sustainable development operations should focus upon these principles. If you are considering volunteering, these are some of the key considerations you should question, to ensure that your time and money contributes towards positive change.


 


We want to constantly develop our own understanding of ethical best practice. In so doing, we aim to provide an exemplary industry standard for other education institutions, international development organisations, and social enterprises. Our Badge of Ethics stands for the drive to always do good, better. Find out more, click on the Badge below.


 

Our 10 Ethical Commitments

 

Locally Driven, Collaborative Projects

We aim to design all our projects in collaboration with local organizations and communities and ensure that they are locally driven.


 

Clear Objectives & Sustainable Outcomes

We aim to clearly define short-, mid-, and long-term objectives with sustainable outcomes for all our projects.


 

Impact Reporting

We aim to track, record, and publish the impact of each of our projects.


 

Working Against Dependency

We aim to build in-country capacity by assisting local organizations in becoming self-sustaining.


 

Responsible Exit Strategies

For each local organization we work with, we aim to have a plan in place for withdrawing support responsibly.


 

Clear Roles & Specialized Training

We aim to ensure that ever participant is assigned a clear role and that they are fully trained and supported to carry out their work by specialized staff.


 

Respect for all

In all our actions we aim to respect the skills and efforts of all and seek to protect the rights, culture and dignity of everyone who engages with GVI.


 

Local Ownership

We work to ensure that credit for the results of any project, along with any data collected, research conducted, or Intellectual Property developed, remains the property of local organizations.


 

Transitioning from the Orphanage Model

We do not condone and aim to withdraw support of orphanages and residential care centers.


 

Child and Vulnerable adult policies

We will live by our Child Protection and Vulnerable Adult policies.


Continual Development

As an organization, GVI is committed to striving toward best practice, and to educating both our potential participants, our partners, and the world at large about them. Both the volunteering and sustainable development sectors are increasingly, and rightly, under scrutiny. Many recent local and global articles highlight poor practices and questionable ethics. GVI is widely recognized for striving to apply global best practice in the volunteering, education and sustainable development sectors throughout our operations by reputable organizations such as ChildSafe.


However, global best practice is always evolving and we dedicate both time and resources to engage with internationally respected experts and learn from the latest research to ensure our programs both fulfil their potential to create maximum positive impact, and minimise their potential to create unintentional negative impact. Along with and as part of the sustainable development and volunteering community, we are constantly learning and applying this learning to practice. We do not always get everything right, but we seek feedback from our community members, partners, participants and our staff, and react accordingly. We know are already doing a great job, and feedback we have received confirms this, but we aim to do even better and are continuously refining our operations to improve upon our already excellent reputation.


Parent Info

‘If only every student could do this. It changes your life in all the right ways,’ says Chris Heritage, parent of Luke Heritage, one of our teen volunteers who has participated on two GVI programs, one in Costa Rica and another in South Africa.

We are a parent-run organisation that is incredibly serious about health and safety, and increasing the impact, as well as the long-term career benefits of our programs. Our programs help young people develop the skills to select a career path that is personally fulfilling, and live a life aligned to the well-being of our planet and the global community.

Ken and Linda Jeffrey, whose son Sam volunteered with GVI in Thailand, talk about how the experience affected Sam. He also went on to volunteer with GVI again in South Africa. ‘I know it sounds like a cliche but in a sense, he did go away as a boy and he came back as a young man. Both of us could recommend GVI without any hesitation to any other parent thinking about exploring an opportunity for their children to explore the world and to see different parts of it.’

Parent Info Pack

Download the Parent Pack and learn more about:

Our staff: All our projects are run by staff, selected, vetted, trained, and managed by our central office.
Health and safety: Our safety practices include a child and vulnerable adult protection policy and high participant ratios.
Staying in touch: See what’s happening on base, by following a hub’s dedicated Facebook page.
Free parent consultations: We would love to talk to you about exciting opportunities available for your child.

Support & Safety

We won’t sugarcoat it — traveling abroad is usually a complex process that carries an element of risk. But this is exactly why we’re passionate about providing extensive support throughout the process as well as the highest safety standards during the in-country phase. We believe that volunteering abroad should not only be impactful, but an enjoyable experience that carries as little risk as possible. This is exactly how we’ve been able to maintain our reputation as the most highly respected volunteering organisations in the sector over the past two decades.


Support

Once a participant books, they will be assigned a personal support coordinator who will oversee their pre-departure journey. The support coordinator helps to bridge the gap between program enrolment and arrival at one of our field bases. Your personal support coordinator will ensure that you are provided with all the necessary information required to apply for visas, background checks, and any other documentation.


Safety

Upon arrival at the airport, participants will be greeted by a GVI staff member. All GVI staff are our own and all our programs around the world are run by our staff. All GVI field staff are background checked, Emergency First Response and safety trained. The minimum staff to participant ratio on GVI’s programs is one to six, although on several bases we have a ratio of one to three. When finishing the experience, participants will provide feedback on all aspects of their program.


Health & Safety Case Studies

19 Nov

HOW GVI UPHOLDS HEALTH AND SAFETY

It takes courage to book a GVI program, get on a flight, and head off to somewhere new. Volunteering offers a level of cultural immersion that typical backpacking or holidays just can’t achieve. This is why thousands of people around the world participate in paid GVI programs.


1 Nov

GVI’S COMMITMENT TO SAFETY AND SECURITY

As the saying goes: ‘Expect the best, plan for the worst’. Cliched or not, we take it to heart. This tenet is at the core of how GVI operates when it comes to promoting the health and safety of our participants, staff, and local community members at all of our 20+ bases around the world.


6 Nov

HOW GVI REMAINS PREPARED FOR NATURAL DISASTERS

The weather isn’t just a topic for polite small-talk here at GVI. We have emergency action plans in place for all scenarios. So when the weather, or other natural forces, takes a nasty turn, we are prepared to respond to stormy situations.


5 Nov

HOW GVI MANAGES PARTICIPANTS EXPECTATIONS

Once GVI has matched a participant to a program that suits their passions and goals, our team aims to set the right expectations for them. In the event that false expectations around a program are created, the GVI team takes immediate action to ensure that the situation rectified.


What's Included

  • 24-hour emergency phone
  • 24-hour in-country support
  • Access to Alumni Services and Discounts
  • Airport pick-up (unless otherwise stated)
  • All necessary project equipment and materials
  • All necessary project training by experienced staff
  • Location orientation
  • Long term experienced staff
  • Meals while on project (except on work placements for long term internships)
  • Safe and basic accommodations (usually shared)
  • Welcome meeting

What's Not Included

  • Additional drinks and gratuities
  • Extra local excursions
  • Flights
  • International and domestic airport taxes
  • Medical and travel insurance
  • Personal dive kit, e.g. mask, fins, wetsuit, timer etc.
  • Personal items and toiletries
  • Police or background check
  • Visa costs (where necessary)