Broadreach Fiji Shark Studies — SS11 Update: Tuesday, July 15, 2014 “Farewell Dear Babs”

Broadreach Fiji Final Group ShotToday’s update from Fiji was written by Everyone:

Having already previously done a broadreach trip, I had a general idea of what I thought this trip would be like. I was nervous about the academics, excited for the shark dives, and hopeful of a group that would get along well. This trip has exceeded all my expectations. The academics were challenging but incredibly rewarding. I loved learning so much information in such a short amount of time and being able to apply that knowledge while we observed the diverse and abundant marine life on both our shark dives and coral reef dives. During the shark dives I sat there in awe as 50 bull sharks scrambled for the same tuna head, or when the whitetip reef sharks would swim inches away from your face and brush you with their tail. Our trip to Beqa was also incredible. I didn’t know what to expect but the villagers were so nice and welcoming. I remember walking through the town with some of my friends and a few of the villagers called us over for a game of netball. At first we were hesitant, but we quickly joined in and it turned out to be a great experience. Our beach days were always fun too, hanging out with everyone in the water, attempting to play volleyball, and pick up an intense game of capture the flag with the college group really bonded us as a group. Funyaking was also really fun, especially the waterfall. Finally, I could not have asked for a better group. From the beginning we clicked and since then we have become nothing short of a family. I’m really happy I chose this trip; it has inspired me to learn more about sharks, and has given me memories and friends I will never forget.
-Paige Roepers

This trip was far better than I ever could have imagined. Coming into the trip, I was nervous about the intense academics. However, the academic portion of the trip was so interesting that I had no trouble at all when studying for the midterm or the final. A key factor in this was the shark dives. When I’m in school learning about cool or interesting topics, I found that I was less intrigued because I would not be looking at what I was learning. With this program, every shark dive brought something new due to what I had just learned the day before. This made each dive a complex and beautiful sight. The group dynamic was probably the best part of my trip. Everyone got along extremely well and I can honestly say that I want to keep in touch with every person on this trip. Lindsay and Austin were amazing instructors that treated us like the mature adults we are and truly made me feel like I was welcomed from the moment I met them in Nadi. Our village trip into Beqa was so nice. The entire village welcomed us with open arms and I truly felt the communal atmosphere. Being able to stay in Papa’s house in his village, and being treated as a villager was… I can’t even begin to explain it. As hard as funyaking was, the waterfall we visited was beyond beautiful. I have waited to go on this trip for three years. I even begin thinking to myself “it can’t actually be as good as I’m imaging it to be.” But, it was even better. I wish I could be on this trip every year. I love Broadreach and this is definitely the best trip I have, and probably ever will, taken in my life.
-Emmet Solomon

From the moment I signed up to learn about and swim with sharks I have been counting down the days and telling everyone within hearing range that I was going to be up close and personal with sharks this summer. This trip has been one of the most fabulous experiences of my life. From almost getting hit in the face by a bull shark swimming after a tuna head to walking through a waterfall after funyaking, every moment has been something I will remember forever. Getting to apply what we were learning in the shark lectures to the dives we had done just earlier that day was something that my biology teacher at school will never be able to recreate. I really felt the warmth and happiness of the Fijian people when we were welcomed into their village and homes when we went to visit Beqa. While there, we played netball and duck duck goose with some of the local girls which was fun, but getting to hear their laughter wash over us the whole time was magical and infectious making it twenty bajillion times more fun. But what was one of the best parts of this trip was the group. From the first card game we played together, we were bonded. Having a great group made the trip so carefree and fun, it felt like we had known each other forever. I’m so happy I picked this trip from getting to learn a ton about my favorite animals to experiencing the beauty of Fiji, I will miss everyone here and the picture perfect memories that we have made.
-Sofia Garrick

From diving with sharks to hanging out with locals to making lifelong friends, this trip was amazing. Not only did I get to come to Fiji and experience the one of a kind shark dives and the welcoming nature of Fijian culture, but I also learned a lot. When diving, I was not just blindly watching the sharks and fish as they passed by; I actually knew what I was looking at, and that was really cool. Everyone on this trip got along so well—sleepovers, movies and (of course) cards. I can say with confidence that I will keep in touch with all of these people! One of my favorite parts of the trip was the weekend we spent in Beqa living with host families. I have never felt so welcome in someone else’s home. I loved playing volleyball by the picturesque sunset, trying new food, and even drinking Kava. Throughout the trip there was never a dull moment—so many inside jokes and funny memories! I also got to celebrate my 18th birthday here! A beach day and cake for the best birthday ever ! Then, to round out the trip we went FUNyaking… kayaking in inflatable kayaks and hiked up to the most beautiful waterfall that I have ever seen. We swam in the crystal clear water and took super cool pictures jumping in. I had the time of my life on this trip and cannot believe how fast it went by. I will never forget Fiji’s beauty or all that I have learned about the coolest animals on the planet, or the amazing people (and trip leaders!) here. Thank you everyone for the best month of my life!
-Holland Cathey

When I first signed up for this trip I continuously counted down the days till I got to the airport. I will admit I was extremely nervous to meet everyone and fly halfway around the world but now that it’s over I look back and see how pointless it was for me to freak out. The whole entire group became some of my best friends within these three small weeks and I’m going to miss everyone so much. Lindsay and Austin, my instructors, were two of the most interesting people I’ve met and helped expand my knowledge about sharks and diving and captured my interest in these subjects so well that I’m now thinking about studying marine biology. The island of Fiji was magical in itself with it’s beautiful blue waters and colorful reefs as well as it’s amazing people. I can’t wait to share all my stories and knowledge of sharks with my family and friends. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything in the world!!
-Maddie Giffin

I never expected how amazing this trip would be. From the first time I met Lindsay and Austin I figured this trip would be great with them, but I really knew how great it would be the first time I got in the water with the sharks. It was a life-changing experience to be so close to these predators but feel so at peace. Since then it became a nonstop adventure filled with the amazing homestay, where I got to experience more of beautiful Fiji and its culture, more shark dives and soft coral dives , really interesting learning and journals, fun times with this amazing group at the beach, and just general enjoyment of the beautiful Fijian waters and reefs. This trip was an amazing experience to learn about amazing sharks and be right there with him, made even better by the amazing people and instructors.
-Trinity Conn

I never thought that this trip would be life changing. I loved our group we lucked out with a group that bonded so well. Our instructors were amazing as well Austin and Lindsay made this trip that much better. The dives were out of this world and I hope that all the dives I go on from now on are half as good as the diving here. Being immersed in the Fijian culture was one of my favorite parts, I’ve been traveling around the world for awhile now but being here in Fiji is without a doubt my favorite place. The food here was out of this world!!!. Having food made by the locals was an awesome experience. The shark studies were an eye opener, I learned so much, and how sharks are an extremely important part of our world and how we have to save them. Overall this trip was amazing, seeing the beautiful reefs and waterfalls to funyaking and to making new friends. But our amazing group and instructors made the trip extremely better.
-Patrick Teran

With the name “Fiji Shark Studies” I was already excited for this trip, but it still managed to exceed my expectations. We definitely got lucky with our group, I’ve become great friends with everyone and our instructors too and I loved watching horror movies in a giant group every night, hiding behind each other. The academics, although hard, were so interesting especially since we were able to learn about shark biology in the classroom and then dive with them the next morning. The shark and soft coral dives we’ve been on have definitely spoiled us, and diving won’t compare once we’re home. Even the homestay on Beqa was amazing, and it was really great to feel like we were part of a Fijian family for a few days. One of the best moments was definitely when a few of us girls ended up in a really competitive game of netball with some of the younger Fijian girls, followed by a birthday party where we ate a ton of cake. All the dive masters at the dive shop were also awesome and joking around during surface intervals definitely made the shark dives and our time in Fiji even more fun. I’m so glad I chose to come on this trip and I plan to overload my friends and family with shark facts when I go home. Because of our group and instructors and new Fijian friends, this definitely will be an experience I won’t forget!
-Devin Moore

This trip was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I will never forget the amazing things we did and the friendships we’ve forged here. I especially enjoyed the amazing diving here and all the beautiful sharks. I have been diving all over the world and this was definitely the most amazing experience of all. Another great highlight was the homestay in Beqa. I had a great time meeting the locals and experiencing their culture. I wish we could have stayed with them longer than we did. The number of birthdays was wonderful and I loved that we always seemed to have cake in the refrigerator. My favorite thing of all was meeting and getting to know everyone else who came on the trip, the dive masters, and instructors. The amazing friendship I have made will surely last forever and I will never forget everyone who I can proudly call my friends.
-Owen Fitzgerald

This was the first broadreach trip I have ever taken, and hopefully it will not be my last. I had an amazing time on this trip. Diving with sharks was exciting, terrifying, and sensational. My favorite part of our shark dives was the safety stop. During the safety stop we would watch Papa feed the whitetip and blacktip reef sharks, and as we held onto the safety rope the whitetips would swim through our legs. Along with the diving I loved the we three days we spent in Beqa. We stayed with a host family and were accepted into the village. I loved this part of the trip because I was fully emerged in the culture of the Fijian people. I loved joining the locals in a game of volleyball, even though I stink at playing we all had a great time together. This was a trip I will never forget. I have made some amazing friends and have gained a vast new understanding and love of sharks.
-Lily Aubrey

As the first Broadreach trip I have been on, this experience will be hard to beat. This is the first time I have been able to dive extensively, and I know I have grown both as a diver and as a student. While the academic work was challenging, I learned more here about sharks and marine biology than I ever thought I would. The shark dives were breathtaking, the culture is amazing, and I have made so many friends all the while. Starting with our very first shark dive, as I descended somewhat nervously, I immediately knew I would remember this trip forever. There is something surreal about being surrounded by 50 of the very animals we have been taught to fear. The sharks were incredible, and I also enjoyed our soft coral dives. One unique aspect of this program was the immersion into the Fijian culture. I loved getting to know the BAD staff, helping with community service in Galoa, and staying with host families on Beqa. Everyone was so welcoming and friendly as they took us into their home for two days on Beqa. What truly made this experience so enriching was the people. I made so many friendships and became so close with eleven other total strangers, bonded by our newfound love of sharks, the ocean, and Fiji. This trip has been the experience of a lifetime, and I will not forget it anytime soon.
-Alena Anderson

I have been on many trips that are similar to this one, but none come close to how focused this trip is on academics and research. I was amazed by how much I learned from this trip, either through the class or through the dives we were on. All the shark dives were outstanding; I was awestruck by the sheer number of sharks that swarmed the shark arena. The BAD crew was amazing. They handled everything seamlessly; also they had crack tea and biscuits that were glorious. I loved the hikes we took through the jungle in Beqa, but my favorite hike was the waterfall hike we took during our funyak brake. The waterfall was beautiful and I don’t think I will be forgetting that scenery or even the trip down the river any time soon. I felt like I was in a lost land and I just wanted to live in that jungle forever. Out of everything we did my most cherished time was in Beqa. I loved that village and everyone in it. I had so much fun there and made great friends with some of the villager I don’t think I fill forget any of them, and I hope I get to go back and see them!
– Kevin

Instructor’s Note: Austin and I were so blessed to have this amazing group of Fiji Shark Studies Students. It’s been wonderful to watch them grow over the last three weeks; as close bonds were formed, waterfalls were hiked and explored, and kava was shared. It’s very apparent they every single one of them is leaving this experience with memories that will last a lifetime, and a love and appreciation for travel and adventure. It personally warms my heart to know that there are 12 new lovers and protectors of sharks out there in the world, and that they will share their love and knowledge to others at home. Safe travels!

Broadreach Fiji Final Shark Fin