Friday, June 27, 2008

Shark Studies in Fiji

Winter has finally arrived along with balmy breezes and fabulous visibility - and our junior staff have suddenly turned on their very best behavior and sharkiest smiles.

Yes, Academic Treks' yearly gaggle of junior Shark aficionados have descended upon Pacific Harbour and Andrew is bracing himself for the usual mixture of adventure, charm, chaos, giggles and broken hearts.
May the Fun begin!

But seriously, welcoming a group like that could not be more rewarding.

When James, our senior Staff and I decided to embark upon this wonderful adventure called BAD in 2004, we agreed that our Project was to hinge on: Conservation, via the establishment of several Marine Protected Areas like Shark Reef Marine Reserve, the Fiji Shark Corridor and very soon, Combe Marine Reserve; Sustainable Tourism, via the direct involvement of the local Community and direct village payments to the tune of more than 30,000.00 dollars each year; Shark Research, by providing for the logistics and access to an ideal location allowing for largely uniform, predictable and safe encounters.

And Education.
In that regard, nothing quite matches the satisfaction of being allowed to transmit our love and awe of the Marine Environment to the next generation.

Locally, we try to achieve this via our Village Project where we train up, and hopefully then employ, three young prospects each year. Our Watisoni, Tubi and Peni are of chiefly stock and will once become leaders in their villages; Lo and Sivo are the daughter and son of native fishermen. All of them have already had a huge impact in their villages, by changing perceptions and helping to convince their communities that sustaining our Conservation efforts is in their very own best interest.

On the client side, we believe that anybody experiencing our Shark Dive will already leave with a new understanding and respect for those magnificent animals, this completely without the need for overzealous brainwashing from our side. For the more motivated, we also run special Shark Weeks where a select few can interact with scientists and contribute to their research.

Academic Treks' Shark Studies however go well beyond that, and we're proud in having been able to play a role in the development of the curriculum. On top of the fantastic diving and active participation in our ongoing research and conservation projects, it encompasses lectures in Shark Biology, Ecology and Conservation, but also village visits, cultural immersion and a great deal of sightseeing, relaxation and pure and simple fun. After last year's successful pilot project, the current program is already off to a great start.

Curious? If so, you may want to vicariously follow the kids' latest adventures through their daily web journal (click here for SS21) and check out their Fiji video.


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