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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. 

Program 2, Week 3- volunteer blog post!

Team 1- Tom, Hannah, Sam and Johanne

This week started with two days of painting where we finished our Arctic wall on one of the school buildings in Pandaine. The detailed work, such as the bordering (Hannah´s field of specialization) and the colour contouring of our small fish took a while, and we decided to stay in Pandaine for the whole two days instead of moving on to Guinjata. After a long day of hard work in the burning sun, we were quite satisfied with the result, especially when seeing the before and after comparison with and without paint. After a lot of persistence, Tom got his wish and painted a tiny penguin in the corner of the wall, and it became the pseudo-signature of our work.

Even though we enjoyed the relaxing atmosphere of painting and listening to music, it was nice to move on to something else. Wednesday was our first day of fisheries data collection at Pandaine beach. The day started early and with backpacks filled with essentials such as food, water and reading material, we set off on our long walk towards the fishing spot. As we approached, the fishermen had already started dragging four sharks into shore. We were just in time to follow them back to “the death dunes” where they the disembowel the sharks before stripping them bare, turning these animals into nothing but meat to feed their families. One of the sharks was very heavy and the fishermen needed assistance from Tom and Sam to drag it up the dunes. We could now begin our work measuring the sharks and photographing them. We had to be quick before they started disembowelling the bodies. This was our first experience seeing sharks this way, and luckily they were all dead when we arrived so we didn´t have to watch them suffer. As we waited for our vertebrae and bits of flesh to be cut out for our research, we were observing how the fishermen cut off the fins and dragged out their intestines. Suddenly they pulled out a baby shark, first one and then more and more until we counted twelve in total. It was depressing to think that counting these babies there were 16 sharks killed today… As well as picturing them swimming in the water only a while ago. But as the fishermen continued, it all started to look more like meat than animals, and we turn on our scientific curiosity and tried to recognize the different body parts of the shark. This was the only catch today, and the rest of the day we were chilling out on the beach reading and sleeping. Hannah was not joining us today since she wasn´t feeling well. After a very long day in the sun, we started walking back to Guinjata and the house where more work awaited us. We needed to cut out the vertebrae and setting it out to dry as well as logging out measuring data and identify the shark species.

Thursday was diving for us, meaning that we got to sleep a bit longer than usual. During the first dive Sam was snorkelling at the surface taking the GPS-coordinates while Tom and Johanne were diving. The conditions were very bad, with low visibility as well as a strong current making it a challenge to do the filming and put down the quadrat on the transect. We were left with a very bad video containing only one fish and three corals, and a green colour disguising all other colours making the identification of the species very difficult. The next dive was cancelled because of the bad conditions, so we got the afternoon off.

Friday and the last day before the weekend we spent at the Guinjata Dive Centre doing fisheries research there. We got a few catches of lobsters and some small fish, but other than that it was a nice day chilling at the beach.

 

Team 2- Ollie, Shelby, Natasha and Rachael

Captains Log: Stardate – 94236.67

We encountered an arachnoid species in sector 7G. A sample was acquired from the surface population which was subsequently released rather than terminated under my orders.

 So basically we (Shelby, Tasha and Rachael) found a potentially deadly and territorial tarantula in our bathroom and Ollie bravely captured it, then decided to let it go behind the house before finding out whether or not it could kill us. Suffice it to say that no one has walked around barefoot in the dark in our room since then. To be fair, we did ask Eugenio which are the deadly ones and were told only the black ones are dangerous, ours was brown. 

This week was pretty eventful, even though we didnt do any dives. The Guinjata fishermen brought up a marbled electric ray and a longhorn cowfish, as well three gill nets-worth of other fish. Paindane was the most fascinating, although morbidly so. We got to see three Zambezi sharks being cut up and divided between the fishermen. Although it was sad and a little sickening, this was a rare opportunity to see the inner workings of such a rare and majestic species.

The rest of the week was spent painting at Paindane school. Unfortunately our original plan to do the orca mural was foiled when we realised the other group had already started it. Instead we ended up painting a polar bear mother and cub. We then started on the inside of one classroom with a map of Mozambique at the back and numbers from 1 to 100 on the side walls. At one point Rachael got a little excited with the paint and left lovely handprints on both Shelby and Ollie, although I should add that this was while washing up so no paint was wasted! 

 Weve spent three weeks here now and are really starting to fall in love with this place. Having seen some amazing things, such as breaching humpbacks with their calfs and manta rays, we cant wait to get back in the water and continue collecting data over the next two weeks.

 

Team 3- Caitlin, Kimi and Mark (Smith)

Monday was an unexpected diving day as we were switched with Team 4. Our two dives were on Devil’s Peak; on the first dive Kimi lost her camera as she was surfacing, so on our second dive we carried out a search and rescue after we completed our transect. Miraculously Zelda, one of the owners of the dive centre, found it, making it the second lost camera she has found in as many weeks. We were also lucky enough to see six humpbacks on the surface.

On Tuesday we spent the day at Guinjata, however the day before the fishermen had caught a huge amount of fish, so very few of them went out on Tuesday. This slow day allowed Kimi to do some henna tattoos on the tourists visiting the dive centre, collecting donations for Love The Oceans for her work. Amazingly Sheila the Land Rover restarted again after being stuck on the beach for a week and a half.

On Wednesday we were at Guinjata again, and yet again it was a pretty slow day for the fishermen, and so a slow day for us. We did get to see a humpback whale teaching her calf how to fin slap and tail slap, they did this for a good twenty minutes and were very close to shore, which was amazing.

Thursday was our day at Paindane this week. The shark boat brought in three juvenile sharks, two scalloped hammerheads and one spottail, however because the weather was quite choppy the kayakers that went out had very little luck, with only one guy catching anything being an Eastern Little Tuna. The choppy weather had washed up a whole load of gelatinous animals on to the shore, which were fascinating to poke about and look at.

On Friday we had our second diving day this week. The first dive turned into a fun dive when the GoPro had an SD Card Error and we couldn’t record anything. The second dive was more successful, and Kimi and Smith got some good data. Caitlin was snorkelling on this survey dive and was lucky enough to see humpbacks and dolphins from the boat.

We are looking forward to starting our turn painting at the school next week, and to look at all the murals on the classrooms teams one and two have finished!

 

Team 4- Beth, Callum and Paige

Beth has been riding a Manta Ray high all week after she saw her first sighting on Saturday morning, 5 in total. Paige and Callum also had their first sighting of a Manta Ray seeing 2 on a later dive that afternoon. Paige completed her PADI Advanced Open Water on the same dive and was thrilled that she got to see her first manta ray, turtle and potato bass all on her first deep dive.

Sunday morning, we all took a trip to Tofo for beginner surfing lessons. Everybody had great fun in the surf, but Callum stood out as the star performer leaving everyone else in his waves. Callum also made the most of the markets by buying gifts for himself, family and friends back home.

On Monday, Beth and Callum walked to Paindane as Paige took the day off to renew her visa. After recording another 2 sharks at death dune, we were followed back to the beach by 2 local children, Carilito and Rivo. Callum decided to play with them to pass the time and ended up being buried up to his neck in the sand.

Tuesday and Wednesday we were diving, recording data for the coral reef survey. Paige managed to feed the fish on 5 occasions from the boat whilst she was on snorkel duty. However, her spirits were raised later on when we swam through Aerials Arc and found ourselves in the middle of a large school of fish. Moreover, the whales were exceptionally vocal on both days of our diving and we managed to record some of their singing on the hydrophone, which sounded wonderful!

Thursday we spent our day at Guinjata fishery and managed to scare off the only fisherman who caught any fish that day as they ran away before we could record their catch, much to our disbelief and amazement. Later that day Callum scared the whole bay by swimming out a little too far into the sea, so much so that Jeff’s Dive Centre thought he was in need of rescue and sent a boat out to save him. Only he was ok and was able to swim back to shore, much to the relief of all the people on the beach.

On Friday at Paindane fishery, Callum made Beth, Paige and himself reclining chairs in the sand and upon returning from another long day, Paige and Callum took part in a Mexican version of ring of fire, the drinking game that is! Many drinks were consumed, and a lot of fun was had too, particularly so by a rule named gecko, as seen in one of the pictures below.

During the week, Beth and Callum completed their Emergency First Response training having great fun bandaging each other up and splinting all of Ollie’s limbs, whilst also learning some lifesaving skills. Then on the Saturday, they began their PADI Rescue Diver course, including a fun rescue skills pool session and learning how to carry somebody safely out of the water.

 

Its going wonderfully here in Guinjata Bay! Our volunteers are working hard on the databases and the work at the school is progressing at an amazing pace. Can’t wait to see what we can all accomplish in the next 2 weeks!

Program 2, Week 2- volunteer blog post!

Team 1-  Tom, Hannah, Sam and Johanne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Team 3: Kimi, Catlin and Mark (Smith)

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

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

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

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

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

Team 4 –  Beth, Callum, Paige.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Program 1, Week 4 – volunteer blog post!

Teaching week – Veronica, Mattie, Daisy & Abby

We spent our final week working at both the Paindane and Guinjata schools. The children all had exams this week which meant we had more time to focus on improving the aesthetics. We decided to tackle one of the classrooms at Paindane. It was incredible to see the difference we could make in one week – what started off as a bland classroom with colourless walls is now a beautiful room with a detailed world map and colourful flags adorning the back wall. If we can make such a difference in one week, we can only imagine how wonderful the school is going to look at the end of all three programmes in October.

 

We only had two hours of teaching each afternoon and even that short time was so rewarding. Our lessons were focused on sharks and rays and a final quiz at the end of the week proved how much attention our students had been paying. A very fun way to end such a fantastic programme and we’re all so sad to be leaving beautiful Guinjata Bay… We’ll be back!

Fisheries Research week – Shelly, Emerald, Charlotte & Christina

Our fisheries week oddly involved pretty much everything other than actual fishing. The sea was pretty rough all week so not many fishermen went out but we entertained ourselves just fine. We read books, took walks, celebrated Emerald’s 21st birthday, did couples yoga, went swimming, gave each other massages, collected beach trash and made art with it, and applied plenty of sunscreen! Although we had a slow week, we made some memories to last a lifetime together.

Coral Reef Survey week – Madi, Tate, Nathan & Jessica

Our week of diving turned out to be not the smoothest sailing. Conditions only allowed us to really do our diving on Thursday and Friday, meaning we had to cram multiple dives into those two days. This proved to be challenging on both our bodies and our minds, yet very fulfilling in we proved to ourselves that we could push ourselves that hard and still be able to collect decent data. This experience just goes to show that when in the field of research, not everything is a guaranteed success. We all learned how to work together to really make the best of situations which are not ideal. Overall, this week turned out to be very different from what each of us expected, yet was also incredibly rewarding in it’s own way.

 

Our first program has now ended! We cannot believe how quickly it has gone, come back anytime! We look forward to meeting the volunteers for our second program!

Program 1, Week 3~ volunteer blog post!

Fisheries Research week- Veronica, Mattie, Daisy & Abby

Following an incredible week of diving, this week our group was carrying out fisheries research at Paindane Beach. Each day started with a 40-minute walk to the beach (which feels terribly long after a day spent in the sun), however we were incredibly lucky with the weather and managed to stay dry the entire time. Although we were worried we’d be bored sitting on the beach for hours each day waiting for the fishermen to bring up their catches, we enjoyed improving our tans (aka getting incredibly sunburnt), reading and trying our best to help out the local fishermen carry their boats up the beach (which we quickly learnt was not an easy task).

Our first day threw us right into it, with two sharks brought up on the longline boat. Seeing a baby Tiger Shark being dragged along the beach was a little upsetting, but we quickly learnt how to dissociate our feelings with what we were witnessing. Yes, on one hand it’s horrible watching the fishermen cut the beautiful bodies of these sharks, but on the other hand it’s kind of interesting to see the biology of the sharks as well as learning more about the local culture. There’s little we can accomplish right now about the shark killing trade here and so the best we can do is to accurately and precisely record the catches in order to achieve the goals of the programme.

Our favourite part of the week was getting to interact with the locals. They were always welcoming and willing to help us take all the measurements required. A few highlights were when one woman took a particular liking to Veronica’s hat (while all the other locals laughed along) and getting the opportunity to ride on one of the local boats and help pick mussels. It was a long week of sitting waiting, but we enjoyed the lovely weather and have some wonderful tans and shark vertebrae to show for it.

 

Coral Reef Survey week- Shelly, Emerald, Charlotte & Christina

We had an amazing week doing coral reef surveys. Sadly, the coral reefs here are not in the best condition. Sometimes carrying out the methodology was quite hard given the surge and currents and we worried we were doing more harm than good running the transects along the seafloor but we definitely learned a lot along the way and perfected our system by the end of the week. The diving itself was amazing, and always made better by the help of Armando, the best skipper around. We were lucky enough to have a whole pod of whales pass right by us on a dive and it was the most majestic thing. They were so close, we thought we were going to get knocked in the head by a tail! Our lunches were spent with the local dive staff, who never failed to put smiles on our faces. Overall we had a splendid week!

 

Teaching week- Madi, Tate, Nathan & Jessica

This week our group worked at two local schools, Guinjata and Paindane, teaching the students about whales and dolphins. We taught five classes each day with students of varying ages. We came up with activities for them to do each day. The students were a joy to work with. They were very eager to learn and very interactive with the information. It was very enriching to teach such happy and fun children. We also worked on some renovation projects at both schools. At Paindane, we did repairs on the walls, and prepped them to be painted. At Guinjata, we painted a wonderful mural that we are very excited about. It was a wonderful opportunity to give back to the community.

We’re nearing the end of our first program now and with only a week left there is still much to do at the schools. Our volunteers have been working hard plastering and painting the existing classrooms and we have plans to construct a new classroom. Please consider donating a little money to our education project this year – we need as much as we can get! You can read this page and see exactly what your money will buy. Even a little can go a long way! 

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