Coral Reef Research in Fiji

Dive into the crystal blue waters of the South Pacific Ocean and make an impactful contribution to coral reef research in Fiji.

Program Information

Take a trip to the Fiji Islands and discover the rich biodiversity of Caqalai Island’s coastline and crystal waters, home to an array of stunning marine fauna and flora. Assist us in conducting important coral reef research, and at the same time, boost your own conservation and diving skills. You can look forward to developing your skills to build a career in marine conservation. All participants undergo an extensive training program and gain in-depth knowledge about the local marine ecosystem. Your contribution will directly impact UN Sustainable Development Goal #14, Life Below Water.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals


Travel to Fiji’s Caqalai Islands to improve your diving and assist in crucial coral reef research efforts. The 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.

Your participation in marine research will contribute towards providing data to the local government on various conservation initiatives.

Scuba Diving Requirements
Scuba diving and snorkelling are two activities that you will be doing frequently, and you will need to be qualified to at least PADI Open Water, or equivalent if joining projects for 4 weeks. Are you a non diver? No problem, you can 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.

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.

- Increase your employability by developing your hands-on conservation skills
- Learn how to identify coral reef species and/or habitats, including benthos, invertebrates and/or fish in the South Pacific Ocean
- Live and work on a stunning tropical island
- Improve your diving skills and experience
- Develop the techniques you need to survey coral reefs
- Experience true cultural immersion in the Fijian way of life
- Contribute to UN Sustainable Development Goal #14, Life Below Water


I had a brilliant time, the staff were really friendly and welcoming and I loved all the activities. There was so much variety and a lot to learn - I would definitely go back. This experience has made me change my career to what I love and I’m currently now looking for marine research/science work throughout the world. The GVI experience has made me reconsider what I want from life.
- Lynsey Wheater (UK)

Program Details

Program Type: Volunteering
Location: Australasia - Fiji - Caqalai

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Project Life

The Fijian life is characterised by it’s easy going nature, warm hospitality and rich traditions. Our marine conservation participants can add the splendour of the South Pacific to this list!

Weather permitting, we aim to provide 1 or 2 dives or snorkels each day, 5 days a week. Prior to diving you will complete extensive training to prepare you for the research you will be involved in.

Training includes:
- Coral reef research techniques
- Invertebrate, benthic and/or fish survey techniques
- Marine debris survey techniques
- Snorkel and dive point outs
- PADI Open Water diver (only available to participants booked on for 8- or 12-week durations)
- PADI Advanced Open Water diver
- PADI Coral Reef Research Diver Distinctive Speciality

Your time will be spent diving and conducting various marine conservation initiatives on GVI’s Caqalai Island base. At the end of each day you will enjoy a meal and socialise with the rest of the team.

Weekends are usually yours to rest up and relax, or perhaps even explore some of the surrounding area, all depending on the project needs and requirements.

Life on the base will be simple island living, you will stay basic dormitory accommodation with your fellow participants with a communal kitchen, living and work area, taking turns with base duties on a rotational basis.

Project Details

Participants can look forward to being directly involved in the collection of critical data on coral reef ecosystems and habitats, mastering a diverse skill set associated with identification of an incredible array of underway of marine species and other facets of marine research.

Besides diving, you should expect to be involved in additional projects and activities,
- Training sessions
- Data collection on targeted marine species
- Habitat mapping for coral reefs and habitats
- Marine debris surveys and removal
- Environmental education sessions
- Community development and support projects

How this project makes a difference
In order for our participants to gain an in depth knowledge of the Fijian marine ecosystem, we spend up to 5 days a week on research dives or snorkels. During this time we gather important data that is used by our local partner organisations. We work closely with the the Fiji Locally Managed Marine Area Network and local government to ensure that the impact of this research and program remains both relevant and useful for the wider community.

The communities do not have access to the necessary resources to carry out regular data collection in their fishing grounds and anecdotally there has been a significant reduction in coral abundance and fish stocks due to natural disaster events and unsustainable fishing practice.

Data collected on our volunteer powered surveys is presented to local community groups along with alternative livelihood methods and management strategies to help local stakeholders to make informed decisions with regards to their vital marine resources and long term food security.

Caqalai’s short, mid, and long-term objectives:
All of our programs have short, mid and long-term objectives that fit with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. 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 visualize 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 fulfill our mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.

Learn about the long-term objectives you will be contributing to in Caqalai:
1. PROTECTION and MONITORING- Establish locally managed marine areas with villages of Moturiki in keeping with community led management plans
2. EDUCATION- capacity building within key stakeholders to ensure strong environmental leadership in the future
3. LIVELIHOODS- Research and introduce methods of alternative livelihoods to generate new sources of income for local communities to reduce dependence on damaged fisheries for income
4. RESILIENCE- Reduce the vulnerability of communities to the negative impacts of climate change through awareness and training in adaptation techniques and disaster preparedness
5. COLLABORATION - Encourage good governance, inter-organisational collaboration and inter-village cooperation

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 kit
  • Police or background check (where necessary)
  • Visa costs


Participating with GVI not only allows you to participate on programs assisting disadvantaged communities or endangered ecosystems, but it also offers wonderful opportunities to travel in the local area in your down time or further afield after your program. Many decide to travel after volunteering, solidifying the lifetime friendships established on the programme.

Our long term field staff are a great source of advice and are here to help you make the most of your time abroad. Remember to ask about discounts on local activities and side trips through your association with GVI. Our field teams have helped us put together the following information on trips and travel options in Fiji!

Optional Side Trips
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 are water based! Starting locally, just a short boat ride away you can visit the famous pod of dolphins that reside all year round on Moon Reef or hike into forests and swim in hidden waterfalls or visit one of Fiji’s famous island resorts.

In the water, for those that are not dive qualified you could enrol in a scuba diving course and dive the various dive sites in the region, home to abundant marine life, colourful corals and steep drop-offs. Get lucky with your dive, and visibility can exceed a massive 40m.

Fiji’s capital city, Suva, is only a few hours from all our project sites, known for its relaxed atmosphere, energetic nightlife, large farmers market and atmospheric port. Here you can visit the Fiji Museum, where you can find ancient tribal artefacts, one of the best exhibitions on tribal art in the Pacific, or read up on Fiji’s cannibal past. 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.

Further Travelling Opportunities
A little further afield, the possibilities just keep on coming. 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. 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.

After your program you could try island hopping around the 20 volcanic islands of the Yasawa group. These remote islands are characterised by white beaches, crystal blue lagoon and dramatic rugged hills, some with summits 600 metres above sea level.

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.

The Team

Claire Ogg

Program Manager Caqalai
Meet Claire, our Program Manager on our Caqalai Base in Fiji. Claire received her degree in agricultural and environmental sciences and is also an avid diver and marine conservationist.

She has lived and worked on various continents around the globe and has extensive experience in the diving industry.

While travelling Claire has come across earthquakes, cyclones, volcanoes and pirates!!! Talk about living on the edge! Working for GVI is an adventure in itself, luckily not the dangerous kind. She was first attracted by GVI because of our good reputation within the industry and she likes the fact that we employ, train and give back to the communities that we work in.

Zara Roche

Operations Manager
Meet Zara, our awesome Operations Manager here in Fiji. Zara started out as an eager education volunteer right here in Fiji back in 2014 and she was impressed by the stunning location in Fiji and GVI's volunteering ethos. She has been with us ever since and has worked her way up to Operations Manager, overseeing all the logistics on our base.

Zara is a water baby and she loves to get into the water for a dive/swim at any opportunity I can. As a GVI staff member in Fiji, she gets the opportunity to dive into the South Pacific paradise often. "When your job doesn’t feel like a job because you are getting the opportunity to do what you love is a blessing! GVI is a one big family based organisation and I appreciate working for a company who believes in working together with communities there is a grassroots non-hierarchy approach. This approach I believe is a fantastic way of successfully delivering volunteering projects."

Michele Comber

Program Manager
Meet Michele, our brilliant program manager in Fiji. She has a lot of travel experience in the US around Europe. She volunteered for one year in Mombasa Kenya on the childcare programme, became Project Manager for three years and worked in South Africa on an under 18's programme.

She loves GVI because ''this job gives me the opportunity to work with people who volunteer from all around the world and being able to work alongside individuals who had the same drive and passion as me, willingness to give up their time, share their skills and knowledge to assist the schools and the community groups we work with.

I have had the honour to work with some amazing partners in different countries who have welcomed me into their communities and let me be a part of their lives , giving me the opportunity to grow and learn. Their strength and their faith and their beliefs that all things can be achieved if you have hope will always stay with me.''

Dane Lee Marx

Country Director
Meet Dane, GVI's cheerful country director for Fiji. He has spent several years as the Conservation and Ecology Manager on Frégate Island, a small private island in the Seychelles. There he had been fortunate to have overseen and implemented projects ranging from monitoring and protection of rare birds, invertebrates and sea turtles to wide-scale habitat restoration as well as management of significant operations responsibilities.

After leaving that position he took a year off to do some travelling – six months of flyfishing, camping and exploring new Zealand, visiting some friends and family in Australia, and some exceptional diving and island hopping in Indonesia. He holds a BSc in Biology, Earth & Environmental Sciences, an Hons. in Zoology, and a MSc in Conservation Biology.

For him, GVI  is an exciting organisation as it carries out an impressive range of high impact, grass-roots level projects in some of the most interesting locations across the globe. This and the combined focus on both community based development and a deep seated conservation aligned perfectly with his own interests and passions.

Shayle Havemann

Director of Programs
Meet Shayle, our innovative and driven director for all our projects around the world. She has two honours degrees, one in Industrial and Organisational Psycology, and another in Developmental and Education Psycology. Shayle also has over 10 years experience in setting up, managing and evaluating environmental and community programs across Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America.

She is well-practiced in facilitating meaningful and effective intercultural engagement and this makes her the perfect person for overseeing our operations in the multicultural country of South Africa.

When not attending meetings or planning her next endeavour, Shayle can be found spending time with her family or taking part in some or other exciting outdoors activity!

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