Feature

Junior Ranger Played Vital Role In Stopping Fire At Sigatoka Sand Dunes

Sokonaia quickly changed into his firefighting gear and ran to Driodrio Forest with ranger Sakiusa - another 15 minutes run uphill and downhill.
26 Oct 2020 09:24
Junior Ranger Played Vital Role In Stopping Fire At Sigatoka Sand Dunes
Sigatoka Sand Dunes junior ranger, 15-year-old Sokonaia Tamaya enjoys taking visitors along the Yato Leka trek at the Dunes. Photo: Rosi Doviverata

Sokonaia Tamaya did not think twice when he saw smoke and fire emanating from the Sigatoka Sand Dunes.

He knew the fire would spread quickly because of the dry weather.

It was Sunday – after a hearty Father’s Day lunch, he walked up a nearby mount near his Kulukulu Public School teachers’ quarters home.

When he saw the smoke, he knew exactly the location of the fire.

He simply ran to the Sigatoka Sand Dunes office along the Queens Highway.

He had to alert the rangers who were on call. Because of the location of the office, the rangers would not be aware that part of the sand dunes was on fire.

On his way, he thought of the native plants he had planted weeks earlier and the animals whose lives were now threatened.

He did not even think about calling the rangers – he simply ran as fast as he could. He was there in 10 minutes.

Ranger Saimoni Naruma and Ranger Sakiusa Bulivorovoro were on duty.

Sokonaia quickly changed into his firefighting gear and ran to Driodrio Forest with ranger Sakiusa – another 15 minutes run uphill and downhill.

It took the pair about half an hour to extinguish the fire.

Sokonaia Tamaya was only 11 years old when he took part in the Heritage in Young Hands programme - a collaboration between Shangri-La’s Fijian Resort and Spa and the National Trust of Fiji - Sigatoka Sand Dunes. He will be one of the first to complete the five-year environmental programme. Photo: Shangri-La’s Fijian Resort and Spa

Sokonaia Tamaya was only 11 years old when he took part in the Heritage in Young Hands programme – a collaboration between Shangri-La’s Fijian Resort and Spa and the National Trust of Fiji – Sigatoka Sand Dunes. He will be one of the first to complete the five-year environmental programme. Photo: Shangri-La’s Fijian Resort and Spa

Taking ownership

Sokonaia’s reaction of the impending danger to one of Fiji’s national heritage stems from his participation in the Heritage in Young Hands programme.

It is a partnership with Shangri-La’s Fijian Resort & Spa, the National Trust for Fiji and the Ministry of Education, Heritage & Arts and National Archives of Fiji.

The programme was initiated in May 2016.

Sokonaia was part of the first group of participants. He started when he was only 11 years old while attending Kulukulu Public School.

He is now 15 and is well versed with the environmental challenges faced at the Sand Dunes. Sokonaia attends Sigatoka Andhra Sangam.

He is passionate about the environment and what it means for his community and his future.

In fact, the programme has empowered him to share learnings with his peers and change habits like the proper disposal of rubbish.

“When I see rubbish on the roadside after getting off the bus on my way home, I can’t help myself but I immediately pick them up and put them in proper bins.”

Junior ranger Sokonaia recalled one day at Sigatoka town, rubbish was strewn next to a bin. Along with a cousin, they picked up the rubbish and disposed of it properly.

An elderly man walking by remarked: “Denia wa oqo, muru la.” (Just leave that alone and go)

But Sokonaia was reminded of lessons from the programme that every little effort counts.

Heritage in Young Hands

This year marks the 5th anniversary of the Heritage in Young Hands programme and the 50th anniversary of the National Trust of Fiji.

The collaborative effort between Shangri-La’s Fijian Resort and Spa and the National Trust of Fiji – Sigatoka Sand Dunes is a unique one, as efforts are channelled towards empowering younger people to be passionate stewards of their natural and cultural heritage.

It is an environmental programme that provides an opportunity for the children in Sigatoka to make a real difference in their everyday surroundings.

The five-year programme is driven by four key principles – bringing people together, connection with earth, empowerment and education by doing.

The Heritage in Young Hands participants visit the Shangri-La’s Marine Education Centre.

The Heritage in Young Hands participants visit the Shangri-La’s Marine Education Centre.

A vital component is the outdoor training aspect which includes general environmental education and life skills awareness.

Students undergo specialised training as junior rangers in the five years.

The target audience for the programme are schools within the Sigatoka Sand Dunes and Shangri-La’s Fijian Resort & Spa corridor.

Selected schools include:

1. Naidovi Primary School

2. Cuvu District School

3. Nadroga Sangam Primary School

4. Kulukulu Public School

5. Nadroumai Primary School

To date the programme currently has one hundred students enrolled.

Sigatoka Sand Dunes

The Dunes are recognised, regionally and internationally as a place of great heritage significance.

They are an atypical landscape. Many archaeologists have conducted excavations over the years and have discovered important artefacts and human burials that have contributed to the understanding of Fijian Prehistory. The South-East Trade Winds continue to unearth many of the Dunes’ hidden treasures.

A large portion of the Sigatoka Sand Dunes is now protected as the Sigatoka Sand Dunes National Park under the management of the National Trust of Fiji.

If you plan to visit the Sand Dunes:

  • Call their head office in advance on 835 7154 and a ranger will be assigned to walk with you. You can also email Jason: jtutani@nationaltrust.org.fj
  • Wear proper footwear (joggers are appropriate, leave your bata flipflops behind)
  • Water to hydrate (A must)
  • Sunnies and a hat (Also a must-have)
  • Try to walk early – 7am or 8am is a good time

The head office is open from 8am to 4.30pm seven days a week.

If you wish to take your sports team to train at the Sigatoka Sand Dunes, do the right thing and let the head office know. Otherwise, you and your team are trespassing private property. It’s a matter of courtesy.

If you’re looking for a truly local experience, Shangri-La’s Fijian Resort’s Getaway offer includes a trek to the Sigatoka Sand Dunes. For bookings contact the Reservations Team reservations.fij@shangri-la.com or call on 6520155

Edited by Jonathan Bryce

Feedback: rosi.doviverata@fijisun.com.fj



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