July Program Week 4

Blue Group: Emma, Jason & Max

The weekend ended on Sunday with a catamaran trip across a local estuary, very relaxing. This week we were assigned to painting duty. We spent Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday painting different fishing methods at Guinjata school. After a sheepish start we became very proud of our work, even though none of us have painted since year 9! We hope the kids like it! As well enjoying painting our scene, it was so much fun to spend time with the kids – who ended up continuously asking for us to draw them fish or other marine animals. After a few hair braiding and piggy back riding sessions we said our goodbyes until next week when we’ll be teaching a few lessons. Thursday we were back onto fisheries and whale watching, which was definitely the best day yet! All of blue group were lucky enough to spot humpback whales, breaching metres away from the boat on the first and second dives. The third boat ride out allowed us to play with the underwater drone for the first time, which was pretty exciting. On Friday two of us had to renew our visas so had a nice road-trip to town. Jason enjoyed two dives in amazing conditions. As it’s Hannah’s (staff) last evening, we’re all looking forward to a bit of karaoke tonight.

 

Yellow Group: Natalie, Sophie & Tom

This week started bright and early with Paindane fisheries on Monday. And after a struggle to set up the ever so slightly broken tent, we were on a roll with 9 fish logged almost immediately! This was followed with a distinct lack of fish for the next 8 hours. Thank God we found 626 bottle caps to pick up (note: please take your rubbish off the beach and dispose of it responsibly!!). Tuesday was coral reef surveys in some interesting surge. Nearly lost the equipment off the side of a cliff, but we promise it was well recovered! Ronel helped us rescue the equipment, and Tom was kept busy rescuing Liz. She repeatedly managed to get herself into scenarios suspiciously similar to those outlined in his rescue diver course. Coincidence? We think so.

We had a whale-filled Wednesday, with some breaches and fin slaps incredibly close to the dive boat, which is always an awe-inspiring spectacle. We also managed to fit in an early evening beach clean, working just before high tide to remove yet more pesky litter.

Thursday at Paindane brought us a king mackerel bigger than Natalie! The weather was beautiful (a welcome change from the sometimes rough weather that is African Winter) and we enjoyed some paddling in the serene waters of coral gardens alongside data collection. We returned 8kg heavier, probably due to another beach clean ,not excessive cashew consumption (we hope).

On Friday Sophie was lured to Maxixe by visa extension (and/or KFC), leaving the rest of the group to patrol the beach and keep a watchful eye on the whales. Tom also maintained Liz’s safety, making sure she made it to the weekend to enjoy the fun dives we have planned.

 

Red Group: Joshua, Alfie, Hannah M & Bethany

Due to strong winds the first coral reef transect dive of the day was postponed on Monday. At around 09:30 we managed to launch the boat and get in the water. Strong surge made the dives tricky but the group worked together and pulled through.

Tuesday was quiet for both Guinjata fishery and whale watching. The Conservation Adventure Programme volunteers made the whole group a traditional cassava dinner. In the evening the LTO staff set up a movie night. We watched ‘Before the Flood’ and had lots of popcorn.

Wednesday was our first busy day at Paindane fishery due to lovely weather. Lots of fishermen came and went with lots of large and interesting fish. We had a group of children follow us on the way home during our beach clean.

Whilst on the transect dive on Thursday, Alfie had the delightful experience of watching a lovely whale pass over his head (which we have not heard the end of). Hannah, Alfie and Josh also got to experience breaching whales 20 meters from the boat. Beanie spent the day with the community collecting surveys for her dissertation.

Friday saw Hannah and Alfie head off to renew their visas. As Beanie was collecting surveys in the morning Josh had to do the 05:45 walk by himself, but this was made better by whales following him for nearly the whole 45 minute walk. It was a very busy day at the fishery, including one shark. This meant the group got to section the vertebrae, which was smelly but interesting! The rest of the day was spent logging all the fish from Paindane.

Green Group: Ailsa, Kealan & Hannah R

The week started off with some whale watching and Guinjata fisheries research. Although the day graced us with nice weather, we unfortunately had no peixe (fish) as the sea was still too rough for fishing. This did make our whale watching more fun though with all the massive waves smashing against the boat.

Tuesday saw another 5am wakeup and trek to Paindane. The day started off on a high after Kealan actually managed to get up on time and a record walking time was set. Upon our arrival the fishermen set out in force with nets, spears and boats all venturing out. After rough conditions and no fishing for the past couple of days we had high expectations and the fishermen did not disappoint. Two octopus’s, a squid and what we called ‘the weird mouth fish’ (otherwise known as a birdfish – shout out to our fish ID expert Mat for the help identifying) were caught, along with several others which made our logging duties fun.

Wednesday couldn’t come soon enough as we were on coral reef surveys and more diving! Unfortunately this was our last coral reef dive of the programme so we were all a bit emotional. How we’ll miss hanging underwater in weird positions trying to get the quadrat in the exact right spot. *Sigh*. As always all the megafauna decided to pay us a visit once the dive was over. After Tam chucked herself in the boat after spotting a black tip shark underneath we all settled down to gape at the four humpbacks circling the boat less than 10m away! No one knew where to look with them popping up left, right and centre. Pretty crazy. Logging fish for the rest of the day didn’t seem too bad after that.

After almost 4 weeks on fisheries and coral reef surveys, Thursday and Friday saw a mixing up of our timetable with green group being assigned to painting at Paindane primary school. This was the time for our inner artists to shine. Hannah proved to be the turtle queen; Ailsa drew an award winning octopus and Kealan… Well, Kealan was good at drawing rocks. Everyone has their own talents. While this masterpiece was taking place the kids decided to provide some well-deserved hair strokes, banging tunes and some great dancing. All in all a not so shabby week. Here’s to a weekend of diving, relaxing and a few well-deserved drinks.

 

We can’t believe it’s been already 4 weeks since we welcomed our volunteers on site in Guinjata Bay. So sad that we’re going to have to say goodbye in a week, but we’re more than ready to ensure their last week will be as amazing as the past four. With the weather getting better and the whales being all over the bay and more and more active, the last week definitely looks promising. We’re so proud of the volunteers. They’ve become capable and hard working researchers in all aspects of the work, from preparing equipment and data collection in the field to logging the (sometimes large amounts of) data. It’s been a real pleasure to see them increase their confidence with scientific diving, fish identification and whale research. Even though research days are sometimes long, this group manages to keep up the moral and do everything with a smile. They’ve become a great group of friends that find a good balance between work and having fun, which makes the staff jobs much more rewarding. After a great weekend with dives, whales, swims, snorkels and a few beers, we’re ready for this (unfortunately) last week, ensuring everyone will leave with great memories of an amazing scientific adventure.