Nov 2, 2008

Adventure Travel Program - Academic Treks - Shark Studies

Sharks... Intriguing, mysterious, feared and revered. There is no better place to study and dispel myths about sharks than the Shark Reef Marine Reserve (SRMR) on the spectacular shores of Fiji. Observe them up close in a controlled setting with professional guides. Imagine swimming through an astounding abundance of marine life to discover several species of sharks on one dive! Learn about shark biology, behavior, history and future prospects. Although they have thrived on earth for millions of years, pre-dating dinosaurs, sharks are now in danger of extinction, killed for their fins, for medicinal purposes or through destruction of their habitats. Collect data for ongoing research and conservation efforts. Visit several Fijian villages, where you are welcomed by the chief and a formal kava ceremony. Hear ancient stories of the Shark God that protects the islanders from harm. This adventure leaves you with a love and respect for the Fijian people and islands, as well as the sharks you've come to study.

Day 1-3 As you land in Fiji, the magnificent vistas barely prepare you for the adventure ahead. Eager to get in the water, we head to Beqa Adventure Divers in Pacific Harbor for an orientation and introduction to the SRMR, recently established to protect and study the resident population of sharks, and in turn aid in the long-term conservation of sharks worldwide. Their structured dives offer divers and researchers the unique opportunity to watch these amazing creatures in their natural habitat in a well-controlled setting.

Day 4-11 Under the instruction of professional researchers, observe and study shark biology, behavior and physiology, as well as the physical characteristics of the resident sharks of the SRMR. Then take your newfound knowledge into the field as you scuba dive with silvertip, grey reef, black tip reef, bull and tawny nurse sharks. Experience the thrill of studying these amazing creatures up close as they cruise along the reef slope and ledge that drops off into the abyss of the Beqa Passage. Don't forget your camera! Collect and input data for the Swiss Shark Foundation's studies on resident sharks, noting how many species of sharks you see on dives, the male to female ratio, who fed and who of the named population showed up. Begin to identify the different sharks by name - Hook, Crook, Big Mamma and Blackbeard - and perhaps have the chance to name one yourself. Learn about the relationship between the reserve and local villages, and how the project overcame challenges to create a successful balance between shark conservation, dive tourism, the interests of village fisherman, the local economy and the government. Take a day to dry off and venture to the village of Wainabia to ask the Chief's permission to hike Shark Fin Hill. As you hike through the rainforest to the top, learn about Fijian culture from local guides and the impact the SRMR has had on the community.

Day 12-14 Voyage across the lagoon to the once volcanic island of Beqa where you are welcomed into the Rukua village by your home stay family. After a formal introduction to the chief by the village spokesman, partake in a kava ceremony and feast at a traditional lovo while listening to locals tell stories of the ancient Shark God, the fierce Dakuwaqa. Watch the Beqa fire walkers or hike up to swim in majestic waterfalls. Learn about village pastimes such as cooking, weaving and dancing. Play games with the friendly local children and give back to this beautiful place by assisting with a community service project.

Day 15-21 Back at the SRMR, we continue our shark studies as we compile, summarize and discuss our surveys and field research for our final projects. Talk about the role of sharks in the food chain and how they are critical to ocean ecosystems. Examine the negative impact of long line fishing, as well as the misrepresentation of sharks from Hollywood movies to folk tales and myths. Learn about the Shark Tagging Program and how it looks at the migratory movements of sharks. Soft coral dives in the Beqa Lagoon abound with over 250 species of fish from tiny critters to large pelagics... Breathtaking! Encounter blue ribbon eel, lionfish, jacks, giant groupers, octopus and scorpionfish on unforgettable dives.

Day 22-24 We complete our trip with a visit to a river village and an overnight whitewater journey down the "River of Eden" in the dramatic Navua Gorge. The roaring rapids cascade down a stunning canyon lined with black lava rock, vibrant jungle and dazzling waterfalls. A feast on our final night gives us the opportunity to celebrate all we have learned and experienced on our extraordinary South Pacific adventure.

Adventure Travel Program - Academic Treks - Shark Studies