Greetings from Beqa,
Things are happily chugging along here on camp, we are busy surveying, learning our fish, and welcoming our newest volunteer Thea from Copenhagen! It's always fun to have a change in group dynamic with a new face, and to show someone the many, many proverbial ropes here. This weekend we are planning another hike up Naiseuseu peak...now there is a trail, and we are eager to see how much easier it is! For us Northern-Hemispherers, it's strange to be ringing in the holiday season with trips to the beach, sweaty afternoons and sun-kissed cheeks, seeing pictures of our friends and family at home bundled up in the snow. While I'm excited to have a cozy Christmas 3 days after returning home from Fiji, I will be missing the freedom of my bathing suit and life on Vaga Bay. As my days here dwindle, I'm thinking of things I still want to do, or do again, before I hang up my sulu and go home. On the top of my list is to see a turtle while diving...they are my favorite animal and for some reason always avoid me! Future Fiji Mariners: so that you may begin your Beqa adventure with some goals in mind, I present my Beqa Bucket List...things that I've observed or experienced that I believe are must-do's for your time with Frontier.
1) Become survey-ready
While it can seem like a race against the clock for volunteers staying for only a few weeks, learning your fish and methodology for conducting surveys is the core of what we do here. It can be time consuming, taking at least 3 or 4 weeks for someone to learn all of the fish species and become comfortable with the physical aspect of surveying, the feeling that comes with contributing to our important data collection, and ultimate goal of surveying and maintaining the health of reefs, makes your time here. And since you're diving, it doesn't even feel like “work.”
2) Take a hike!
It's a great way to spend an afternoon, and the views can't be beat. Inhale, and you'll smell wild ginger. Check out flowers and trees you may have never seen before, and check out your Fijian home from a new vantage point. You can even see the island where all of the Mataqali chiefs are buried!
3) Eat Palusami
No trip to Beqa would be complete without trying some traditional, homemade Fijian goodness. You are bound to get an invite to Mala's house and have a traditional lovo lunch, or chat with a new friend over dalo at a village event. Warning: you will walk away with a new definition of “full.”
4) Leave your mark
Ensure you are remembered for years to come. You can contribute to the mural on the house, create a new recipe to put in the FJM cookbook (and give it a funny name) and be sure to sign the door on your last day.
5) Make new friends (and not just on camp)
Head down to the village and play rugby or have tea with some new faces.
6) Go to the sandbar
On the extensive list of postcard-worthy spots on Beqa, the sandbar is the prime specimen. Crystal-clear blue water, white sand, gorgeous and not-too-annoying sea birds, and it'll all be gone at high tide. It's pretty far away, too, so it's remoteness and exclusivity are part of it's charm.
7) Get Certified!
While diving volunteers will go up to Advanced Open Water qualifications, why stop there? You can get your Rescue, Emergency First Responder, or even Divemaster certifications. If you choose not to, you can always participate in the EFR course by pretending to faint at random as one of the many lifelike scenarios First Responder trainees are given. Practical and funny!
What are your favorite Beqa memories that should be on the universal Fiji Marine bucket list? Hopefully one day, people will say “make 'Sweet Annie's Coconut-Cassava Pie'” from the FJM cookbook...but I'm trying to stay modest.