Program 2, Week 2- volunteer blog post!

Team 1-  Tom, Hannah, Sam and Johanne

Teaching is always an interesting activity, mainly because there is that constant fear of the children misbehaving and the subsequent not knowing what to do in such a situation. We started our morning at Paindane school, which was the more developed of the local two schools, Guinjata being the other. Upon arrival, groups of children were raking the ground and picking litter intensively, probably to avoid the sting of a beating from the teachers we had heard so much about; Africa, and more specifically Mozambique, seemingly still enforced harsh disciplinary techniques that our parents knew all too well at the same age.

No sooner had we arrived that we had met our translator, Pascal, who then took us immediately to class. The classroom was dark, mostly because of a lack of paint, and any light that came into the room appeared from the open windows. Walking into the room, we were met with 30 new, but confused-looking faces of the first class. Despite nerves, we introduced ourselves and started with the lesson. Litter was the topic today, and a difficult one at that, at least in terms of making it interesting for the children (and ourselves). With Pascal, we attempted to teach the kids certain names of litter, some of which they had suggested themselves during one of our mind-map activities. At first it was a bit slow, which was to be expected, but once the ice had thawed the kids were beginning to enjoy the session. Eventually, we translated these words from Portuguese to English, a task which was hit and miss in terms of pronunciation from both parties, us with their language and them with ours. We swiftly moved on to the topic of currents, and how they transport litter and other various things around on a very long tour of the world. In this, we attempted to explain why this is a bad thing, with some students surprisingly catching on very quickly and giving quite detailed answers. One activity that caught the particular attention of the class was guessing the approximate time it takes for different materials to naturally decompose; the first item being plastic, which takes 450 years to break down, and then glass, which takes 1,000,000 years – quite a while in the grand scheme of things, and this was something the children found exciting. With the aid of a crude drawing of a turtle on the chalkboard, we then proceeded to point out how marine animals cannot tell the difference between their prey, e.g. jellyfish being eaten by turtles, and pieces of litter that look like them such as a plastic carrier bag. The broad question that was asked “Why is rubbish bad?” was met with some very good and well explained answers which was a welcome surprise to the previous silences. However, due to clear language barriers (some of the children didn’t even speak Portuguese, which just complicated the already complicated), Pascal took charge and followed the lesson plan for the rest of the day. Repetitive it may have been, but it was a good day. The next day, we had a new battle plan. We started off with another mind-map, although this time we focused on the animals rather than the rubbish, much to the delight of the children and us. We then got the kids drawing sea animals from books, with some showing a great artistic flare whilst others were awe-struck by the fact that they were able to use multiple colouring pencils. The final day saw another challenging task of simplifying a difficult topic and making it interesting. Oil spills were mainly talked about, as too were their effects on local marine life. One or two of the class answered the questions so well and so soon that we basically had no lesson to continue on with. So better than expected. The drawing competition winners were chosen and given a mixed bunch of prizes, ranging from colouring pens to shark toys, with some looked very unenthusiastic with what they were given – one boy even tried to write with the shark toys to no avail.

Guinjata was the other school we visited in the afternoons, and there was clearly a difference. The wall were decorated with images of sea life, a past painting job done by previous volunteers on the program, as opposed to the plainness of Paindane‘s walls. Continuing in the same vein as previous years, we began to paint the walls of both schools to produce an image of Arctic regions, a very alien world to the children that they will hopefully like. Free time was knackering, we had no energy whereas the kids seemed to have a lot, and on one occasion the girls flocking to personalise Jo and Hannah‘s hair. To cut a very long story short, the school was tiring but fun, and meeting the very cheeky but no less lovable kids was worth it.

Diving time! The conditions were initially ok, but they worsened. The first dive went well and according to plan, with the only drawback being the strength of the currents which provided a challenge that we constantly had to fight against. Each individual was given a role; one was snorkelling at the surface noting global positions, whilst the other three were under the water with a transect, quadrat and a camera recording species present in the sampling area. The second dive was hard as conditions had declined and currents had become stronger, but we pulled through and gathered the data.

The next day we were local at Guinjata, staying with the fishermen. They had several good catches on the day, pulling up species such as white spotted rabbitfish and occasionally the odd unicorn fish which drew up some South African buyers. Each fish was measured and photographed for evidence, and this continued on well into the afternoon, during which the fishermen had a braii with a beer or two. Very friendly and equally helpful, they allowed us to do our work without any problems, even trying to resuscitate one of the more exotic species simply because they were too beautiful to kill, which was a pleasant surprise and attitude that not all the men shared.

Team 2: Ollie, Shelby, Natasha and Rachael (Ollie and his wives)

 Ollie started this week with one girlfriend and ended it with seven wives. No one is quite sure how this happened. It might have something to do with the fact that he looks after himself. Nevertheless he did very well to put up with three girls for a whole week.

 Our first scuba dive went smoothly and we managed to collect some good data. Our second was rather more hectic and almost ended in the loss of an LTO GoPro. Luckily for us Zee found it and got lots of kisses from Ollie as a thank you. 

Walking to the Paindane fishery we managed to endure blistering winds and scorching desert, we walked to the tallest dune of the furthest beach, only to log one gender confused juvenile shark. Although we did all get a nice tan out of it, all that is except for Ollie who is sill as pale as the day he arrived. 

We taught the kids at the schools (Paindane and Guinjata) about marine litter and how to prevent it. We also started an orca mural at Paindane school. At the end of the week we rewarded the top students with a free swimming lesson, which even Shelby thoroughly enjoyed.

Team 3: Kimi, Catlin and Mark (Smith)

For our first day of science we were at the Guinjata Fishery. A lot of small lobsters were brought up and a range of reef fishes. We didn’t however get to measure them all as people run off with the catch to get away from us. We realised that the locals aren’t always trusting of what we are doing because they think we will report them for illegal catches. We also realised that a LOT of the catches are illegal, but enforcing environmental law unsurprisingly is not a very high priority for a poor nation with little financial resources to invest in law enforcement along such an extensive coastline.

Tuesday was incredibly windy, and being at Paindane Fishery felt like a desert, with sand beating into us all day. But the effort wasn’t wasted as the fishermen brought up four sharks from the longline; two juvenile Spottail sharks, one juvenile Scalloped Hammerhead, and one large Spottail shark. We got to witness the fishermen argue for who got which part, and then watch as the large shark was gutted, skinned, and divided up; this was totally fascinating as you would never get to see what is essentially a dissection of a shark in the UK.

Wednesday was our first proper Coral Reef Surveys. We went on two dives and completed two transects pretty successfully. The data processing however took 5 hours, having to identify everything we videoed.

Thursday was our second day at Guinjata Fishery. It was a bit of a slow day for fish, especially as one man legged it away from us with approximately 35 fish, including a barracuda. We sat in the dive centre all day and Kimi gave Caitlin an awesome owl henna tattoo.

On our walk to Paindane on Friday the dogs, Hitty and Pino, came with us. They chilled with us until the fishermen brought up a shark, by which point Pino decided he was hungry and off they went home. Caitlin found a tiny plastic dinosaur on the beach and we have decided we are now going to be called TEAM DINO. On Friday the fishermen brought up a 2.2 metre Bull Shark, which was fascinating to watch, and they walked it along the sea with a rope.

Team 4 –  Beth, Callum, Paige.

Paige, having arrived 10 days earlier, completed her PADI open water course and started her PADI advanced open water course. On her most recent dive Paige had a staring contest with a Clownfish which was her most enjoyable dive! Beth and Callum having started their Emergency First Response (EFR) training, in order to go on to complete their PADI rescue diver course later in the programme.

At the weekend Callum went on his first leisure dive, the visibility was good and the reef was full of marine life, including a Hawksbill Turtle which was Callum’s first sighting of one, and made him very happy!! It was Tom’s birthday on the Sunday, so we spent Saturday night having braai (Eugenio’s cooking is to die for!), playing volleyball, toasting marshmallows and drinking.

Our first week of recording data included walking to the Paindane fishery on Monday and Thursday, Coral reef survey on Tuesday and Friday and Guinjata fishery on Wednesday.

Our first day at the fishery included the first recorded shark killing of the programme, a 3m long Zambezi (bull) shark. It was fascinating to experience but difficult to watch. However, this is the reason we are here; to stop these sharks from being caught by the local fisherman. Earlier that day whilst we were waiting for the boat to come back in we played cards with one of the local fisherman, which he won, much to the amusement of all the other fisherman.

So far our coral reef surveys have not gone to plan. On the first practice run, Callum accidentally reeled the transect out to 50m instead of 25m, which ruined the whole survey! On the 2nd coral reef survey the current was very strong and raised the transect up into the water column before reeling it out to 50m (again) and taking a sharp left. This had to be abandoned but left us with a lovely dive in which we saw another turtle and whales really close to the boat!!

Beth has enjoyed being back doing this again as this is her 2nd time on the LTO programme (she must really love it!!). Callum has enjoyed making the most of the sea by going for a swim every day, as the sea temperature is wonderfully warm! Paige has really enjoyed her diving, seeing as it is her first diving experience despite the sometimes crazy current, surges and poor visibility. All staff at the Guinjata Dive Centre, Caso Do Mar and Love The Oceans have been superb and extremely friendly. We are looking forward to the next few weeks!

Such a fantastic week here in Guinjata Bay! A great group of people working incredibly hard to get the work done to the best of their abilities 🙂 So excited to see what the next few weeks entail and hear all the stories!