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!

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