• “The reef study was another wonderful experience. I got to see the largest variety of fish that I have ever seen in my entire life. From the crown of thorns starfish, to the French angelfish, I saw them all. My partner Eric and I decided taught a member of the village how to do the line-transect survey that we had been using to continue our research.”

    - Jack Miller

Reef Study and Cultural Immersion

Travel to the islands of Fiji to learn about coral reefs, island customs, and the cultural ecology that links them together. This six-week program provides interns an up close and personal immersion into the Fijian life-way and marine ecosystems.


Training for the project takes place in the capital city of Suva on Viti Levu. Here you will meet with world-renowned reef ecologist Helen Sykes to complete your training. Specifically, Helen will teach you how to lie transects and how to observe and record key indicator species that you will encounter on the reefs. You will stay at the South Seas Hostel and commute a short distance to your training site. This is also a great time to explore the Capital City and visit botanical gardens and cultural museums.

Once you have been through training, you will depart for one of our chosen research locations. Currently we are conducting surveys on the island of Taveuni and the island of Beqa.

Course Description

Interns will live one or two per Fijian family but will have their own private room. Several of the following may be program highlights. The time of year you travel will determine which options are available:


Perhaps the highlight of your stay will be the opportunity to live with a Fijian family. Regarded by many as a “transformative experience,” the home stay provides insight into Fijian culture in a way that books cannot render. What makes the immersion special is that the villagers retain a uniquely Fijian perspective and practice many of the subsistence patterns of their ancestors. As English language is the primary language of instruction used in the schools (a “gift” of British colonization) most villagers can converse to you in your native tongue. The result is an unparalleled opportunity to discuss cultural practices with your hosts without relying on an interpreter.

The villagers live in primarily cement-walled houses with metal roofs. They are not luxurious by any means. So, you should expect to live as the majority of Fijians do. This may be a challenge depending on your experience in Third World countries. But, it will hopefully be worthwhile and eye opening. Testimonials Payment


The locale is unique for a number of reasons. Most importantly, you have the opportunity to contribute data to Fijian villagers and the government about the current MPA (Marine Protected Area). Marine Protected Areas are a modern form of a “no fishing or gathering zone.” These “taboo” areas were commonplace in ancient Fiji but that tradition has been compromised in modern times. The government and local villages are implementing MPA’s to encourage reef growth and the return of reef fishes.

You have the wonderful opportunity to stay amidst the Fijian people and conduct reef surveys both in and outside of the MPA’s. By comparing the data you gather, you will be able to help villagers and government officials alike make better decisions on how to best utilize their resources. If your data demonstrates that fish populations are noticeably greater within MPA’s, then villagers may decide to designate more protected areas. This is an unknown. We need to find out for ourselves whether the hypothesis that MPA’s result in greater diversity is in fact true.


Interns will snap on snorkels and masks to conduct an underwater survey of a nearby reef ecosystem. Your research will allow for comparative data analysis, and will contribute to a database on the status of Fiji’s reefs, and how they experience different levels of human contact. While mapping the reef, interns will collect data on coral species abundance, diversity, and richness. Interns will obtain baseline data which will contribute to establishing a long-term coral reef monitoring program at these sites. The village’s livelihood and sustainability could be affected by changes to reef health. As such, your research is timely and important to the long-term survival of the very people you will stay with. You will be taught coral species identification, quadrant surveying techniques for coral reef environments, and data analysis.


Interns will contribute to a long-term project assessing the fish populations off the coast of the village. The coastal villages rely heavily on subsistence offshore reef fishing. As reef fish is a staple of the traditional Fijian diet significant decrease in various reef fish populations have triggered concern in the community. Consequentially, various research projects are taking place to investigate the most sustainable way to approach coastal reef fishing. Interns will learn fish species identification, data collection and analysis.


Throughout your stay you have the opportunity to go on fieldtrips to locations of ecological or cultural significance. Interns can learn fishing, cooking skills, as well as participate in reforestation projects, rainforest trekking, and cultural lessons.

More Information

Locations have changed from previous classes. Currently we are doing the training in Suva and village stays on Taveuni and Beqa Islands. Some of the below reports may be from different sites.

  1. International Reef Check Mission Statement
  2. IGS Student Research Results Beqa Island
  3. IGS Student Research Results Crusoe Island
  4. IGS Student Research Results Coral Coast