Name: Sumasafu Aparama
Interests: The island is so beautiful; I want the people to know how to look after their environment so that generation after generation can appreciate and benefit from what the environment has to offer.
Mostly practical work to help the community understand the importance of natural resources.
Experience: So many things have changed after eight years. The community on the island has very little knowledge of land and marine conservation. The people needed to know that turtles are an endangered species and that Rotuma is so fortunate to have turtles still on the island. I am fortunate to be part for the LajeRotuma team doing a survey of marine turtles. We found that there were two kinds of species on the island: (1) green turtles and (2) hawksbill turtles.
We found turtle shells on the island.
Name: Paul Wong Tomasi
Interests: To be able to assist the community to help them to decide what paths to take when the environment is concerned.
Experience: Contributing to preserving the environment on the island. The island is so beautiful; it makes me wonder why the community doesn't seem to appreciate their environment. It's not that they don’t appreciate the environment, they do. What has me worried is that they know that what they do affects their environment but don't do what needs to be done to preserve it.
Name: Jacob Itautoka
Interests: Making the island a better place to live so that the people can enjoy it to the fullest. They are learning that the work we do on the island is to improve conditions for them. My interest in this environment is that Rotuma is blessed with everything from the land and the sea, but the people there must work to maintain their natural resources.
Experience: My experience working on the island has taught me a lot of lessons that only can be taught there -- lessons that I will cherish for the rest of my life, Working on the island is not easy, especially when you have been brought up on the main island in Fiji. Things do not always go according to the initial plan. We have to learn to adapt to situations when problems arise. Rotuma is a true hidden paradise and I can proudly say that I’m a Rotuma person and no one can take that unique identity from me. “On On Se Hevani”.
Name: Neema Nand
My Experience: I had heard a lot about Rotuma from my Rotuman friends who attended university with me. It had always seemed like the ideal vacation destination, but it was also apparent that one needed an invitation or at least some connection with Rotuma or its people to be able to go there. I was definitely excited to be given a chance to visit Rotuma, even though it was for research purposes.
The reason I went to Rotuma was to get data on the nesting sites, species and distribution of marine turtles (hoi, as they call it in Rotuman). My expectations were really high, and I must admit, Rotuma was more than I had hoped for. It is truly the ‘Hidden Paradise of Fiji’.
Seeing the lovely beaches of Rotuma was worth the 36 hours of traveling in the ship, but the beauty of the place is accompanied by humidity and a hot sun since the island is a few degrees closer to the equator. During the first few hours, I must have drunk water from at least 5 coconuts. As you become accustomed to the heat, you also start to feel at home.
I had traveled to a few other islands in Fiji, but what impressed me most about Rotuma was how hard people worked there. Everyone was very clear on the roles they were playing in the family, and the family members were really close to each other. The hospitality they showed to me made me feel at home. Everyone around was a friend and really helpful.
My research went really well. We went almost around the island, and also to Hatana Island. Hatana is an outlying island near Rotuma, and it sacred; hence only a limited number of people are allowed to visit the island. I was one of the lucky ones to have the opportunity to go there. The entire experience was great. The guys that went with us showed such talents. They were so good at climbing trees and fishing. It was pretty impressive.
My experience in Rotuma has become a memorable event for me. A month in Rotuma has taken me back to enjoying the small things in life. Waking up to the smell of freshly baked bread ( I stayed with the Olsen family and they had a bakery that supplied bread to whole of Rotuma), getting wet in the rain, picking and eating all sorts of fruits from trees, long walks, riding on motor-bikes, the lovely and clear sky at night and of course, swimming in clear blue water. It was more than I had hoped for.