Wow. What a view; our first morning in Mozambique and we were welcomed with an amazing sunrise. It inspired Rhiannon, Viktoria and Shannon to explore the beach before the day ahead. The 5 week programme requires a week of training, so today we’ve been introduced to the mission of LTO through multiple lectures including an introduction to LTO and conservation – this highlighted how important our contribution will be.
As our first evening together we whipped out dobble, which if you don’t know, is the greatest card game of all time. As much as it induced some competitive rage, we all had a laugh. Told stories and found ourselves bonding already. Although we are all different people from a range of backgrounds, coming here shows we all share the passion for the ocean so there’s some common ground we can grow from.
The second official day brought some more lectures, which at university would perhaps be dire, however we can promise LTO lectures on manta and shark IDs are not only incredibly useful, but really interesting – even at 9am. We then all embarked on our first beach clean which as eco-warriors we were very enthusiastic about and the view of tropical paradise isn’t too bad either. We logged all the trash we collected which was interesting, but of course disheartening. It definitely made us think twice about the waste we produce. Halfway through the beach clean Megan and Rhiannon met two local boys walking by and taking a peek at their work. They used this as a chance to practice their Portuguese, aka they said ‘ola’ and did the ‘hang loose’ sign. They said hey back and wandered off, only to come back to them ten minutes later with their own handful of collected plastic. They told us their names were Pedro and George and they definitely showed us up as they managed to find mountains of plastic too fast for us to log without hand cramps. It was a really wholesome interaction and made us all feel closer to the community aspect of the programme and highlighted how much of an impact we can have on the local kids, who are adorably eager and friendly.
The day started at 5:45am with a long walk down the beach to Paindane to practice fisheries data collection. The dark cold morning was eventually warmed up and welcomed by a beautiful sunrise after of which we were all slapping on the sun cream.
While waiting for the fishermen to come back a small group went to explore the tide pools nearby and others walked along the beach. Eventually a fisherman got our attention with a bag full of fish and a juvenile spinner shark. We measured everything and then took photos of all the fish and the shark so that we could ID them all in the afternoon.
When we got back, we had a lecture on fish ID, and then we went to work looking through the photos from the fisheries site to get an accurate ID on everything. Fish ID went a lot better than expected until we got to one seemingly unidentifiable fish. It took about 2 hours, every volunteer and every staff member looking though books and debating, but it was finally identified as a Sombre Sweet Lips. We ended the day with a well-deserved beer and some lovely food at the dive centre restaurant.
We had a later start for diving today and most of us took advantage of this for a couple more zzzz’s or a lengthy sun soaked breakfast. We were all pretty amped and excited for the day as it was to be our first dives here and if under the water is anywhere near as beautiful as what’s above it we were in for a treat! Kitting up took a little longer than it would on a normal day as we needed to find the right sizes for everything. Dive numero uno was a basic fun dive so everybody could refamiliarize themselves with diving and experience with new people of many different skill levels. Mark, our divemaster, led the dive with Liz and Shir assisting and shepherding our rather large shoal of divers. Before the dive we were warned that conditions in the area can be tricky but we were pleasantly surprised once we were underwater, only dealing with slight swells and a small current. For those of us who hadn’t dived in the ocean before and for many of those who had, it could be described as one of the most beautiful and biodiverse dives we had ever done. The abundance of marine life was incredible, with highlights including a Blue Spotted Stingray, a moray eel and a biiiiig lobster.
Dive numero dos was for us to practice the survey method we will be using to collect data on the reef. Conditions were trickier than the first dive, with a strong current, and we understand now when people say if you can dive here, you can pretty much dive anywhere. Surveying proved to be more difficult than expected, but we know it will become easier with practice. Highlight of the day was by far seeing everyone clamber onto the boat, with different levels of success. We are definitely going to have Pop-Eye muscles by the ends of the 5 weeks!
Our day started with the welcome and excited shriek of “whale blow”, seeing our first sighting and proof of the whales are arriving in the area with 5-6 blow clouds appearing on the horizon. This energy was taken into our classroom where our eyes were opened to Mozambique’s history of Portuguese colonialism until 1975, followed by a bloody and fiercely fought civil war that raged until 1992, the first multiparty elections taking place soon after. We were given an overview of the community outreach programs that LTO is involved with and has started within the local area. These lectures really highlighted the importance of the work that goes on here as there has been 12 drownings in the last 2 years with an estimated 90% of the population unable to swim. Having a means to teach swimming lessons from a young age and introduce kids to the water really can save lives out here, especially with the severity of the local currents added to the fact that there is a 77% unemployment rate this could provide a source of steady income for many people. With planned visits this afternoon to the local schools, where classrooms are lacking and teachers dealing with 120 kids at a time, we realised the importance of hitting the beach to collect material for the essential eco-bricks to build more classrooms. Then our first trip into the community and to the schools to meet the kids and teachers, excited is an understatement but we’ll be sure to let you know how it goes next week!
Aaaand the July 5 Week Research Program is a go! We’re super excited about spending the next 4 weeks with this lovely bunch. Training week is always intense and we have thrown them in the deep end this week with challenging conditions on the training dive and a shark on fisheries surveys, but the groups have handled the first introduction to our research and community outreach swimmingly and we’re looking forward to seeing how they are going to handle the full immersion into field research over the next 4 weeks!