Alyssa Steinhoff - Shark Conservation in Fiji
My fascination with the underwater world began at a very young age. As I got older my curiosity continued and, as I travelled, opportunities to explore the ocean became more possible. I knew that I wanted to volunteer during my holiday between my first and second year at university and I knew that I wanted to be able to help save the amazing creatures that live in our world’s oceans that I had always been so fascinated with.
As my search for the perfect volunteer programme began, I read the description for the Fiji Shark Conservation project and knew instantly that it was the right project for me.
Volunteering in Fiji
It was finally time for me to leave for Fiji and although I was more nervous than I’d ever been before, I couldn’t wait to leave. After 35 hours of travelling, I finally touched down into Nadi, Fiji. I still had a three hour bus ride to the Arts Village and although I was exhausted, I couldn’t even begin to think about sleeping.
I was amazed by all the scenery around me. There were beautiful beaches one minute and dark green forests the next, as well as friendly locals all around me on the bus. I chatted with locals as we made our way along the coast of the mainland and after three hours I finally arrived in Pacific Harbour.
Being picked up at the Arts Village in Pacific Harbour was my first experience with the amazing Projects Aboard staff. We made our way to the apartments and when I walked in, I felt instantly at home. I was greeted by our outstanding house chef with a nice big meal and happy faces of other volunteers that had just returned from a dive. The other volunteers included me in all of their activities for the rest of the day and taught me so much about the project.
Conservation in Fiji
Soon it was time to learn to dive. My first breath underwater taken at the bottom of a pool felt amazing. I was nervous and it felt unnatural to breathe deeply underwater, but after a few seconds, it felt like second nature.
After my dive course that day I began my first real work for the Shark Conservation project - planting mangroves! I learned all about the importance of mangroves to our planet from protecting coastlines to providing a safe habitat for baby sharks and fish and this began my passion for helping plant mangroves as well. Several other volunteers and I headed outside, turned on some fun music, and began singing and working away in the mangrove nursery. I had a blast! After that day I knew I was going to love the rest of my time working on the project.
After a few more days of settling in, I got to go on my first Survey Dive! I was beyond excited to get back in the ocean to see the amazing underwater world again and hadn’t seen any sharks on my dive course. After doing more initial training with a staff member and a few other volunteers, we turned to join the rest of the group on the survey dive but were distracted by the site of a huge and magnificent spotted eagle ray! It was amazing and so graceful as it swam through the water. Shortly after, a volunteer signalled to me that there was a white tip reef shark nearby! I was so excited and so overwhelmed but I knew that I absolutely loved being under the water.
As my weeks went on, I got more and more involved in the project and fell more and more in love with sharks. I woke up each day excited to start my work and learn more about the sharks and fish in the area and how we can help save them. Unfortunately, my time at the project came to an end and it was time for me to head home. Now that I am home I am so thankful for all that I learned while working on the project.