Last month 10 students, including myself, from Flinders University had the opportunity to travel to Fiji under the New Columbo Mobility Plan. This scholarship was funded by the Australian Government and united Flinders University, University of South Australia, South Australian Museum and University of South Pacific in biodiversity assessment.
I have been home from Fiji for 3 weeks now and I think it is safe to say I am finally off Fiji time. What is Fiji time you ask? Well, for those who haven’t visited Fiji, Fiji time is when everyone takes their time. I mean no rush, no stress and no worries. The complete opposite to Australia. At first it was hard to adjust to, when you are used to being on the go. But once adjusted, it was like all the worries just slipped away and you were able to enjoy Fiji how it was meant to be enjoyed.
Let me take you through week 1 of my trip…
Our first week in Fiji was spent in Suva, Fiji’s capital. We stayed in an apartment building situated just outside Suva’s city centre. Meaning, lots of cars, taxis, buses and noise. If you live on a main road (like I do) then it doesn’t take long to adjust and is quite easy to fall asleep. However, if you live in the country and are used to pure serenity and no noise, well you might struggle, just a little.
Upon arrival to Suva Apartments everything went quite smoothly. We checked in, dropped our luggage off and then we were off. While we were waiting for some students to arrive, a couple of us from different universities (Flinders University and UniSA) bonded and decided to explore the University of the South Pacific. University of the South Pacific (USP), all I can say is wow. Imagine Flinders University but a bit bigger and a lot more biodiversity with small huts around the place for students to relax, eat, study and even nap under. They were also fitted with electrical sockets so you could charge laptops/phones.
During our first week, we spent mornings in the forest and afternoons on-campus to listen to lectures and analyse data. For the activities, we were divided into three groups to get a taste of each kind of biodiversity sampling, which included bird surveys, remote sensing and vegetation surveys. We first collected and analysed data from a lowland forest called Colo-i-Suva (pronounced tholo-ee-soo-va). Colo-i-Suva is breathtaking. The park is a 2.5-sq-km of lush rainforest filled with tropical plants and vibrant bird life. Situated along the walking trails were clear natural pools and beautiful vistas. Through the forest is Waisila Creek which makes its way down to Waimanu River forming water swimming holes along the way. It was nothing like I have seen before and everyday we went it just got better and better each time.
The guest lectures were amazing to listen to as they shared their own personal stories and taught us about Fiji’s biodiversity. We also had an amazing village experience. We had the opportunity to visit Toga village, the village of one of the lecturers from UniSA. The experience was magical and the villagers were beautiful and loving.
When visiting a village in Fiji, it is customary to present a gift to the head of the village, a Kava root. The Kava root is then grounded down and mixed with water during a welcoming ceremony where the guests are offered a cup of Kava to welcome them into the village. Once the ceremony was over, the villagers presented us with an amazing lunch and then left so that we could analyse the biodiversity data we had collected in the forest. Once our analysis was completed you would think it was the end of the day, but not in Fiji. The villagers made their way back and we were entertained with music, singing, dancing, and more Kava. This experience was the highlight of not only the week but of my trip. We may have arrived to the village as guests/tourists but they made it clear that we were leaving as family. Words can’t describe that feeling.
Overall, week 1 was informative, well thought out and interesting. But it felt too much like city living and that we weren’t getting the most of our experience.
See my next post for week 2 (personally my favourite week)!
Tamara Lewis, a Bachelor of Science (Animal Behaviour) student, participated in participating in Biodiversity and Ecosystem Health Across the Pacific in Fiji in July 2016
- Read Tamara’s next post here
- Watch th tour video here
- Read more stories through the New Colombo Plan here
- Check the New Colombo Plan funded opportunities here