DOLPHIN watch tours are generating almost a quarter of a million dollars annually for a local business, adding value to tourism activities in the country.
Natalei Eco Lodge registrant Viliame Koyamaibole said about 5000 people including those that arrive for the day trip and guests at the lodge signed up for dolphin watch tours throughout the year, paying the flat rate of $45 per person per dolphin tour.
"Some percentage of the income goes to the traditional reef owners and to the Dawasamu marine protected area committee," he said.
"This is a very attractive activity for the people in the tikina of Dawasamu."
Mr Koyamaibole said the dolphin watch tour was a famous activity at the lodge and was seen as an income generating opportunity for the village. He said the village was famous for its 'Makalati' reef — also known as moon reef. The reef was home to a pod of spinner dolphins.
Mr Koyamaibole said the dolphins could be seen early in the morning at the sighting area out in the open sea. He said the dolphins would normally leave the area before sunset.
Meanwhile, Mr Koyamaibole said they were looking at the construction of two additional units to cater for the demand from tourists and hoped to complete this project in the year.
In March last year, a team of conservationists from the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society conducted studies on the dolphins in collaboration with the Britain-based environmental organisation, South Pacific Projects.
Mr Koyamaibole said tourists were not allowed to swim with the dolphins during the watch tours because it could disturb the environment and cause the dolphins to migrate elsewhere. South Pacific Projects representative, Howard Foster said earlier this had happened in other areas where tourists were allowed to swim with the dolphins.