FHTA, 6 August 2022 – Positivity is necessary for a happier life.
Not just in our personal lives but in all other aspects as well. And after the pandemic-induced lockdowns and Fiji’s border reopening, positivity is in full effect at Dive Academy Fiji.
They are a boutique, dive eco-resort located in Viani Bay, on the Vanua Levu side of the Somosomo Strait, across from Taveuni.
It is only accessible by boat and although the resort is on Vanua Levu, it is more practical for them to do their provisioning at Taveuni than to make the long trek to Savusavu.
Guests who stay in one of their ocean-front bungalows benefit from the short distances to the Rainbow Reef, which is ranked amongst the top ten dive destinations in the world.
Viani Bay is also a known anchorage spot for yachts and these yachties, in turn, book with Dive Academy for diving and snorkelling activities, meals and other services.
We recently learnt of Dive Academy’s continued activity with their Diving Scholarship Program that they have been running since its inception in 2016.
When the visitor numbers dried up, they continued to offer the program to students from Viti Levu, mainly USP marine science graduates, and nearby communities.
One of their first graduates qualified as a PADI Assistant Instructor in early 2019 and still works for Dive Academy as their dive shop manager and dive guide.
The scuba scholars go through the PADI Dive Training Program, learning about diving equipment, compressor handling and the technicalities of what makes a safe diver and an outstanding dive master.
Local students only pay a contribution to the direct cost, If they become interns at Dive Academy, they can work off the cost of the courses and they will receive more training on dive administration and back-office procedures, dive planning and guest relations.
The owners and founders of Dive Academy Fiji, Jone Waitaiti and Marina Walser say “It ́s important to understand, that this program is not just designed to train up only our own dive masters.”
“It ́s first of all about educating the locals about the underwater world; once they see its beauty, they will protect it.”
One of the scuba scholars completed her zero-to-hero program during the pandemic in 2021 and now works close to home in Pacific Harbor and dives with the bull sharks every day.
Some of the graduating students continue to work for Dive Academy as Dive and Snorkelling Guides. It provides job experience and opportunities to join the dive industry.
Another project that Dive Academy is overseeing for their community and surrounding waterways is their coral farming initiative. In July and November 2019, they set up the first two nurseries on Tivi Island in Viani Bay.
Broken-off pieces of coral are stuck on ropes in a construction that looks a bit like a large underwater hammock. All the corals in these nurseries have meanwhile been transplanted.
A table nursery for more slowly growing table corals was set up during the lockdown. Jone welded new triangle structures which were set up a few weeks ago during an event with local volunteers and guests.
“Unpolluted water is one of the pre-requisites when considering coral farming. This is why I initiated the Clean-up Taveuni campaign back in 2019 and collected trash from the shore together with volunteers from Taveuni and our Dive Academy team,” explains Waitaiti.
Unfortunately, there is no formal waste disposal or collection program on Taveuni, nor in Viani Bay.
While they admit they receive a lot of positive feedback and support, it is a demanding and difficult way to clean an entire island. Without formal collection or waste disposal avenues and with no emphasis on educating the public on the effects of rubbish on the environment, much of the waste is then washed out into the ocean where they harm marine life and damage years of natural reef systems.
Here too, Dive Academy has provided much-needed support for educating the young children in the community to appreciate the ocean so it can look after them.
Before the pandemic, Marina went to Ucunivatu Primary School once a week to teach about marine life and its conservation.
Once a month, the children and teachers would conduct a beach clean-up.
The program is now being resumed and the children are eager to learn more about the ocean.
In 2019, Marina developed a credo (guiding belief) with the children and teachers who call themselves ”Ucunivatu Ocean Saviours”. The efforts show positive effects with less rubbish being found along the shore now.
The children are more aware of the eco-systems around them and even talk to their parents about the ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ concept and other aspects of environmental conservation.
Dive Academy Fiji with Viani Bay resort has been open throughout the pandemic. “Times were challenging, but we continued our conservation efforts”, says Jone.
Now, with tourists back, Dive Academy is organizing guided tours and coral farming workshops several times a week with house guests, cruisers and local volunteers.
Visitors come from faraway lands just to experience the spectacular diving and get an appreciation for marine conservation efforts as a bonus.
They received awards in 2020 and 2021 from PADI for their conservation and education initiatives.
They have also just received another TripAdvisor award, being rated amongst the top 10% of activities worldwide.
It’s all about positivity and arguably nobody does it quite like Dive Academy Fiji.
For information on the above, you can contact FHTA (email@example.com) or contact Dive Academy Fiji directly.
Published in the Fiji Sun on 6 August 2022