Shangri-La’s Fijian Resort and Spa opened the Shangri-La Marine Education Centre (SMEC) in October 2009. The establishment of SMEC had been a long 10-year journey in the making and it became a catalyst for other nature-based activities at the resort.
“Our marine centre was put together with a lot of passion by a group of volunteers who are committed to conservation,” says Ms Mereoni Mataika, Marine Manager at the Resort. “Their vision for the centre and the conservation work we do is represented in how this space was set up and it is in essence their statement about how they look at nature and how the land and the ocean is connected and this is what we talk about to our guests when they visit us,” Mereoni says.
SMEC has paved the way and has inspired and led to a few key activities at the resort:
Shangri-La Marine Education Centre Tour at Shangri-La’s Fijian Resort and Spa, Yanuca, Fiji
Shangri-La’ s Marine Education Centre (SMEC) was opened in 2009 and more than 10,000 visitors have walked through its doors including hotel guests, academics, students from Sigatoka and around Fiji. The centre is used as a tool to raise awareness on the importance of marine conservation and visitors learn about the importance of the connection between terrestrial and marine environments and how human actions on one can affect the other. Visitors can opt to do activities such as Fish House Building or a guided snorkel tour of the resorts’ coral gardens.
Fish House Building Activity
From rubble and broken coral guests can create new mini ecosystems for various forms of marine life on the reef flats surrounding Yanuca Island. More than 300 fish houses have been built and these ‘mini castles’ provide an important habitat for small marine creatures and ultimately transplanted coral that thrive on their new homes and these also help preserving the fragile reefs of Fiji. “We cannot undo the damage that has occurred in our reefs but we can help mitigate what has happened says,” Mereoni. Guests can spend time making a fish house with resident marine biologist, Mosese Navici. Each fish house has a GPS co-ordinate that is given to guests and they may check the position of their fish house via Google Earth.
Earth Day Thursday at Shangri-La’s Fijian Resort and Spa, Yanuca, Fiji
Every week Shangri-La’s Fijian Resort and Spa celebrates Earth Day Thursday. The activity was launched in 2010 by His Excellency the President of Fiji, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau. “In 2010 we celebrated Earth Hour but rather than just a one off day during the year we took on the challenge of the Earth Hour tagline of “Going Beyond the Hour” says Mereoni. “We organized an Earth Hour Week where we had a range of activities leading up to our Earth Hour commitment of switching off and then we thought of how can we go beyond this and Earth Day Thursday was born.” Through Earth Day Thursday activities the resort raises awareness by carrying out tours of the Marine centre as well as a host of fun activities such as scavenger hunts, arts and craft, tie-dye activities and movies on the sand.
Coral Garden Walk at Shangri-La’s Fijian Resort and Spa, Yanuca, Fiji
On any given day Mosese Navici who is the resident marine biologist is getting ready to take a group of Little Chief Club members on a tour of the Shangri-La Marine Education Centre or on an expedition of the mangrove mud flats surrounding Yanuca Island. On other days he is showing guests, mostly families, how to make their own fish house and showing them the reef flats on a guided snorkel tour through the coral gardens. These ‘gardens’ have been created to help conserve the fragile marine ecosystem and during this educational tour guests learn the importance of the fish house ‘villages’ that now lie beneath the clear waters around Yanuca Island. “Every small step we make is critical to this fragile ecosystem and every guest or visitor we take on this tour becomes an advocate for the work we are doing,” says Mosese.
Mangrove Kayak Tour at Shangri-La’s Fijian resort and Spa, Yanuca, Fiji
Shangri-La’s Fijian Resort and Spa has introduced a Mangrove Kayak Tour that is aimed at introducing guests to our Mangrove ecosystem and where they can learn about the cultural and ecological links to this important ecosystem.
“If we want to look after our reefs we have to ensure that we look after our mangrove forests that are so important to the overhealth health of our ocean,” says Mereoni. More than 2,000 mangrove seedlings have been planted around Yanuca island and work has started begun closer to the causeway connecting the mainland to the resort. Over 30 years ago the channels were mini mangrove forests and while some remain much has been cleared over the years.
The important aspect of our mangrove restoration is that we have involved a range of stakeholders including guests, students, staff volunteers and other organizations we partner with such as the Sigatoka Sand Dunes and other non government organizations.”
Kaba Island Nature Hike at Shangri-La’s Fijian Resort and Spa, Yanuca, Fiji
Kaba Island has a diverse ecosystem of fresh water ponds and unique flora and fauna. Owned by the Methodist Church of Fiji the island is uninhabited and used as a plantation that is maintained by the Methodist school students.
The island is short 5-minute boat ride across Yanuca Bay and guests can enjoy a 1-hour nature walk with a guide explaining various flora and fauna and its significance in Fijian communities.
This tour is extension of our conservation work and it is a good example of an untouched environment. Several native plant and bird species can also be observed along the trail.Our local guides will also share local tales as it was once a habited several hundreds of years ago.