Kayleigh Rees in Fiji

Young Explorers' Trust

During my time in Fiji, I had to overcome many obstacles and challenges myself dealing with difficult situations. My first flight turned around because of a technical problem with the toilets, therefore I had to sleep in a hotel on my own, which was difficult to obtain due to being 17. After my bus didn’t arrive at the airport in time for my next round of flights, I had to wait at the desk at the airport, arranging other flights connecting in different countries than planned that unfortunately made me arrive at my destination 2 days later than my original arrival. I travelled on my own for 4 days. I had many complications with the airlines, including being stuck in the airport in Australia as I didn’t have a visa that I needed to collect my bag and recheck it in.

4 flights later, I was finally in Fiji. I got transported from Nadi to Pacific Harbour, a 3-hour drive. After greeting my roommates, I rested ready for my first day of my open water diving course. Being very jetlagged the following day, I stayed in the office learning the theory of diving. In the evening I got to know my roommates better while playing games like Uno.

The second day was really exhausting as we first began how to arrange our kit and wear our gear. My fingers bled every dive from putting my wetsuit on which shows the physical strain diving had. Learning safety procedures were difficult, being able to get used to using a regulator and only using my mouth to breathe were taxing. I’m very proud of myself of overcoming my fears of things going wrong and powering through. We did a 200m swim and 10-minute water tread to test our swimming capabilities, this was by far the easiest part of the training. To finish the day, we did 2 open water dives from a boat.

My hardest day mentally was the third, a pool dive and 2 open water dives later, included removing the mask underwater and purging our regulator to be able to breathe through air bubbles, also turning off our air tanks to know what it feels like to run out of air was really scary. Being on my own on the other side of the world, since I’m from Wales and accomplishing this, really makes me the proudest person for myself. I will always know I’m capable of anything if I put my mind to it. You are too. You should always do things you are afraid of. Overcome your fears.

On the same day, I got certified for my open water after taking my final exams after numerous quizzes.

The day after being qualified for 18m, I went on a 30m group shark dive with dive masters to see around 40 bull sharks. On the second dive there were around 50-60 estimated by my roommates. Being able to see this incredible site and how amazing and close we were to them was one of the best moments of my life. Originally it was nerve wracking signing numerous paperwork that its my fault if I die and having to mentally prepare myself to go to that depth the day after earning my open water certificate, but I could never be more relieved that I did it. I will never regret all the work that I had to put in to see the sharks. We saw bull sharks, lemon sharks, blacktips and tawny’s! It was peak season for the sharks as it was Fiji’s winter, so the sharks were coming into the marine reef. I learned about the research the dive shop takes part in, including tagging sharks and how a PhD student takes tissue samples from these sharks for their research. Marine biology truly is fascinating, and I would love to study it or zoology in University!

A trip down Nauva the following day, my group visited a village and went river tubing. We took a boat ride through the scenic river and saw the tropical rainforest and waterfalls! I got to witness life in the Namosi Highlands by walking through the village and greeting the people living there.

Sunday, my roommates from the apartment and I went to Arts Village to look around the souvenir shops and have food. We saw a cute ginger cat that greeted us. Afterwards we went to the beach.

Monday I was ill and couldn’t take part in a hard coral dive, I had to take responsibility as a safe diver to not put myself at risk diving when unwell. There is a higher risk of decompression sickness when you’re ill and you need to have full concentration when diving. I attended the workshop to learn about hard coral.

A rainy Tuesday I learned about the importance of mangroves in a mangrove workshop and took a minibus with Projects Abroad to plant mangroves when the tides were out. Did you know it takes 7,000 mangroves to make up the carbon emissions of a flight from London to Australia?

Back in the dive shop to do some soft coral dives, I saw a variety of colourful fish and learned about soft coral in a workshop. My dive buddy kept getting distracted by the fish to stay partnered up, so I had to keep finding him, but it was really fun regardless. This experience has also given me the opportunity to make friends from different areas around the world. I am even planning to visit my dive buddy one day. The same day in the morning we did a beach clean-up, we made it a competition in groups of 2 to collect the most rubbish. Me and my friend came last, but I don’t mind as we focused more on smaller plastic and nappies that the others didn’t want to touch, but all rubbish matters. All together we collected 21 bags in total, the most collected by a high school program in the area.

Thursday consisted of travelling to Suva, where I went to souvenir shops and to a museum to learn about the history of Fiji.

Friday, I went to Nadi to go to a mud pool and spent the night with a host family. There was a bit of an awkward situation as I was expected to share a bed with a stranger I’ve never met before but that was resolved, and I got a room to myself. The following day I spent it with my host family and got to hear many of their stories before going to the airport to arrive back home.

Some of the highlights were the interactions with my roommates as we had many fun moments together. Including when the power went out and my friends decided to roast my marshmallows with the candles that were placed around the apartment. Being welcomed by tea and cookies and biscuits between dives, these tiny seemingly insignificant moments will always leave a smile on my face. The thrill of seeing the sharks, the extraordinary sight of them. Making the most of situations and being able to adapt to change. Learning teamwork through having a dive buddy and how to rely on one another in case of emergencies.

Thank you to YET for helping towards the funding of such a memorable experience.