NAI’A partners with scientists from the University of the S. Pacific, World Wildlife Fund, Wilderness Conservation Society, Conservation International and more.
Eco-tourism and NAI'A
NAI'A began in Fiji in 1993 as a passenger-supported marine mammal research vessel. With 15 seafaring years of experience and a university degree in marine mammal behaviour, Rob Barrel's concept was that while paying scuba diving guests explored underwater, sponsored on-board dolphin scientists would simultaneously identify individual animals and study pod tactics. Guests could assist the science with observations and the science would in turn educate them and enrich their experience. Meanwhile, resulting tourist income to the country and to the local communities would encourage the protection of the animals and their ocean habitat. But reality often hinders good design. In our case the enormous running costs of a ship and the tendency for good dive sites to be great distances from the dolphins' range meant NAI'A had to do what all successful species do: adapt.
Twenty-five years on, we have found various angles on eco-tourism - sometimes by design and sometimes by the opportunities of time and place. The motivation to "do the right thing" is nowadays not only our own. Our clients actively seek out vacations that enable them to understand more intimately the cultures and environments they visit as well as guard those attractions against the onslaught of indiscriminate development. As divers, our guests are inherently the most eco-aware of all travellers to the South Pacific. So, alongside our personal ideals, our divers' skills and desires have evolved NAI'A into an eco-diving destination driven by four principles: Partnership, Protection, Participation and Presentation.
The remarkable diving in the Phoenix Islands World Heritage Site was first discovered by NAI’A in 1997. The ship has made the 2,000-mile expedition ten times.
NAI’A passengers often participate in marine eco-tourism projects using their skill and experience to contribute to science and enhance their own experience.
Having learned from guest scientists, NAI’A crew present the knowledge to our guests to add value to the scuba diving experience in Fiji or whales in Tonga.
“NAI’A made a believer out of me! Fiji has been grossly underrated by both divers and scientists. Incredible fishes here and definitely worthy of protection.”
~ Dr. Gerry Allen, Ichthyologist & Author, Conservation International