Barefoot Manta has established themselves as a leader of marine conservation in the Yasawa Islands. They have a marine science centre onsite and have partnered with a number of organisations to conduct ongoing initiatives such as manta ray research, coral reef restoration and diversification, and empowerment of local communities. This work has led to better protection of local marine life and the environment, and greater awareness and education of tourists.
Below are some of the key initiatives and partnerships Barefoot Manta has implemented over the past 10 years:
- Manta ray research: Through partnerships with the Manta Trust and Manta Project Fiji, Barefoot Manta participates in research that aims to better understand the specific habitat of the Naviti / Drawaqa channel. The team collects data on reef manta rays in the channel through sightings, and more recently, the use of satellite tags, which provides useful insights on the manta population that are found in the Yasawas. This research supports greater education on tourist behavior and how it impacts mantas, enabling the team to better communicate their behavioural expectations with guests. These expectations include less disruptive entry into the water, limiting the approach of guests, maintaining a safe distance, and relaxed body language. These guidelines are also displayed on South Sea Cruises vessels to increase awareness to all visitors.
- Coral gardening and reef restoration: Since 2020 Barefoot Manta has focused on expanding their coral diversity at designated restoration sites. Reef restoration efforts have included coral planting and the removal of predator species, such as the crown of thorns. As part of their partnership with the Drawaqa Marine Conservation Trust, the resort documents all information on coral reef restoration projects so that guests can remain involved and informed about the ongoing work.
- Training of local communities: Through a partnership with Reef Safari, Barefoot Manta has created opportunities to train fishers from nearby communities as snorkel guides and dive masters. This initiative not only reduces pressure on the ecosystem through decreased dependence on marine resources, it also increases community awareness on the importance of marine conservation.
- No-fishing zone: Since 2011, the nearby village of Muaira has enforced the community-decreed ‘No-Fishing’ status on the reefs around the Northern tip of Drawaqa Island. This has been extremely effective in restoring the reef ecology, with noted increases in coral cover, fish biomass and biodiversity. Fish wardens at Barefoot Manta support this initiative by patrolling and addressing incidents of poaching.
- Tourist education: Barefoot Manta promotes low-impact stays in a number of ways, including; the absence of air conditioning, restricting Wi-Fi to communal areas, sourcing local produce, and promoting responsible behavior with the reef and wildlife. They also foster greater tourist education through the Marine Biology Tour offered at the resort, and free seminars in the Marine Science Centre.
Source: Fiji Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation
Photo Credit: Fiji Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation