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Science, scuba, and a warm welcome in Fiji

January 23, 2024

Seacology’s acclaimed travel program offers a unique take on ecotourism, combining adventure and relaxation with opportunities to see firsthand the impact of our work and the island environments it protects. 

In December, we partnered with the California Academy of Sciences to offer supporters of both organizations an unforgettable expedition to Fiji. Over nine days on the island of Vanua Levu, our guests dived and snorkeled through the country’s thriving coral reefs, hiked winding forest trails, enjoyed the local culture and cuisine, and learned more about Fiji’s fascinating marine life from the expert scientists co-hosting the trip.

The divers and snorkelers in attendance, including Academy scientists Dr. Meg Burke and Dr. Terry Gosliner, were awed by by the colorful and abundant life they saw underwater, and the local commitment to protecting it. At a time when coral reefs around the world are in steep decline due to overfishing, ocean acidification and rising temperatures, places like Natewa Bay and the reefs off the coast of Savusavu offer signs of hope for these vitally important centers of biodiversity.

“The coral is very luxuriant and it’s always heartening to see healthy reefs in these challenging times,” Gosliner observed. “It’s clear that local communities are really taking this seriously. They understand that this is their livelihood and these are resources that are really valuable to them personally.”

Abundant hard coral can be found in local waters, providing a habitat for countless marine species.

The group gathers in front of Nukubalavu's marine reserve, established as part of a Seacology project.

For several of the travelers, seeing a Seacology project up-close was the biggest highlight of the trip.

Our group visited Nukubalavu Village, where in 2007 we funded the construction of a kindergarten, in exchange for the creation of a 25,600-acre marine protected area. Nearly two decades later, it remains one of our most successful projects. The reserve is carefully guarded by local wardens, and their steadfast work to deter poaching in the no-take area has ensured that the local fishery remains sustainable. Hundreds of children from Nukubalavu and smaller villages nearby have begun their education in the small school, which Seacology has helped to maintain and expand over the years.

The villagers warmly greeted our group, which included many first-time visitors to Fiji, with the hospitality the country is famous for. We toured the school and met some of the students and their proud parents and teachers. After a festive afternoon that included a kava ceremony, traditional songs and dances, and a feast of fresh local fish and produce, our guests departed with hearts and stomachs full.

“To actually be here and see the people, and see the little school building and see the children, and enjoy their hospitality has been really special for us,” said Diana Arntz, a longtime Seacology supporter who was visiting Fiji for the first time with her husband Allan. 

Our guests take a tour of the Nukubalavu kindergarten.

Nukubalavu villagers prepare kava to share with the visitors.

Sandy Ferrell, another participant who had only recently discovered Seacology, summed up the unique appeal of the trip.

“You could go on a vacation to Fiji—anybody could do that—but you went on a vacation to Fiji with a group of people who have similar ideas about being in a country,” she said. “You got a little bit of science from the California Academy of Sciences. But probably the best thing was seeing the projects that Seacology does, going to the village, meeting the people, seeing their little school and hearing how that has changed their lives.”

This was our second trip in partnership with the Academy, following a successful trip to the Philippines in 2022. Both organizations’ commitment to grassroots conservation and responsible tourism make for an ideal partnership. We’re currently planning our next trip together and hope to announce details soon. 

Video: Several of our attendees reflect on their amazing time in Fiji