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September/October Week 1, 2 & 3

Week 1

The weather was a tad stormy when we arrived, however it’s improved throughout the week and its now glorious sunshine all day long. Our group may be small but perfectly formed, spanning 3 continents and 4 countries (South Africa, USA, UK and Isle of Man). We’ve got to know each other really well throughout our training week, from trying Matapa (yummy local dish), to watching a duck have a near death experience with a falling coconut, to diving ‘Caves’ where we saw eels and turtles. Forget what you’ve heard about the best whale watching spots, Guinjata is a hidden gem where we’ve seen whales fin slapping, tail lobbing and breaching 24-7. After all the training, we’re now all ready and looking forward to the weeks ahead – teaching, fisheries research, humpback surveys and coral reef surveys. This weekend we’re heading out to Tofo to try surfing then hopefully diving ‘Manta Reef’ if the weather holds out. Got to go, the R&R’s (Rum & Raspberry) are calling!

 

Week 2

Team 2 – Lindsay, Melissa, Katie

This week was our teaching week, but Monday was a public holiday so we spent our time finishing off educational murals at both schools – Guinjata and Paindane. Our theme for teaching and painting for the week was whales and dolphins. With no previous teaching experience between the three of us, the first lesson was quite overwhelming, however the second lesson flowed better and we were more relaxed. It was fulfilling to see the children retaining the information particularly because they had to listen to it in English and in Portuguese. They were rewarded with pencils/pens for correct answers and our reward was their beaming smiles! We also managed to fit some fun educational games into the classes to reinforce the learning. The best of these was the echolocation game simulating how dolphins find their prey using sounds and hearing. We could not have survived the week without our brilliant translator Pascal and his mini-me Helton! Now tired but happy and looking forward to some fun diving over the weekend.

Team 1 – Shayley, Katie W

This week we’ve been waking up bright and early to venture out to the fisheries to gather data on the size and species of what the local fisherman are reeling in. Along our 45 minute walks we’ve been continuously rewarded with more whale sightings. Although mysteriously there seemed to have been a lack of fish this week, we’ve remained dedicated, staking out in our tent and being vigilant in case any kayaks or boats go out. We did our first identifications on Wednesday, which included king barracuda, bluefin kingfish and green jobfish.

Alongside our all-day stake outs we’ve been raging a war on beach rubbish! The team have unanimously agreed to thrash the previous groups impressive effort of 76kg, with an ambitious aim of 100kg. If achieved, this would be an LTO program record. So far, we’re well on our way to our target, with a current total of 45.9kg. Boom!

Team Shay-tie (Shayley and Katie) are unstoppable and ready to take on teaching week!

 

Week 3

Team 2 – Lindsay, Katie, Melissa

Fisheries week began with a bright and early start. The 6am walks are always beautiful with the sun rising over the ocean. An added benefit was the calf toning that came with the 45-minute walk.

After skillfully setting up our beach tent we camped out and waited for the fishermen to bring in their first haul. The gill net always promised to have a good few fish to measure and photograph.

This fisheries week was especially busy as there was a fishing competition underway. Between running to local canoes and spear fishermen, we had to rush over to the South African boats to see what they had caught for the day.

The other site was slightly less busy on the fish front so we spent our time usefully by performing beach cleans. We managed to acquire 23kg bringing this programs total to 68.6kg of rubbish that will not be making its way into the ocean.

Many late nights and lots of coffee ensued while we identified all the fish of the day (the identifying often continued in our dreams/ nightmares). This week was very busy and tiring however we are all left with slightly browner (in some cases bright red) bodies, more toned legs and a greater knowledge of the local Mozambican fish.

Team 1 – Shayley, Katie W

Our theme for the week was ‘Sharks and Rays’, so we set out to make all the kids LOVE these amazing animals by the end of the week. The first day was a bit nerve-wracking, we didn’t know what to expect, but as we dove into our lessons we began to relax and really enjoy engaging with the kids. The trick to getting the kids to be actively participating is to have lots of fun activities! Day 1’s activity was a game of ‘Hungry Hungry Shark’ (Tubarão Faminto Come Fome). A self-made game where the sharks had to ‘eat’ either crabs, octopus or fish. The ‘prey’ had to move like their animal as they tried to escape, it was so funny!

Day 2 saw the kids absolutely nail a quiz on manta rays, and then we played ‘Musical Rays’, a remake of Musical Statues where the kids have to move like swimming manta rays to the music. It was great fun!

Day 3 was about how sharks and rays are made, so we had the kids mimic how scalloped hammerheads ‘dance’ to find a mate. We put on some Mozambique music (check out Mr Bow!) for them to dance to, then when the music stopped they had to pair up. Afterwards we showed them a video from BBC ‘Sharks’ of the hammerheads doing it in the wild, and you could literally see it blowing their minds! We also got them to mimic devil rays jumping out and slapping the water with their body. It was a very interactive lesson, and the kids were really engaged!

The last day of teaching was particularly memorable. We taught the kids about the importance of conserving the species we’d taught them about, which we could tell really made an impact on them. Then we got the kids into teams to do presentations on their favourite animal. Considering none of the kids had done presentations before they were all amazing! They’d taken in so much of what we’d taught them and it was so gratifying that all our hard work had been worth it.

We had such a fun week! Plus, we even picked up some Portuguese, although I’m not sure how useful Brânquias (gills) will be…

 

So far this programs been a blast! Time is flying by. Looking forward to diving and whale watching next week! Keep up the hard work guys!

August/September Week 3 & 4

Week 3

Red Team – Adam, Kelly, Yas

After a week of fun and games with the kids at school, we started off this week with a humpback mother and calf sighting while whale watching in Guinjata Bay. No fish, but the sun was shining, which meant tanning could fully commence. Monday was a relaxing start to the week in comparison to the week before.

Tuesday started with a 5.45 am walk to one fishery, and the sunrise definitely made the walk worthwhile. We logged over 100 fish from a small pop-up tent in over 30-degree heat, pretty impressive! We didn’t finish logging until after 10pm, making our day a gruelling 17-hour shift but improving our fish identification skills further!

Wednesday was our first transect dive, it was a bit hectic, but we got some good data despite the many mysterious unknown fish.

Thursday took us to fisheries again, but luckily nowhere near as many fish, and definitely not as hot. We spent some time huddling up in the tent hiding from the rain. Dobby made an appearance again, but decided to ditch us while we were busy.

To end the week, we had some pretty good dives, Yasmine got to swim with humpback whales, and a blue spotted ribbontail ray swam straight under us while we were recording quadrats. It definitely didn’t take as long to log the data this time and we were done before dinner.

For our first week of actual data work, we definitely had a hard start, but hopefully next week we’ll improve.

Blue Team – Lucy, Charlie, Jeff (Tom)

Saturday: Fun dive
No lie-ins at the weekend! The team spent the morning on various fun dives including manta reef, eel alley and Paõ, however LTO has claimed its first victim – Tom’s little finger. Charlie then went off to teach the local kids how to swim – an essential skill for a coastal community.

Sunday: Pansy Island
We made our way to Pansy Island via catamaran! All in all, had a relaxing day snorkeling, sunbathing and playing ball games. It was pantastic. After we had pizza, we tried thinking of a pun but that would be too cheesy.

Monday: Transect diving
Spent the day diving for data, to name a few favorites we saw; sea snakes, turtles, octopus and orang-u-tan crabs. Also Jeff swam with a whale, no biggie.

Rest of the week
Getting into the routine now, whale watching and fisheries. Highlight of the week was seeing a whale shark from the boat, unforgettable!

Green Team – Scottie (Tom), Matt, Georgia

We spent this week teaching and painting at the local schools. Our topic for the week was sharks and rays, this was to the great delight of our shark fanatic Matt! We quickly got the hang of teaching, overcoming the language barrier with the aid of Pascal, our translator. One of the most successful lessons involved blind folding the students, mimicking the reliance that sharks and rays have on their electro-reception to find prey. In between lessons, we spent our time adding the final touches to the Red group’s food web mural – it was a great experience to be a part of the children’s education and we thoroughly enjoyed the week!

Yellow Team – Issy, Lydia, Charles, Harry

The second week of data collection ran a bit more smoothly than last week. Monday began with a sunrise walk to collect fisheries data. It was a long day waiting around, however, in the end it was worth it because we collected a huge amount of data from one big catch at the end of the day.

Tuesday and Thursday were both spent diving to collect coral reef data. We went to Caves on Tuesday and were efficient enough in doing the transects, that we had time to explore the caves afterwards. We dived in Hard Rock and Levi’s Ledge on Thursday, which meant we could collect some different data. Underwater, we saw a guitar fish, a sleepy turtle, plenty of octopus, and some of us managed to get manicures of cleaner shrimp. Up on the boat, Lydia was lucky enough to see a whale shark as big as the boat, swimming just 5m away! Unfortunately, it swam off too quickly for her to jump in. Wednesday and Friday were spent whale watching and collecting fisheries data in Guinjata Bay. Not many whales were seen at first, but on the second boat trip on Friday, Harry and Charlie were snorkeling with a humpback and its calf right beneath them.

We are now just over half way through the programme, and are all dreading going home in 2 weeks!

 

Week 4

Red Team – Adam, Yas, Kelly

Our first weekday was quite a shocker, as our glorious morning was cut short by a scalloped hammerhead being finned on shore. We didn’t see the actual killing, but we had to measure the head and fins that the fishermen had retrieved. It was hard not to show emotion, but here in rural Africa at least none of the shark goes to waste.

The rest of the week was much more relaxed. We saw some impressive king mackerel and yellowfin tuna at the fisheries on Wednesday, after a quick beach clean.

We had transect dives on Tuesday and Friday, seeing a blue spotted stingray, a school of king mackerel (which are much more impressive alive!) and a surprising appearance of a common octopus chilling on our transect line. Logging has definitely become a lot smoother as our identification skills have improved over the course of the program.

Overall, we’ve had a great week of sun, sea and stingrays, and hopefully, if we’re lucky, we’ll get to swim with a manta, humpback or whale shark this weekend on the ocean safari.

 

Green Team – Georgia, Matt, Scottie (Tom)

We returned to data collection this week and despite greatly enjoying the schools, it was nice to be back in the field. We spent our first day at Guinjata, whale watching and monitoring the fisheries. Unfortunately, Georgia had to go to South Africa for a few days to renew her visa which left Tom and Matt logging over 180 Needleskin Queenfish from fisheries on Tuesday. By Friday Georgia was back in action, however the conditions for transect dive were not ideal, the surge and visibility were not the best and we had to abort the quadrat survey. Having spoken to the local fishermen, it seems that they will be taking out the shark fishing boats next week which may provide some interesting catches. We are all looking forward to the weekend off and our ocean safari!

Blue Team – Charlie, Lucy, Jeff (Tom)

This week we were teaching and painting at the local schools. Our lessons were based on ocean trash, informing the kids about what constitutes as ocean trash and how it even ends up there. We focused on turtles, sharks and fish and how plastic affects them. Later in the week we discussed ocean trash distribution and garbage patches before finally covering the future and how we can all combat this massive problem. The bulk of our painting took place at Guinjata school where we transformed a brand-new classroom from the dull grey of plaster to bright blue and white walls with a mural of the hydrological cycle on the back wall. Today we had an incredible dive on Manta Reef! We saw so much cool stuff, massive schools of Big-Eye King Fish, many Potato Rockcod and Barracuda to just name a few. On the way back from this dive we came across some humpbacks and all managed to swim with 3 humpback whales with 1 being a calf!

Yellow Team – Harry, Lydia, Charles, Issy

Our week started off with diving on Monday, where we went to Pao on the morning dive followed by Devil’s peak later in the morning. The morning dive in Pao was great, where we saw a green turtle swimming right across our first 5 meter transect as well as lots of nudibranchs and 2 large moray eels sharing a hole on our 2 meter transect!

Tuesday and Wednesday saw us doing fisheries monitoring in the bays, with whale watching on Tuesday in Guinjata. Unfortunately we were a team member down as Issy had to go to South Africa for a last minute visa renewal, but the days were quiet with few fish landed so we were still able to work well. We did log a torpedo ray at Paindane, which we had to be careful whilst measuring so we wouldn’t get electrocuted!

On Thursday we were back at Guinjata bay doing fisheries and more whale watching, where we noticed that whale activity was generally higher in the early morning trips than the late morning ones. Issy was also back from South Africa so yellow team was complete again. It was a full moon on Thursday so lots of the local people came to the bay to take advantage of the low spring tide and gather mussels and fish trapped in the rock pools.

On Friday Charlie and Harry had to go to Maxixe to also get their visas renewed, which as well as a later start was made even better by a trip to KFC on the way home! This left Lydia and Issy to monitor fisheries by themselves, which was fairly quiet again with only 18 fish landed. They did find Dobby again though, who was looking very photogenic.

 

We can’t believe we’re already into the last week of the August/September volunteer program! These guys have been AWESOME and we’ll be SO sad to say goodbye! Keep up the good work everyone and have an amazing last week in Mozambique with us!

August/September Week 1 & 2

Training Week

We spent our first week in Guinjata Bay becoming familiar with the area, listening and participating in lectures on the research fields we are focusing on (coral reefs, fisheries and humpback whales) and practising the research methodologies we will be using in the following weeks.

On Monday, Pascal (LTO’s translator that helps us to teach at the school) invited us on a cultural tour that included a visit to his home in the village. We played football with the local children and ate a local dish that Pascals wife kindly made for us. It is called matapa and is made from coconut, matapa leaves and chicken stock. Nomnomnom…

The next day we visited two local schools, Guinjata and Paindane. We got to see the classrooms that were built by LTO (thank you for all the donations!) and the amazing educational murals that previous LTO volunteers have painted. Even though it was a school holiday there were many children helping their teachers to clean the school. We invited them to play a footie match…which we may have lost…

On Wednesday, we ventured out to the fisheries sites. It’s a long but beautiful one hour walk along the beach at 6 am. There we saw where the fishermen keep their boats and equipment, and where they land their catch. At the fishery we gained a doggy companion called Dobby, he came all the way back with us and has been an important member of the team since!

Thursday was dive day! The first dive group had a very lucky encounter en route to the dive site. They snorkelled beside a humpback whale and her calf, super impressive! The second group had some nice encounters on their dive, including 5 turtles and other awesome reef life such as mantis shrimp, lionfish, guitarfish and moray eels. Our weekend saw some relaxation for us all here. We chilled on the beach, took bodyboards into the sea and played beach volleyball, as well as sun tanning of course. On Sunday we did a massive beach clean up – and collected a total of 25.5kg of rubbish and plastic!

 

Week 2

Yellow Team – Issy, Lydia, Charles, Harry

This week was the first week of collecting data for LTO, after spending last week training. Monday began with a splash! We spent the day whale watching and came across a calf jumping out of the water, as well as two huge breaches right in front of the boat.  Tuesday and Thursday were both spent at Paindane fisheries collecting data. We managed to collect lots of data on the first day, but, unfortunately for the fishermen, a lot of boats came back empty handed on Thursday. However, we did manage to pitch the beach tent using only umbrellas and sticks.

Wednesday and Friday were both supposed to be spent diving, but bad weather on Wednesday meant that the dives had to be cancelled. Instead we spent the day at the local schools, helping another group with painting. Thankfully, the weather cleared up a lot by Friday, and we had two very successful dives. At the end of the second dive a mother humpback and its calf came up right by the boat, which meant that Issy, Lydia and Charlie could jump in the water and swim right next to them! We are all now looking forward to having a relaxing weekend, before all the excitement starts again on Monday and we can’t wait to see what the next 3 weeks will bring.

Blue Team – Lucy, Charlie, Jeff (Tom)

Monday: Paindane
Started the week with a very early alarm, but it was worth it for the amazing sunrise. Wet and windy conditions to start with, but Andrea came to the rescue with warm clothes and brownies. Two rays greeted us: one sunshine and one marbled electric, along with the rest of the fishermen and their impressive catches. Namely, a honeycomb moray eel and a huge squid!

Tuesday: Diving
First official day of transect diving today, despite challenging conditions it proved to be a good learning curve in terms of both data collection and diving technique. A pint (or two) was had after a successful afternoon of logging.

Wednesday: Guinjata fisheries and whale watching
Quiet day at the office, weather conditions didn’t allow for any diving or much fishing today. All the whale watching, therefore, took place on the beach (it’s a hard life). Saw plenty of breaches but, alas, no fisheries data was recorded today.

Thursday: More diving
Another day, another dive. The humpbacks kindly treated us to an underwater live concert. The dives were a huge improvement from Tuesday’s (you could say they went swimmingly) therefore there was lots of logging and fish identification to do that afternoon.

Friday: Guinjata fisheries and whale watching again
Fintastic day! Watched the whales from the boat and recorded their vocalisations. A few of us got the chance to swim with a humpback and her calf when the boat got close enough. A pod of dolphins wasn’t a sight for sore eyes either! Bring on next week!

Red Team – Adam, Kelly, Yas

Team Red’s first week consisted of teaching the school pupils of Paindane and Guinjata. Our topic for the week was ’turtles’ (Tartaruga in Portuguese). We aimed to teach the anatomy of a turtle, along with their habitats, diet, predators and life cycles and ending with the anthropogenic impacts.

At first the experience was quite daunting. We did not have much teaching experience and the kids were very shy and didn’t want to answer questions. Some classes were full with over 100 kids, with over 4 children to a desk. However, over time, we got a good gauge of what worked well and what didn’t, and the kids came out of their shells (pun intended) as the days went by.

Over the course of the week we’ve witnessed the kids warm to us and learn from our classes. They participated in lessons more, showed an increasing curiosity in marine life, and proved to us that they’d learned from what we taught them. It’s a great feeling to spark a child’s enthusiasm. One boy was eager to show us his notepad full of marine animal drawings, along with a big cheesy smile when we said how great the drawings were. We’ve handed out stickers and prizes and they’ve all been received with immense gratitude.

We made old playground games applicable to our lessons and got the kids to run around. They didn’t stop laughing which felt awesome. After we finished our mural, Yasmine ended up having to draw 3 sharks as the kids were so impressed with her scalloped hammerhead.

We have an overwhelming amount of respect for teachers as a result of this week. As much as we enjoyed it, we are exhausted!

Green Group Blog – Scottie (Tom), Matt, Georgia

We were very lucky being the first group to dive at the start of the week. Our first attempt at carrying out the coral transect was seriously tough, thanks to the challenging conditions of the Indian Ocean. However, an encounter with an Electric Marbled Ray afterwards made it all worthwhile. Throughout the week we monitored the fisheries from both Guinjata and Paindane. We enjoyed this because we were able to see the array of species that the waters here have to offer, although it was a reminder of the unregulated fishing that occurs in a developing country. After an insightful week, we are all looking forward to relaxing at the bar-racuda this weekend.

 

We’re really enjoying having the August program here and they’ve been amazingly enthusiastic and positive despite some questionable weather delaying diving days. We’re very much looking forward to what the next few weeks bring! Good job guys! 

July/August Week 3

Red Team – Momo, Jake, Rob and Emma

Our third week commenced with three days of painting at the schools. The yellow team joined us on Monday, as their coral reef surveys were cancelled for the day due to bad weather, and it was nice to have such a large group for a change. Over these few days we worked on two classrooms: one with a mural of the human anatomy showing the skeleton, organs and heart in detail, the other of the solar system. We found some amusing ways to entertain ourselves (the car was in town both Tuesday and Wednesday, so we spent both days at Paindane school all day), greeting Liz with fully painted faces at the end of the day.

Thursday, however, called for some coral reef surveys: we were very eager to get into the water! Despite some difficulties filming the quadrats due to some significant surge, we had two very enjoyable dives. We even spotted two blue spotted rays and a zebra shark on the early morning dive! That made everyone’s week. The afternoon was spent logging in all the filmed fish.

We spent Friday, a beautiful warm and sunny day, at Guinjata conducting the fisheries and whale watching activities. The sea was extremely calm and flat, which meant quite a lot of fish got brought up, however only a couple of whales were spotted. The ocean was so clear, we couldn’t resist slipping off the boat for a quick snorkel. One member from the coral reef survey team even got to swim with a turtle!

We’ve had a very enjoyable week, which has marked the midway point of our programme to our disappointment. We look forward to a weekend full of fun dives!

Green Team – Ben, Toby, Faye and Lois

Monday was a very windy day and so not much happened on that day. Fishermen were not about and thus we had a relaxed day and got to meet a new housemate that just arrived 😊

On Tuesday we went diving and Lois got to spot a lot of nudibranchs which she loves! For Wednesday and Thursday we visited the Guinjata and then Paindane fisheries, respectively. We saw and measured Mackerel, Barracuda, Triggerfish, and Groupers (aka “rock-cod”). It was great to see the Humpback whales breaching and fin slapping in the distance. After a bit of a lie in on Friday we wandered down the sand dune to the dive centre to see perfectly calm seas, perfect for some research dives! Both dives had very successful transects and incredible visibility – and were over an hour long! The reef was teeming with life and was stunningly beautiful with the sun beaming down on it. Lois and Ben had a great time snorkelling, watching the group dive below and admiring the fish. Lois was also lucky enough to encounter a turtle on her swim back to the boat! Safe to say we’re all hoping the conditions stay this awesome for the weekend of diving we have planned!

Yellow Team – Charlotte, Matt, Leander and Camille

Unfortunately, diving was cancelled due to bad weather on Monday, so instead we joined the red group helping painting and decoration of the school classrooms. We began by outlining two bodies on the wall, one which will show the skeleton and one that will show the organs. Tuesday featured a sub-divided team, with two of us remaining at Guinjata for fisheries research, whilst the other two headed to Maxixe for the day to attempt to renew their visas (the attempt was not successful). Wednesday featured a quiet day at Paindane, with only four catches. Lastly, both Thursday and Friday included more decoration of the school classrooms, all looking considerably more lively and colourful than before with the addition of the solar system.

Blue Team – Georgia, Hana, Logan

This week we headed out of Guinjata Bay to the closest tourist hub, about an hour and a half away, where we visited the best cake shop around (peanut butter chocolate cupcake say whaaat), and tested our surf skills on the beach. This was the second week of activities so now everyone was feeling a lot more confident with tasks, especially the fish ID. It’s been really great going on dives and being able to identify the fish we see while we’re down there. Fisheries as always was super interesting, this week a devil ray was brought up and it was great seeing it up close. The fishermen never fail to impress: how they managed to get a hefty tuna and king mackerel into a kayak out at sea we will never know, especially as they struggled to get them out on land! We’re now looking forward to a weekend of diving, swimming lessons and doing some serious chilling out!

 

We’re over half way through this program now and we couldn’t wish for a better group! We’ll be sad to see these guys go but we’re excited to see what the next 2 weeks have in store for us! 

July/August Week 2

Red Team – Rob, Jake, Momo, Emma

We started off our week by visiting the schools. We taught classrooms of 60 to 100 children, the three different whales found in Mozambique: the humpback, the sperm and the blue. To represent the immensity of these incredible mammals, we used a 30m tape measure, astonishing the children. On Tuesday, we focused our lessons specifically on humpback whale behaviour, and spent time painting a classroom white in preparation for our murals next week.

On Wednesday, we spent the day diving conducting coral reef surveys in the local area. Our second dive however didn’t go to plan as a strong current meant the group became separated, meaning we got no data for the reef. After this on Thursday, we conducted a fisheries survey which was relatively quiet. Our highlight of the week was definitely the whale watching on that day where the bay was full of humpback whales, with one calf breaching only a few metres from the boat.

On Friday morning at 6am we headed off towards another fishery, watching the sunrise as we went.  Our morning consisted of sheltering from the wind and running a kilometre after a runaway umbrella. Nevertheless, we spent and enjoyable day on the beach, watching whales breach. Only 14 tropical halfbeaks were brought up today, so the logging was very short.

Yellow Team – Leander, Camille, Matt, Charlotte

The first two days of this week for team planet cheese included very little, with only two fishery catches on Tuesday. The two catches however, amounted to over 500 fish, the majority of which being wolfherring (or “walla walla” to the locals). After our first day of teaching at the schools on Wednesday, we were beginning to wish we were back at the beach. But after a short while with the kids, seeing how excited they were to learn, we started to have a whale of a time (pun intended)! The three days of teaching was enjoyable and rewarding, although tiring and challenging. The biggest challenge at the schools was when we were painting the classroom. The majority of the kids were overly enthusiastic to help us, even though this meant they had their own ideas of how to decorate the walls!

Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our week (however tiring it may have been!) and are looking forward to a weekend of diving and surfing in Tofo (fingers crossed for whale sharks!).

Ps. Planet cheese refers to our favourite nak to snack during our lunch breaks at the the petrol station.

Green Group – Faye, Ben, Toby and Lois

Green group’s week began with a day of diving (YAY!) and carrying out our reef surveys. Our transects went reasonably well, and we enjoyed the fun dive after. The evening consisted of hours of fish ID and logging the data  – we’re going to be pro’s at the end of the program! There were a few black blobs which we eventually managed to ID with the help of our Field Specialist Willa.

Tuesday was a chilled day of fisheries at the local bay. The gill net was brought in a few times, with the catch consisting of many whitespotted rabbitfish, a unicornfish and a triggerfish. In pairs we headed out on the boats with the divers and whale watched. Lois and Faye had some great sightings of the Humpbacks swimming around the boat – they’re so impressive!

We visited the another fisheries on Wednesday. Arriving early for 7am, we spotted some fishermen using a kayak to drag up a large gill net, containing only a single needlefish. As the day progressed, the local fishermen started seeing some more successful catches. This included several huge king mackerel. One fisherman had even managed to catch an enormous female dolphinfish (which he proudly called “the chicken of the sea”). We also saw the locals taking advantage of the spring tides to collect worms and mussels at low tide, to be used for bait.

On Thursday we had a bit of a struggle while diving because of the surge, yet we managed to successfully complete our dives! We got to see a lot of triggerfish ,as well as, some moorish idols which you guys will be able to recognise from Finding Nemo (Gill). A lot of humpback whales were spotted on the boat while on our way to the diving sites ! 🙂

Friday was a departure from the (relatively) hectic pace of the other days. The weather meant that the Guinjata fishermen didn’t have much success, so we had no catch to log, only one whale recording, so no repeat of Monday’s late night spent huddled round a laptop. Whale watching was unexpectedly quiet, but we had the pleasure of being escorted out of the bay by a pod of dolphins in the afternoon, and Ben and Faye on the morning boat were lucky enough to be paid a visit by an inquisitive whale shark, barely 5m from the boat. We spent the afternoon beach cleaning, taking no time at all to fill 3 bags with plastic bottles from Korea, over 200 bottle tops and enough clothes for a fetching outfit. Some of the debris was put to use, with a bamboo pole subjected to unsuccessful attempts at pole vaulting followed by somewhat more successful attempts at rolling down a sand dune.

 

Blue Team – Georgia, Logan and Hana

This week was our first week of data collection in our new teams. The early mornings and long walks to Paindane were a bit of a shock to the system but it was worth it to see the amazing sunrises and the whales along the way.

Tuesdays diving started out as a bit of a mess, the coral surveys definitely need some practice… good job we have another three weeks! We finished with plenty of air to spare however which meant we spotted some rays, eels, and a long horn cow fish!

Wednesday and Thursday we spent doing fisheries surveys and were hugely impressed with the fishermans skills as they managed to catch a sail fish on a hook and line, and HUGE king mackerel. Because of the recent upwelling we and a visitor from the deep – a sea robin! Which usually lives 300m below sea level.

Another day of diving brought a BIG surprise. A strong current made it really difficult to do the coral reef survey, but the dive ended on a high as once we’d surfaced a whale shark swam right past the boat, only a few meters away!!!!

 

With the first two weeks on the program over already we can’t believe how the time is flying by! We’re very proud of how well our volunteers are working together and are keen to see what the next 3 weeks have in store for us! Keep tuned for next weeks blog post! 

 

May/June Week 5

We’re definitely getting very emotional writing this last blog post. We have both become very attached to Mozambique: the people, the culture, the food and especially the diving. This week has been such an amazing week, we’ve had an excellent balance of our normal schedule and little extras to end our 5 weeks working here on an incredible note.

Last weekend unfortunately we were not able to have our fun dive due to the weather, by that time we were all getting serious withdrawals, the only thing making it up was the swimming lessons we had planned later on in the afternoon. These lessons were very different to the ones we had the week before, every single one of the boys that came, could swim – unfortunately no girls this week but hopefully with some more persuasion that will change for the next program – all the boys had so much fun in the water. We attempted to improve the techniques they had by teaching them different strokes and refining the skills they already had. After some lessons we just played lots and lots of different underwater games. It was really fun to play underwater games with them and
definitely got us a little nostalgic as we remembered the games we used to play. We just really really hope that eventually these kids we’ve taught try everything out in the ocean. We know that one of the kids Germias already loves the ocean as he was one of the best students we had and we see him come down to the beach nearly everyday.

The rest of the weekend we relaxed and caught up on things we had ongoing. Nicole spent the majority of the weekend prepping for her rescue diver course while I lounged about and got more tanned. This weekend was also a special few days as it was Independence day in Mozambique. Many locals described it as their Christmas, we really got a taste for the celebration when we went to a community street party. We both enjoyed dancing to Mozambican music, meeting incredibly talented dancers and just getting completely immersed in a whole different culture.

The rest of the week was mix between coral reef surveys and fisheries research, however the weather wasn’t our friend. Monday was a very quiet day at Paindane due to Monday still being a public holiday, while we waited for any possible nets or spear fisherman to come in we watched the most beautiful display of three whales. On our walk back we did an impromptu beach clean as the tides have been really high recently and they’ve dropped a lot more rubbish out. We also went back to Guinjata school to finish the school sign, we decided we wanted to add some fishes and foliage to keep with the theme. The weather on Wednesday made for a really interesting dive. We definitely had a well needed workout. It was also really interesting to see the two new volunteers
(Momo and Georgia) as it was their first open water dives, kudos to them as they handled it perfectly and we have no doubt they are going to be awesome divers, especially
as by they third dive on Thursday they have improved so much and decided to pursue their advanced qualification. Thursday was our last research dives and our masks fogged up a few times. The best part of our last dive was that is was at Pao (one of our favourite local sites) and that we all got to dive together as some of us paid for a fun dive. It was great vis and the conditions were perfect, a great way to end the research dives.

Today we decided to do a 5am sunrise walk to Paindane fisheries so we could say goodbye and thank you to all the fisherman one last time. It was a beautiful walk with a perfect sunrise. After that we had some fish ID work to do, some sign painting to finish off and some whale watching. We’ve spent today sat down at the dive centre bar watching whales and doing work. We literally couldn’t ask for a better way to end our last working week here. We want to end this last post saying thank you to our amazing LTO staff Willa and Liz, they’ve both taught us so much invaluable knowledge as well as always being there for us, giving us great advice , thinking of loads of fun things we’d love to do and just always laughing and having fun with us. We can’t wait for our fun dive on Saturday, finishing off our weekend how we do best… see you on the flip side.

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Our fifth and final week with Nicole and Farin has been the perfect send off! The Mozambique vibe peaked Sunday when Nicole and Farin celebrated Independence Day with our local community dancing to Mozambican tunes under a perfect starry sky. Thanks for 5 spectacular weeks, girls! We are thrilled to have Nicole staying on for another month to do her divemaster training with Guinjata Dive Centre, and we wish Farin all the best for her upcoming travels around Africa before she returns to the UK to start her masters!

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!