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May/June Week 4

The weekend after our last post was very exciting. We started the Saturday like we normally seem to be doing, with a far fun dive! This weekend we were at Extacy which was a beautiful dive site, albeit the vis wasn’t the best we had, but I think both of us will enjoy a dive regardless. There was lots of really exciting life around too. Our second dive that day was a research dive that we were making up for from the week before. We love our research dives and everything we manage to see and capture on the dive. We’re even at that stage now where we are starting to identify what we see while we’re actually on the dive. What we had been looking forward to all week was the Saturday swim lessons for the kids we had taught a week ago at Guinjata school. It was so amazing to see all our kids again. We loved seeing them so excited. It was interesting to see the differences between the kids: you’d have the confident boys jump straight in and start doing laps, you’d have the boys who wanted to go in and have fun, but you could tell they were not entirely confident with floating and then you have the girls who tiptoed into the cold water and found it difficult to swim. Once we acknowledged the different abilities we started working with each group separately, teaching them how to float, improving some of the stroke techniques and just simply putting their head underwater and learning how to blow bubbles. This was all aided by a donation from Zoggs, they provided goggles, armbands and flotation devices; all the kids were so excited to use these, especially as it made them more confident going under water as they could see. It was lovely to see how much they all improved in just under 2 hours. A young boy named Armando would constantly come up to me and show me something I had told him to work on that he could now do. Fingers crossed that what we’ve taught them resonates with them and the next step for them could be getting in the sea!!

We had our second surfing trip on Sunday. Nicole is quickly turning into a pro but I think I can confidently say that I prefer being under the water than on a board above it. The rest of the day was lovely and relaxing, as much as we love Guinjata it is nice to see more of Moz. In this beautiful little town, there are lots of restaurants, bars, markets and there just seems to be this awesome community spirit around there, this was emphasised in the evening when we saw this incredible band play. As all of us love food, we would definitely mention the food we had there as a highlight; amazing pasta, coconut bread, pizza and cakes (including specially made vegan cupcakes).

The beginning of this week was spent in the town getting our visa’s extended and running some little errands. We’ve never been into Inhambane properly and this was the first opportunity we had to look around. The buildings had this beautiful colonial architecture and there was lots to see in the local market. The rest of the week was very similar to last week, we had two days to get data on fisheries and two days diving to collect coral reef surveys. Even so I think not one of those activities is getting tiring. We love doing it all just because it’s always so different and exciting. Our days in Paindane can be long and hot, but we love talking to the fishermen, they are just the most beautiful souls. As vegetarians and strong animal right activists you’d think fisheries wouldn’t be our favourite thing to do, but we thoroughly enjoy it and having nothing but complete understanding and appreciation for why these men do what they do. We decided to record the catches from the SA boats too, just to get data from everything that comes out of the water. It was nice to see one of the boats actually give their catch to a local fisherman who helped get the boat out of the water. You can tell just how talented the local fishermen are as they have way less gear and they were coming out which a larger quantity and bigger fish. Friday was a slightly sombering day at fisheries, it was heartbreaking to see that out of 13 kayaks only 4 came back with catch; one of the fisherman was talking to us and mentioned that they were all pretty unlucky today and they didn’t know what they are going to do as that means no money for Sunday which is a very important day for them, it’s been described to us as the ‘Mozambican Christmas’.

Diving is just the best here. We’ve both been to a fair few places and we can both confidently say that the diving here is some of the best we’ve done. Not just the dives but even on the boat. We saw a pod of humpbacks so incredibly close to the boat on Wednesday and we both cried. It was just such a beautiful moment and they were so close you could see all sorts of markings. We spent the majority of the dive looking up every time it got a little bit darker in case they were just hanging above us. It was really amazing to hear their songs underwater. The vis finally cleared up this week and all three dives were so clear. So clear the on the second dive Nicole snorkelled along the whole dive with us because she didn’t want to miss out on anything cool we saw. We honestly don’t think we’re going to get a bad dive here, there is so much life and limited damage. Both of us are very used to heavily bleached areas so it’s interesting to see the stark contrast with the abundance of life when you’re in an area where it’s not really that present.

As we end this week we’re looking forward to the swim lessons and celebrating Mozambican Independence Day this weekend and of course another fun dive!

Time is flying! We can’t believe that our volunteers have already been here for four weeks now.          
We started this week by going to Maxixe to get our visas extended and decided to make a day of it by taking the opportunity to show the volunteers around Inhambane too. The rest of the week they have been fully submerged in their fieldwork, taking on another four research dives and two full days of fisheries research. With the fourth week of the programme and the third week of fieldwork coming to an end it’s great to see how tasks like floating up-side-down above a coral reef holding a quadrat and doing fish ID on the fly is becoming second nature to the volunteers!              
After last week’s success we are looking forward next round of swim lessons this Saturday. Last Saturday we were happily surprised to see four of the girls from school at the swim lessons, so we hope the girls are equally brave this week!

May/June Week 3

The research has now officially commenced and we have been successful in collecting and logging a lot of data this week. This now means that we are officially becoming fish identification whizzes!

We started the week by creating an ocean trash mural from the litter we collected on the beach cleanup on World Ocean’s Day (8th June). Between four of us, we were able to fill 8 garbage bags in less than 2 hours. It’s upsetting to see so much broken down plastic and trash on a bay that is still pretty untouched. From the foreign bottle caps to the life encrusted drink cans, it is obvious that the majority of litter that we have found has been washed up from the cyclone that hit the bay earlier this year. Being marine conservationists, we have been aware for a long time that ocean trash is a serious issue but to see the thousands of microplastics in this light, it really enforces how bad the situation really is and how we are really in need of desperate measures.

To portray our feelings of ocean trash in the mural we decided to enforce the message of how our anthropogenic actions will in turn come back around to us. We created a fish out of the rubbish and then used all of the silver trash to make a fork digging into the fish to represent a human eating the plastic. We collected ocean plastic statistics and captioned our mural with “People who consume seafood as part of their diet are ingesting approximately 11,000 particles of plastic every year”.

 

We used the rest of Monday as a day to refresh the protocols for the coral reef surveying and fisheries research to ensure that the rest of the week was to go as smoothly as possible.

We ventured on two research dives on Tuesday that we believe went very well.  We are definitely beginning to learn how to hold a quadrat still while battling a strong swell! After surfacing from the second dive we spotted 3 humpback whales less than 100m away from the boat, which was incredible. Farin, who had been snorkelling at the time was ecstatic. Armando, the skipper, had moved the boat slightly closer to the Whales whilst we had been diving so Farin was able to get a closer view and watch their gracious displays of breeching. The Humpback Whales migrate North from the Antarctic in the winter to breed in warmer water. This week, especially Friday we have started to see many more Humpbacks from the bay and everyone gets super excited when we spot them!

We had an early start on Wednesday morning and left the house to get to on site by 7am for fisheries research. It was a beautiful morning and lots of fishermen were heading out to the water. Four men prepared their gill net and set out for the water, they were soon followed by single kayakers and spearfishermen later in the day. We bathed in the sun during the morning and at lunchtime the men started to bring their catches back to the shore. The fishermen are overwhelmingly friendly and helpful and we engaged in small conversation about how their day went as we helped them carry their kayaks further up the beach. It is extremely important to remember that this is their livelihood. They work long, gruelling days on the sea and some of the men may or may not be successful with their fishing that day. We made sure that we congratulated them on their catches. There was a lot of data to collect and the men allowed us to take pictures and measurements as LTO has built up a great rapport with them. Although there were a lot of game fish caught, luckily no sharks or rays were on this day. Samuel, who we taught in Paindane (who made an appearance in our previous blog), was one of the fishermen.  It’s great to see that our educational programme is directly linked to the local fishing community that the organisation has built a relationship with.

On Thursday we did another research dive in the morning and just as we were about to get on the boat we noticed the fishermen had pulled up a ray in their gill net. We ran over straight away to take pictures and measurements and had soon identified the ray. We used the afternoon as an opportunity to set out on another beach clean. In an hour and just with two of us we collected 2.5kg!

The fishermen caught a juvenile scalloped hammered head and a Giant Manta Ray on Friday in their gill net. Although this was an upsetting experience, it is not our place to judge the fishermen, as this is their livelihood. We have to understand that the reason why we are here is to help conservation through education. Through education we hope to help the next generation of fishermen understand what happens when we remove a species from the ecosystem. And eventually if the buying stops, so will the selling.

Weather and illness affected our plans this week, but we made the best of our situation! 🙂 On Monday we opted to do an ocean trash mural with the trash collected from World Ocean’s Day, and on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday we completed research dives and fisheries data collection. On Friday when the weather cleared and wind calmed down, some of the local fishermen went out, and the volunteers collected the data. While seeing these creatures being harvested was difficult for both staff and volunteers to endure, the experience lead to a valuable dialogue on the nature of artisan fishing. As the volunteers mentioned, it’s not our place to judge fishermen, especially the ones here who are, for the most part, fishing for their livelihood. Rather we must remember, if the buying stops, so does the selling – we have responsibilities as scientists, marine conservationists, and as consumers.

Now we look forward to the weekend, which will bring a fun deep dive, a research dive, some swimming lessons and another trip surfing!

May/June Week 2

Even though we’ve only been here for the past 2 weeks, we can with absolute certainty say that this week will be one of the best weeks of this 5 week program. We both were nervous and apprehensive about teaching kids. We both believe in only working in places we have the skill to do so and not ever over stepping our boundaries when it comes to working abroad with NGOs. Love The Oceans have a really incredible 1 week teaching week within their program. The aim of the week is to go into two schools in the area Paindane and Guinjata primary school; within these schools we taught 5 classes, aspects of geography that isn’t covered in the curriculum. This ranged from continents and oceans all the way to the importance of food webs in our world. The beauty of this program is that we got to structure the lessons exactly the way we want to which
gave us creative freedom and allowed us to try and instil the passion we have for the ocean to the kids.


Another part of the Love The Oceans program is to help improve the aesthetics of the school. There is a bit of exterior work to be done, however that job is contracted out to local builders as we can barely keep the varnish on the walls (Nicole wants everyone to know that she knows how to use to screwdriver). Importantly, we love that about this NGO, they fund so many projects and constantly add jobs into the community. The most important person in the teaching week is definitely our translator and just incredible person Pascal. Pascal started in the dive centre but then slowly started working for Love The Oceans as their translator and in country representative. We’re both slightly obsessed with him, he has the best personality, always happy, always welcoming and
just so incredibly smart. He’s currently working on also getting a teaching qualification for swimming. What we loved about him the most was the way he was with the kids. He was so good at getting them excited and always found a smart way to translate what we wanted to teach. It was honestly such a pleasure to work with him, his mind was creative and innovative that when we just taught facts, he’d find a way to truly engage them. We’re sure he has an amazing future ahead of him and we’re both excited to join him again when we teach swimming lessons to the kids.
So when we were in the schools we started with the basics and every day we would build upon what we taught the day before. Our aim was to teach the kids about the continents, the oceans, the animals on the land and in the sea, as well as how that all links to together, emphasising sustainability and our individual parts in the world. On day 3 three we talked specifically about the marine life in the Indian ocean, we thought the best way to get them excited about this was to show them a go pro video of our incredible dive the weekend before, we were both actually in the videos so we thought it would be nice for the kids to see these animals in a different light. Their reactions
were stunning, they were blown away by the video and reacted with a “woaaaaah” when they realised it was us swimming with the fishes. We both definitely felt fortunate to be part of that experience with them. It was incredible that when we asked the kids what they loved about our lessons their answers varied from learning about the animals to learning that garbage in the oceans is dangerous and more importantly that if lots of fish or sharks are caught, it is very bad because it will eventually limit the stocks in the ocean.


What we both enjoyed the most about the lessons was seeing some of the kids grow in confidence and passion for what we were teaching. One guy that stands out to us was a boy named Samuel. Our first lesson he came in with his earphones on and we joked that he was the boy who was too cool for school. As the week went on he started sitting towards the front of the class telling the other kids to stop talking and answering all our questions. You could really see how interested he was, especially when we were talking about food webs and the impacts of fishing. He was the boy who told us that he loved our lessons because we taught him about what is good to fish and what isn’t, mentioning that it could mean they would have no fish to eat or sell and that tourists would stop visiting.

As well as Samuel there was Gildo, Bernado, Germias, Luisa, Edmilson, Dilson, Wilson, Nucha and so many other kids in the classes that just looked so happy to see us and so
engaged and excited about what we were teaching. It was especially heartwarming when we saw two of the kids on the beach and they asked us to come back and teach them.
As we’re writing this we’re both getting some separation anxiety because we genuinely fell for a lot of those kids. They have an attitude that people of all ages should admire and aspire to have. They were kind, helpful, caring, funny, they never moaned, were positive all the time and were genuinely beautiful souls. We both wish them all the best of luck.

Teaching week was quite memorable for our volunteers! Nicole and Farin took on quite the challenge, teaching the local school children about geography, and the flora and fauna seen around the globe! By the end of the week, they were delving into local marine food webs and had their students reflecting on how the removal of top apex predators (sharks!) would drastically alter these food chains. While getting connected to the local community, the volunteers were also able to improve their Portuguese (with much help from Pascal). The week was exhausting, but equally rewarding. Farin is already missing the students, and Nicole definitely found her knack for varnishing! We are all looking forward to a relaxing weekend now, before jumping back into the field to collect fisheries and coral reef data!

May/June Week 1

We started the week with a great introduction into the program, everything the program stands for, how it came about and how LTO aims to fulfil it’s goals. The introduction made us automatically fall in love with the program, we really appreciated the bottom up approach LTO have. Everything is centred around the community and education of the next generation. The lectures covered most of the basic areas on marine biology and conservation but in a way that allowed us to link it all back to LTO’s aims and goals.
Areas that were covered in the teaching week were health and safety, the importance of
conservation and science with the social media. As a group who aren’t big on twitter or Instagram we were shown the importance of these mediums of communication and as scientists/environmentalists, it is integral to build a presence online and raise awareness for different areas we are passionate about. One of the biggest things we’ve learnt is that education is key, in all aspects of life. A really good example we experienced on the first day was when we did a beach clean and found an atrocious amount of cigarette buds. As we discussed this, we realised that it’s mainly because people just assume that they are simply made of paper and don’t have any plastic in them. The beach in general was covered in garbage but it was great to know at the end that we took this much out of the beach, a lot of which was brought up by the cyclone that had hit Guinjata bay early in the year.


Our days are really well structured; even though they are early starts it really doesn’t feel like it because we’re a group who are all really passionate about this and thus it doesn’t feel like work. The first 2 days were mainly lectures, this was really interesting as we learnt about fisheries, megafauna and coral reefs. We were taught the more general aspects of these areas ie. Maritime Law and the issues Mozambique faces as well as the more detailed area of learning to identify the different fish species, megafauna and coral species. We finished our second day watching Racing Extinction. We all have seen this film numerous times but each time it shocks us. I thought when the documentary focused on the village in Indonesia and their fishing of Manta rays; it really mirrored the work being done here. This is the livelihood people rely on and if you’re going to help,
the best way is to provide or suggest an alternative source of income. The documentary really resonated with a lot of us who are here just trying to make a difference. “It’s better to light one candle then curse the darkness”.


Our first-hands on work was when we walked down to Paindane beach to survey the catch brought in by the fisherman. It was a fairly quiet morning and as we left we saw some catch being brought in. That was a very interesting experience, the fisherman were all incredible friendly and helpful as we measured and took pictures of their catch. It was very eye opening that something as a group we weren’t really expecting, It taught us a lot in many ways. One of the best parts of this week was the cultural exchange, we went to Pascal’s community (our translator); this was just a beautiful place. Everyone was simply amazing, the kids would run around us and play games with us, while
everyone was just so welcoming and enjoyed us trying to speak Portugese and Bitonga. We also learnt a lot about the process of making matapa, a traditional Mozambican dish, the heart and soul that goes into this dish is amazing and it shows as it tastes delicious. We really appreciated being able to invited and welcomed into the community.


Diving here is unreal, the first dive of our training week was a fun dive. This was very useful as it allowed us to get familiar with the Guinjata dive centre guidelines, protocols as well as just get used to one of the dive sites. The second dive of the day was harder as we carried out our first coral reef survey. Even though we had practised the method numerous times, it was a lot harder when it came to doing it underwater. There was a little bit of a swell which made it harder, thankfully this was just a practise so we got our feedback and now we have tips to increase our efficiency when we carry out these surveys. All in all the dives were beautiful, we saw pipefish, loads of nudibranchs, butterflyfish, triggerfish, surgeon fish and moray eels.


The week ended with our second beach clean of the week, as we did this we started thinking of ways we could help educate the public and raise awareness of the amount of littering that happens and break down exactly what happens when that garbage does go into the sea. Therefore we decided to put together a poster and it will go up around Guinjata dive centre to hopefully remind people that the ocean isn’t their ash tray. We also did the school visits today which was a nice introduction to our next week of teaching marine areas at the schools and helping to paint around the schools. We really enjoyed the school visits as the kids were just so excited. We can’t wait to start next week and share our passion for the marine world.

With training week now coming to a close, everyone seems excited to get to work! Lectures at the beginning of the week followed by in the field practicals, built the foundation the volunteers will use for the next four weeks. While this weekend should be laid back with optional fun dives to Manta Reef and surf lessons in Tofo, the volunteers will still wedge in time to plan school lessons for teaching week next week!

Program 3: week 4- volunteer blog post

Rough surface conditions on our second to last week in Mozambique meant no diving for one group, and no fisheries research for the other group. Instead, both groups spent time finishing up a mural at Paindane school, and whitewashing the outside of the headmaster’s office at Guinjata school. On Wednesday, Chloe and Pippa put together a Guinjata Olympics tournament to lift our spirits and brought out some friendly competition among all the volunteers. We had a ton of fun with all the different games: racing to eat chocolate, bobbing for apples, building the best sandcastle possible in 3 minutes, putting together a BCD kit blindfolded, etc. The winning team was rewarded with a bottle of Tipo Tinto (the local rum), and chocolate for those who don’t drink alcohol.

On Saturday, surface conditions improved enough for some diving and then we all went on an Ocean Safari where we were lucky enough to see and snorkel with a whale shark quite a few times before finishing the safari with some snorkeling at Paindane. In the afternoon, Laura joined Pippa and Chloe at swimming lessons. All of the kids at swimming lessons are pretty adept at swimming now, so we’ve begun teaching them different dives and flips into the pool which they greatly enjoy. Pascal is always there with the kids, too, and greatly enjoys swimming in the pool with his wetsuit. It’s incredible how much these kids love swimming – they’ll be shivering in the pool and refuse to get out while the rest of us are sitting in the sun to warm up at the end of swim lessons! The plan for the next week is to hopefully have a party with the kids at swim lessons, including some friendly competitions. We’ll also finally get to start diving and collecting data on the reefs!

Although, poor sea conditions disrupted the program this week it did bring in the whale sharks and our volunteers continued to work hard! Luck the weathers picking up and no ones going to miss any dives this week. We are sad to be starting our last week with this great bunch but everyones getting excited for Kruger now!

Program 3, Week 3- volunteer blog posts

Team 1- Lili, Saskia, Dylon and Sophie

We spent our second week with LTO teaching and painting walls at the two local schools, Guinjata and Paindane. The first day of the week was a national holiday so we went to Guinjata to get a lot of painting done, expecting no children to be at the school. Little did we know that they like to spend their holidays at school and insisted on helping us paint. Unfortunately, most of the paint ended up on the floor so we decided to distract them by luring them outside to play soccer and limbo. Pascal, our translator was the most efficient painter of all of us and he is also a pretty cool dude as well. The second day we started our lessons with the kids with the theme ‘your favourite marine animal’. We quizzed them on their knowledge about marine animals. In the beginning we found giving the lessons difficult, given the huge language barrier, so Pascal took over the lessons. We managed to make the lessons more interactive on the following days though by playing awesome games such as ‘Sharks and Nemos’, Trivia, and Charades with a marine animal theme. We also kept them entertained by giving out prizes to the winning teams which had been donated to LTO. We wrapped up the whole year of lessons by having the kids present what they know about their favourite marine animal. One of the children was albino and we saw that he seemed to have difficulties with his sight while reading. We gave him sunglasses and reading glasses, and it touched our hearts when we saw how happy he was when his sight improved! We were also very impressed by the kids at Paindane singing the Mozambiquian anthem every day. Dylon discovered his inner artist and secret talent for drawing Pixar characters, and we created a beautiful mural with Finding Nemo characters on one of the Paindane school buildings. For another mural we had to label the planets that we painted on the wall, and Sophie named the moon “Pluto”. Although we struggled with the children in the beginning it turned out to be a very successful week!

 

Team 2- Laura, Payton and Gill

Gill, Payton, and I started our first fisheries research this week, walking about 45 minutes each way to Paindane. The weather varied from hot to very hot, with one day being very windy which meant loads of sand was blown our way as we waited to record the fishermen’s daily catches. We saw such a variety of different fish and some of them took a while to identify! We saw lots of Chub, plus other interesting finds like Convict Surgeonfish, and a huge Dorado. Unfortunately, the boat that the fishermen usually use for catching sharks has been broken for a while, so we were only able to collect data on one small hammerhead shark late in the week that was brought up in the net. We were very thankful the previous team purchased an umbrella to use for shade since there is no other shade at Paindane with the heat! On Friday, we recorded quite a few catches because more fishermen went out on the kayaks. Also, the tide was very low and we saw a lot more people at the beach gathering shellfish, and some of the local women taught Gill and Payton how to collect clams. We’re excited now to begin a week full of diving and snorkeling, hopefully with some whales, though that’s never a guarantee with wildlife!

What a great bunch! Our second week of research and teaching was as successful as the first, with our small but hard working students. Its crazy how fast the weeks are going, now we’re halfway through the program. We can’t wait for these next weeks of diving and coral surveys bring on the waves!

Program 3, Week 2- volunteer blog posts

Team 1- Lili, Saskia, Dylon and Sophie

After completing our training week with Love the Oceans, we had our first week of collecting fisheries data at the two local fisheries, Guinjata and Paindane. Divided into teams of two we took turns in walking the 3km along the beach to Paindane, while the other team got to stay at Guinjata. Much to our amusement, Sophie and Saskia left their sunblock at home on the first day and returned looking like lobsters! While it seemed to be a rather quiet week in terms of catch for the fishermen, we witnessed them catching a dragon stingray, huge honeycomb moray, guitar shark, hammerhead shark and several dorados. On a particularly quiet day, Dylon and Lili abandoned their data collection duties to go on the boat to chase and swim with a large 10m whaleshark – amazing experience, and to be honest, anyone would have done the same on that day 😉 We also made it a part of our daily agenda to collect garbage that has been washed up on shore – it is so shocking to see the masses of litter covering the beautiful beaches here. We cannot wait for the week ahead to work with the two schools and all the kids!

Team 2– Payton,Gill and Laura

Gill, Laura, and I were a bit hesitant about our first week at both Paindane and Guinjata primary schools. First days are always hard so Monday was our test run. The kids greeted us with curious eyes and lots of smiles and they seemed to enjoy having fresh faces around. It’s a bit challenging teaching fifty 7-14 year olds about coral reefs and the challenges they face (global warming, ocean acidification, coral bleaching, etc.) and it’s even harder doing it with a Portuguese translator. However, our translator, Pascal, is a phenomenal teacher who is exceptionally bright and funny. He caught on to our lessons quickly and often went off on his own after the first class. The students enjoyed some (not all – they are school kids after all) of the lessons and definitely enjoyed our prizes (Gill knitted about 40 adorable sea creatures!). After teaching we started the painting of 3 newly built classrooms. Most of the painting consisted of white washing but we also started a great solar system mural which the next group will take over. It was a little rough, seeing how we used broom handles attached to rollers to reach the tops of the high walls, but the children were extremely helpful with post-paint cleaning! We went into it unsure and nervous but I think we all had a fun and rewarding experience this week.

 

Our first working week of this last program has been wonderful! Lots was accomplished and the whale sharks paid us a visit so spirits were high and everyones keen to get in the water and dive this weekend. Bring on the rest of the program with this small but hard working bunch, it’s going to be fantastic!! 

Program 2, Week 5- volunteer blog posts

Team 1- Tom, Hannah, Sam and Johanne

Team 1 – Last week of the program, yet the work didn’t slow down. Monday saw another trek to Paindane to spend time with the local fishermen, and yet no one was around and a lack of Steve/Pinto the jack Russell for company dampened spirits, especially in Sam. A very long day in the sun ensued, yet despite the heat, our spirits were not broken.

Tuesday and Wednesday both saw four dives in total, with plenty of surprises along the way including baby humpbacks showing their athleticism by breaching out of the water right next to the boat. Visibility meant long logging sessions for the group, but the data collected was well worth the effort. Tuesday also saw a presentation from the photography group complete with personal soundtracks, just so they could prove to us they haven´t just been on a jolly these past few weeks.

Thursday meant once again a (final) journey to Paindane, and the extra low tide suddenly injected some life into the area. Locals poured into the area to take advantage of the local of crocodile needlefish, whose population will have almost certainly been drained due to the amount caught this past week alone. A new Paindane companion was gained almost as quickly as he was lost – Pedro, the slightly dopey gecko – happy travels Pedro, wherever you may be. The sudden energy in the area allowed for time to pass more quickly, and thankfully no sharks were brought up. Celebrations were held that night to welcome the newly initiated rescue and advanced divers into the world, and what better way to celebrate this than to give each a shit mix-snorkel (plus an egg or two for a lucky few) to ponder what they’ve just got themselves into.

Friday marked the penultimate full day, and was pleasantly easy as we were posted at Guinjata dive centre for one last time, with a fair few fish of the same elusive species being caught by the fishermen as well as a large ray on board a kayak. We lost a team mate – Hannah – to the perils of booking flights and the birthday of Smith´s mum on Sunday.

Saturday (our last day at Guinjata) will no doubt mark a few emotional farewells and a last minute dive or two – cough*Paindaneexpress*cough. Bring on Kruger national park for the few that were willing to make the 16 hour bus journey, no doubt marking the way with awful hangovers and equally awful moods.

Team 2- Ollie, Shelby, Natasha and Rachael

This week we nearly lost Ollie to some quicksand and Rachael to an eagle. All in all a rather eventful week to end our stay here.

We began the week with a rather uneventful day at Guinjata fishery. Our next two days were spent at Paindane fishery. We didn’t get any sharks but did get a disturbingly high number of fish to log, especially on the second day. These included several gill nets full of needle fish (estimated at over a thousand fish in total), a stingray, a few triggerfish, something that looked like a cross between a small deep sea fish and a shark (which Chloe later identified as a flathead mullet) and dozens of small pink fish we still haven’t been able to identify. The logging was made even more difficult by the fact that Ollie had his final rescue diver exam as soon as we got back, so was unable to help. In the end we gave up at about six o’clock and decided to finish it off the next day.

On Thursday we had our last ever fisheries day at Guinjata. Ollie spent most of the day finishing the logging for Paindane, while Shelby Rachael and Tasha measured and photographed all the fish. We had a few boats come up with more of the same unidentifiable fish from Paindane, trying to ID them nearly ended in Ollie having a nervous breakdown.

Friday meant our last two LTO dives ever! The day started amazingly well with a whale and call surfacing right next to the boat. The transects both went well and the afternoon was spent logging the data. Unfortunately, Ollie disappeared (again) to go to the police station (don’t ask) so we ended up with only the three of us logging once more. Today we also said goodbye to two members of our program, who obviously don’t know how to book flights as they are leaving so early!

We are still technically owed a dive and snorkel each from the two days of bad weather so we’re all getting a free far dive this weekend, on our very last day in fact. It’s been an amazing five weeks here in Guinjata. We’ve seen whales almost every day and been woken up by the goat just as often. We’ve met some amazing people and made more than a few friends (not all of them human).  But now that a whale breach no longer gets a gasp of amazement, and the goat is days away from being barbecued, it’s time to start heading home…

Via the Kruger of course.

Team 3- Caitlin, Kimi and Mark (Smith)

Monday was our first teaching day! The day started with teaching two classes at Paindane, and doing a bit of painting there too before being moved to Guinjata school for the afternoon. There we repeated the lesson for a couple more classes and added to the sunset wall painting. We taught the children about whale sharks and hammerhead sharks, and a little about Great Whites, getting them all to draw their favourite which they were keen to do but shy about us seeing their drawings. Pascal, our translator, quickly got the hang of the lesson plan and was taking the class without any prompt from us. Chris joined us as chief ladder holder for the morning, which the kids found funny as he is so tall! Whilst waiting to be picked up some of the little boys, who couldn’t have been older than about 7, brought over a CD to show us with some veeery inappropriate pictures on it! They squealed and ran as we tried to tell them that was a bad thing for them to have and it was quickly hidden. The girls crowded around us as we sat on the ground looking up at them all stroking our hair and laughing at every little thing we did.

On Tuesday we went back to Paindane school for the morning where we gave lesson 2 to two of the classes and lesson 1 to a new class. This lesson focused on the importance of sharks in the food chain, and what would happen if there were no more sharks. Pascal quickly picked up the lesson plan again. The children were more enthusiastic to participate today, drawing what each shark type eats. Some received prizes for their drawings from the previous day. In our lunch break at Guinjata before starting teaching, we played with a few of the younger children who took great interest in Smiths sunglasses and Kimi’s hair. They kept trying to take Caitlin’s glasses as she tried in vain to explain that she needs them to see!

Wednesday was another sunny day at Guinjata fisheries. We all took the opportunity to relax and/or sunbathe. The day started off relatively quietly with only a few lobsters and small fish, but later on the gill net was brought in containing about 150 fish!

We had our last LTO survey dive on Thursday. For this dive all three of us were diving, with Chloe snorkelling to get our GPS co-ordinates. It was a chance to see how easy the groups of 4 had had it with three people on all of their dives. The swell made the transect difficult but we still managed to complete it. The visibility was fairly good, and once done with the survey we were able to join Jeandri with Sam’s mum and sister on their dive. After this dive Kimi was lucky enough to accompany a group of tourists on their ocean safari to do a dive at Coral Gardens, a local shallow site, with Levi, which was very beautiful, to do an advanced boat dive. We all spent the rest of the day with the Guinjata group at the beach. That evening was the last evening with everyone still here, so we had a braai at the dive centre. Pippa and Chloe handed out certificates for completing the programme, along with award titles. Caitlin got the ‘sarcastic’ award, Smith got the ‘mosquito all you can eat buffet award’ and Kimi got the ‘entrepreneur award’ for making money doing hennas.

Friday was our last working day! Smith had taken an early flight home so Caitlin and Kimi took on Paindane in the heat. It was a busy day with lots of boats bringing gill nets with loads of different types of fish coming up, including around 800 needle fish! We took a backpack full of donations with us, containing clothes and sunglasses, which the fishermen were grateful to receive. Once back the logging took a loooong time… but was eventually completed!

Team 4- Beth, Callum and Paige

After a night of drinking on the Saturday night and a 7:30am dive on the Sunday morning, Callum suffered his worst hangover to date by vomiting on 4 occasions throughout the day and looking like death warmed up. Also that day, Callum and Beth did their 2nd and final PADI Rescue Dive!

On Monday, Beth, Callum and Paige did their last coral reef survey, and finished early so spent the remainder of the day tanning on the beach! Tuesday was our last day at Guinjata fishery in which our first and only octopus was caught.

Wednesday was our first teaching day at Paindane where we taught the children about the different parts of a shark. It was very enjoyable and was a lot easier than expected due to the magnificent Pascal, our translator/teacher! We also found some time to top up our mural with some much needed colour and the fabulous Sebastian-the-crab.

Thursday we were at Guinjata school where our first priority was to amend the sunset mural and our second was to teach another 2 classes which was also very rewarding! Later in the evening Paige, Beth and Callum celebrated completing their respective dive courses (Advanced Open Water and Rescue Diver) by undergoing the Guinjata Dive Centre’s snorkel initiation. This involved a mixture of drinks/alcohol and in Callum’s case a raw egg!

On Friday we taught 5 classes at both Paindane and Guinjata school. We set the children a quiz which to our delight showed just how much our lessons had sunk in. One child was even able to explain why sharks are so important to the food chain!

It has been an extremely rewarding 5 weeks which the 3 of us have very much enjoyed together. Beth’s favourite moment was finally seeing Mantas and rightfully being crowned the Manta Queen. Paige’s best bit has been making friends for life and experiencing the abundance of sea life! The thing which will stay with Callum the most is the friendliness and laid back attitude of all the staff and people who live here at Guinjata Bay, making it a trip he’ll never forget!!

We want to say a great big thank you to everyone who has made this program what it is, it has been nothing but lovely!

 

We are all very sad to have had to say goodbye to another group of fantastic volunteers, we hope to see you all soon! We can’t wait to meet the volunteers later this week, for our third and final program this year!

Program 2, Week 4- volunteer blog posts

Team 1- Tom, Hannah, Sam and Johanne

Sunday 21/08/16

Johanne, Tom and I went for a yacht trip along the estuary to Linga Linga today, while Hannah stayed in Guinjata exploring and messing around with the guys at the dive centre. The estuary was really peaceful, making the trip across relaxing before we reached a resort on Linga Linga. There we took full advantage of the well-stocked bar and attempted some watersports, with varying levels of success: Johanne proved a natural at water-skiing, I somehow struggled to lie down on a ring dragged behind the boat, and Tom decided it all looked too tiring and took up residence at the bar instead. The sun was setting as we made the journey back across the estuary, with flamingos flying alongside the boat.

Tom health update: Impaired reactions, elevated sense of self-confidence, no malaria

Monday 22/08/16

We were at Guinjata collecting fisheries data, it was pretty windy though so not many fishermen were out. Instead we passed the time watching films and eating burgers in the sun, suffering the hardships of a career in research. The fishermen caught some lobsters and fish later in the day, but all in all it was a quiet day.

Tom health update: No malaria

Tuesday 23/08/16

We were meant to go to Paindane fishery for the day, but the wind was even stronger, to the point where no fishermen were going to risk trying to catch anything. Instead we went along with the school group for the morning, helping them paint at Paindane school. We whitewashed some walls and helped with their mural, with the school eerily quiet while the kids are on holiday.

Tom health update: No malaria

Wednesday 24/08/16

We woke up to a serene clear ocean, perfect for a diving day. The wind and current of the last few days cleared a ton of sediment out of the water column, so when the wind calmed down the underwater visibility was three times what it had been before. It turned out, though, that the sea’s calmness belied a fierce current, making our reef surveys a lot more difficult as we had to swim against the current to film the transects. We completed our first survey without much difficulty, but swimming in the current had used up almost all of our air, preventing us from enjoying the crystal-clear water for longer. Also Hannah saw a dolphin snorkelling, as she took great pleasure in reminding us after.

Our second survey was slightly less successful, and we were eventually forced to call it after a lot of struggling. We dropped into about 3m of water with 25m to swim before we could even begin the transect, so we had to swim 50m against a much stronger current than before in full dive kit; leaving us shattered just from laying out the transect to begin the survey. Because it was so shallow we decided it would be easier just to do it in a mask & snorkel, so we took all the dive stuff off in the boat and jumped back in, but immediately drifted past the transect. As we were fighting to swim back Tom tried to stand up on some rocks, but kept getting knocked over by the waves. We eventually gave up on our fight and drifted towards the boat, with Tom’s frustrated shouts of “Go away current” ringing in our ears.

Tom finished up his contribution to the team by, when we were on the boat watching Johanne swim towards us against the current, shouting “I’m coming to help” and jumping in the water. He proceeded to swim in the opposite direction, watch Johanne swim 30m towards him, then mutter “I think we’re giving up now” before jumping back on the boat.

Tom health update: High stress levels, possible messiah complex, no malaria

Thursday 25/08/16

Our team was at Guinjata again, but Johanne and I needed to renew our visas so we went into Mashish to get them sorted and have a classy lunch en route. To get there we had to pack into a ‘ferry’ to take us over from Inhambane, which turned out to be a small boat with at least 50 people packed in. It was propelled only by an old 2-stroke motor held together with tape and sat way too low in the water for comfort, but surprisingly turned out to be quite a relaxing journey across a beautiful estuary. We got the visas renewed without any fuss, but the trip was deemed a failure by Hannah due to our lack of interest in Mashish’s KFC, which Hannah’s been pining for since the moment we landed in Mozambique. Instead we went for lunch at a seafood restaurant by the dock which served insane calamari, so we left very happy.

Meanwhile at Guinjata, “Hannah and Tom bossed it”- Hannah. The fishermen caught some fish, all of which were allegedly logged with great precision.

We finished the night by driving to a pizza place, where many games ensued. Tom proved surprisingly talented at the sack race, Johanne danced to Shakira and Hannah built a nest on a boat outside the bar: a successful night all round.

Tom health update: Hints of food envy, no malaria

Friday 26/08/16

We finished up the week at Paindane fishery, where we’d been met by 4 dead sharks the moment we got there on our previous visit. This time no fishermen appeared for almost 5 hours, giving us a chance to work on tans (or burns). From this peaceful beginning the day devolved into a “when it rains it pours…” situation, with three spear fishermen bringing up their catches immediately followed by a gill net with at least 500 50cm crocodile needlefish in, before a shark boat came up with three sharks including a 3m scalloped hammerhead. We were still logging these catches an hour after we were meant to leave, so by the time we got back to the dive centre they were already kitting up for a night dive. It turned out Tom, Johanne and I were meant to be diving, leaving us about 5 minutes to get changed and ready to dive. Other than the stress of speeding around to prepare, the dive was so much fun; with a sleeping turtle and tons of lobsters, parrotfish and moray eels. When we ascended the night sky was incredible, there was no light pollution so the stars were as bright as I’ve ever seen them.

Tom health update: Slight sunburn/heat stroke, no malaria

Team 2- Ollie, Shelby, Natasha and Rachael

This week Shelby started to feel left out so joined the malaria club…

Our week began with two days of cancelled dives because of stormy weather. Instead we ended up back at Paindane school, which wasn’t too bad as it meant we had the chance to finish off our map painting in one of the classrooms. On Tuesday afternoon Shelby tested positive for malaria, so we were a person down for the next couple of days.

We got a little bored on Wednesday at Guinjata as nothing came up all morning until the fishermen brought in something so big it took two men to drag it out of the water. At first Rachael, who was looking through the binoculars, thought it was a shark, but it turned out to be a barracuda. There were also a few other fish which we decided to measure first. Then just as we were about to start on the barracuda a man appeared, picked it up and slung it over his shoulder then proceeded to run away from us down the beach. How he managed to carry it and two other fish without falling over remains a mystery, but the end result was that we missed the chance to measure the most interesting fish at Guinjata we’ve had yet.

Thursday was an even stranger day, as Shelby was still too ill to come and Ollie had to go into town to get his visa renewed. We ended up with just two people at Paindane fishery. Again, nothing came up all morning until we got a gill net full of needle fish. This was shortly followed by the shark boat, who’s arrival was heralded by a large group of women and children, all shouting and laughing for joy. The fishermen had brought in a total of five sharks, including two 2.2m black tips, one male and one female.  

On Friday the weather was finally good enough for us to dive and the visibility was amazing, from one end of the transect we could easily see the other 25m away. We also ended up doing three dives instead of two to start catching up on the ones we’d missed. This meant a lot more logging needed to be done that evening. Unfortunately this was also the evening that the dive centre decided to do a night dive, which Ollie was lucky enough to get a space on. The end result is that we still haven’t finished our logging!

On another note, Shelby found a dead hermit crab in her bag and decided to put it in Tom’s bed, only when he went to bed that evening he didn’t notice. His morning retaliation however, has led to all out war.

Team 3- Caitlin, Kimi and Mark (Smith)

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday we were painting at Paindane School. This week the kids were all on their winter holiday, so we had the opportunity to paint the inside of a classroom. We decided to paint the alphabet along the edge of the classroom, and painted a mural of the ocean layers and the animals that you would find there on the back wall. A South African school was also at the School this week, helping out by whitewashing the school ready for the next programme to paint murals on.

On Thursday we had a day of coral reef surveys. Our first dive was to Turtle Creek, a deep dive, so we were only able to carry out the central ‘Coral Cover’ part of our survey due to being limited by no decompression time. Our second dive was to Caves, however the current swept us off the reef so we had no data from this dive. Logging therefore only took us 40 minutes, so we had a lazy afternoon.

Friday was a relatively easy day at the Guinjata fishery. The day before the police had been down at the beach catching the fishermen out for not having spearfishing or kayaking permits, so the fishermen seemed a little wary still. However the fishermen still caught a few lobsters and a range of fish. On Friday night Kimi and Caitlin got the chance to go on a night dive which was awesome, and afterwards there was a Braai on the beach.

Team 4- Beth, Callum and Paige

On Sunday Beth and Paige went on a yacht trip to Linga for burgers and watersports, Beth face planted violently during water skiing and Paige nearly lost teeth to an elbow during tubing with Shelby. Paige was lucky enough to steer the catamaran and everyone was scared for their lives. Beth almost fell off attempting the titanic pose. Monday was our penultimate Paindane and Hitty and Pino (the dogs) came with us and stayed all day, each buried a coconut seed in the sand, you never know there could be a coconut palm to give shade to the future volunteers. That night we had movie night, Beth popped some popcorn and we watched the jungle book on the big screen (a bed sheet). Tuesday was a stormy day, Beth sawed through shark vertebrae all day for her masters dissertation, it was a little frustrating as they were a little too big for the saw. Paige and Callum did a little painting at Paindane School but enjoyed half a day off due to the stormy weather. Wednesday was our last ever Paindane day, this wasn’t very eventful, Callum snorkelled the reef, and he says it was as beautiful as bubble gum ice cream, he also chased some whales to no avail for 2km much to Beth and Paige’s worry. Thursday and Friday were our paint days at the school, the kids whispered and giggled behind our backs, there was a lot of seaweed thanks to Paige as well as an awesome red sea fan collaboratively by Paige and Beth. We also painted blackboards and the South African catholic students who were there also helping to renovate Paindane School bought us Easter eggs even though it’s the end of august. On Thursday night Paige and Callum went with others from the volunteer program to a organised Olympic games party held at Neptune’s bar, where they had pizza and the Guinjata girls won tug of war contest. On Friday night Beth and Callum did a night dive and saw a sleeping turtle and parrot fish as well as seeing bioluminescence on their safety stop. On Saturday Beth and Callum did the first of their two rescue diver dives and are hoping to be mostly finished by Sunday, Paige’s highlight of the day was her washing and she ended the day having made coconut brigaderos and pina coloda.

 

Well the weather wasn’t great this week but spirits were still high and work continued thanks to these hard working teams! We can’t believe how fast the weeks are going and we hope your last week here is as awesome as this one has been.