By Kate Pierson
It has become a ‘must experience’ getaway and a regular fixture in wishful daydreams when winter’s icy personality takes front and centre on the seasonal stage.
And while it may have acquired some commercial elements as its popularity with consumers has grown in leaps and bounds, it has still retained its idyllic identity without the pretentious nature of other tropical retreats.
Visit this haven and you’ll be greeted with ‘Ni Sa Bula’ and farewelled with ‘Ni Sa Moce,’ after the restorative properties of its climate and culture have worked their magic. Yes, Fiji; the destination long considered a remedy for the winter blues epitomises the true concept of a holiday.
But as well as being an ultimate escape, Fiji is now also recognised as somewhat of an educational classroom. Hosting countless groups of inquisitive, knowledge thirsty, experience hungry students from New Zealand every year, Fiji has become an epicentre of learning.
The relationship between Fiji and the New Zealand education sector has been fostered by the pioneers of Edventuretours – the result of Chris and Robyn Hamilton’s vision and ambition. As travel gurus, the Hamiltons acquired valuable skills and knowledge on their own adventures that they have channelled into the Edventuretours enterprise, which has a strong focus on sustainable tourism.
The Hamiltons offer two main fields of travel for niche markets; school groups and group travel. The Edventuretours school group trips are predicated on itineraries and schedules that align with a school’s curriculum, allowing students and teachers to satisfy their intellectual curiosity and exercise their initiative and skills.
Student tours to Fiji began with support from Tourism Fiji, whose New Zealand regional office in conjunction with Edventuretours, has helped subsidise annual Fiji familiarisation trips for parties of six to 10. Underway for more than 10 years, these trips have included principals, heads of departments and teachers representing schools in Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Northland and Tauranga.
The mission was to explore Fiji and evaluate its suitability as a prospective destination for hosting sport, social and educational programmes in 2010. The numbers spoke for themselves when four out of the six teachers who went on the original exploratory expedition, signed up for a series of Fiji-based tours.
These schools included Hamilton Boys High School, who, with the support of music teacher Adrian Botting, sent a 35 strong group of aspiring musos to Fiji in July 2010.
“Awesome Adventures – an experienced adventure operator, took Adrian’s Hamilton Boys’ High group up to the Yasawas, which is about four hours north of Nadi the mainland. Here they had the opportunity to stay in the villages and visit the schools,” Robyn Hamilton explains.
Prior to his school’s departure, Adrian Botting discussed the impending eight day tour which had been tailored for the school’s music curriculum.
“It’s a chance for our students to experience the culture of another country. On this trip we will be taking our students to the top of the Yasawas and they will have the opportunity to play for schools, both primary and secondary, as well as resorts, which gives them the chance to play in a professional setting.
“They will also be able to learn more about themselves and each other and about working as part of this big music machine,” Botting explains.
“This trip also aligns with NCEA standards so students can be assessed on both their solo and group performance for NCEA level 1, 2 and 3.”
Of the cultural aspect of the trip, Botting adds, “The other part of the trip involves the schools we visit playing for us and we learn from them in this way. On previous trips, our boys were actually gobsmacked that many of the students who live in poverty have such a good outlook on life.
“We want our school groups to go with the flow and we ask that they don’t stop the daily proceedings of the schools or communities they are visiting, but instead become a part of it,” Robyn Hamilton says.
“We will take groups to good Nadi hotels and then to the slums,” she adds. “When we visit these poorer areas, the kids will take gifts with them for the people who live in these areas – things like school books and sport gear.
“When our groups return from these types of experiences, they have really matured because they have seen how other people live and they are stepping outside what they already know.”
To ensure all precautions are taken, preliminary Risk Analysis and Management Systems Reports (RAMS) are conducted by Edventuretours and the participating school and specific contingencies are put in place to ensure all bases are covered.
For more information on how you and your school can become involved with an Edventuretours visitwww.edventuretours.co.nz