Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Final days on the current expedition...

It's the final day of the expedition here in Andavadoaka and after a busy last day's diving (night dives on Ambato Vazaha and then recreational dives on Yellow Brick Road) volunteers and staff are packing up their wetsuits and dive gear and getting ready for the journey back to Toliara. The last week here has been incredibly busy, with a number of significant anniversaries to celebrate and a host of village events to organise. The first big event was on Friday afternoon, when we held a "pirogue race for peace" to celebrate the United Nations International Day of Peace. 20 teams took part in the race and after a frantic and spray-soaked sprint out to Nosy Hao and back, the pirogues returned to find that most of the village had turned out for the prize-giving ceremony on the beach. The following day we held an open day in Nosy Cao to celebrate Blue Ventures' three-year anniversary. Most of the adults were otherwise engaged in the village at a series of zebu sacrifices, but several hundred children and teenagers turned up for demonstrations of SCUBA equipment, whale spotting, fish identification, a sandcastle competition and educational games based on a map of the new marine protected area.

Saturday was also International Coastal Cleanup Day, and so in the early afternoon we spent a happy hour or two with children from the village walking along Andavadoaka beach, collecting sack-loads of plastic rubbish. We're not sure whether similar beach cleanups happened elsewhere in Madagascar, but worldwide an estimated 300,000 people cleaned beaches in nearly 100 countries. For details about the quantities and types of rubbish collected in different parts of the world, you can visit www.oceanconservancy.org.

The final event of the weekend was on Saturday evening. For several weeks now the ecology club we founded, Alo Alo, has been practising a play about destructive fishing practices, which they wrote with the help of Bic and James. Saturday saw the first performance, with dialogue interspersed with song and dance numbers, and even a somewhat unpolished contribution in Malagasy from the volunteers and staff! We only had a chorus or two of the song to sing, but even that taxed our pronunciation to the limit... The event was well attended and the spectacle was enjoyed by all present. Watch this space for some photos in due course!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Blog contribution from Ashley

We are now in the fifth week of this expedition and once again I can't believe how quickly the time has gone by. I'll try to sum up several personal highlights from the past few weeks.

We finally had a staff dive to Andravameiky, a 20-30m patch reef a few kilometres off the West side of Nosy Hao. The waters surrounding the reef are much deeper than other areas we've dived, making the reef a popular fishing site for deep sea fish species and sharks. It was the first time diving the site for Lea, Abby, Jan, Thomas and myself and we were all quite excited at the prospects of seeing some big fish. Bic had a Hammerhead Shark sighting on the site a few years back, so our hopes were high. We couldn't have asked for better visibility and within less than 2 minutes Abby was enthusiastically pointing behind me. I was slightly cautious to turn around, and couldn't believe my eyes when I found myself only a few meters from a huge marlin! It was over 2 meters long and was as surprised to see us as we were to see it! That proved to be the highlight of the dive, although we saw a few Moray Eels, a large potato grouper and an empty turtle shell. Hopefully, we'll visit the site again. Lea and I are thinking of mapping it as part of our Dive Master Course.

We also recently visited the spiny forest to map the magnificent baobab trees and do some bird watching. We saw several endemic species such as the Madagascar Kestrel, Madagascar Bulbul and several Greater Vasa Parrots. We still have yet to find any sign of the highly endangered Madagascar Teal which may potentially be found in this area. We may have better luck searching once the rainy season comes and a few lakes form in the spiny forest. Right now there is not a drop of water to be found so looking for a duck hasn't been our most successful venture.

News from the village - The Andavadoaka men's football team recently took part in a tournament with teams from surrounding villages and returned victorious! A few of our staff members, Thomas and Daniel, were on the winning team. The entire village turned out to congratulate the champs, as they returned on crowded pirogues, singing and cheering.

Club Alo Alo, our environmental kids' club run by Bic, was also invited to the tournament to perform a few conservation-themed songs. Their song and dance numbers went over very well, and they were able to incorporate a few tambourines, shaker eggs and kazoos that my mother, a music teacher in Canada, recently sent out for the Club. Bic has also prepared a song for all BV staff and volunteers to perform for our upcoming Open Day on the 16th September. This is an event where we invite the village to our classroom for a morning of games, slideshows and presentations of BV's ongoing projects. It is usually a very popular event and this year the locals will surely be amused by us attempting to sing "Janjino soa ra volansezoa, Zaho ananao toy lah manambara, Fara hasao antisika iaby zao baba" (loose translation – “Listen to what we have to say...it's important to protect the sea!).

That's all for now, I'm off to a staff meeting, vao-vao (where we will practice our song once again) and dinner. The Copefrito truck arrived today so we should be in for a nice meal tonight... maybe even banana bok-bok for dessert!


Ashley (field scientist)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

An update for our French readers...

Cette derniere semaine fut de loin la plus decontractee pour tout le monde ici a Coco Beach. En effet, apres la certification des AOW et le passage des benthic tests, nous avons pu profiter de nos nouvelles aptitudes et en faire beneficier la science.. hum hum..et qu’elle est belle la science quand elle nous oblige a repousser nos limites jusqu’a trouver le moyen le plus parfait et le plus clair possible de cartographier et de numeroter les transects a etudier.. et qu’il est reconfortant d’avoir de magnifiques plongees remplies de chants de baleine lorsque cela ne marche pas! En parlant de coool plongee, nous avons eu l’occasion d’aller a yellow brick road, et la plongee fut magnifique; bonne visibilite, nombreux tunnels par lesquels passer, forts courants faisant office de balancoire et geants napoleon wrasses.

Ces derniers jours ont aussi ete marques par des marees particuliererment basses, ce qui nous a permis quelques rocambolesques aventures. Je m’explique. La premiere fut la tres jolie balade (snorkelling) a la tombee de la nuit dans les mangroves. Nous nous sommes juste laisser porter par la maree montante a l’interieur des terres, examinant chaque petit bout de racines, crevettes, babies batfish et mille autres choses encore, avec comme point culminant un rapide en fin de course ou nous nous sommes retrouver entremeler bras- dessus bras-dessous, cela concerne particulierement Lexa, Carla et moi qui n’ont pas du tout su gerer l’acceleration!!! le retour au bateau fut tout aussi mythique, il faut imaginer une quinzaine d’hommes et femmes grenouille marchant a travers la spiny forest en botillions, les locaux ont certainement du nous prendre pour quelques illumines! Experience a ne pas manquer!

Cette troisieme semaine c’est joyeusement terminer sur une ‘casino party’, ou tout le monde a fait l’effort de costumes epoustouflant avec le peu de moyen possible ici. Robes, chignons et make-up pour les filles ( et meme talons pour amy a qui je tire mon chapeau car on ne trouve que du sable sec ici). Costumes heteroclites pour les garcons. Nous avons eu une interressante seance de shopping downtown andavadoaka avec Andy, Claire et Stephen, qui se sont trouver de sexy chemises de femme, rose pour Stephen, transparente pour Andy et une petit top blanc a dentelle pour Tom noue au dessus du nombril. La palme d’or revient a l’unanimite a Lea qui trouva un magnifique gilet mattelasser dore, qu’il porta avec un pantalon de femme et une ceinture rose! salutations aussi a Andy et Stephen pour leur coiffure ‘raie sur le cote’ et leurs cravates, et bravo pour l’imagination de geoff L. pour son mouchoir de poche et son noeud pap en feuilles de palmier et coquillage. Je tiens a remercier mon plus fidel buddy de PIT Catherine (qui nous quitte malheureusement deja demain) pour sa perpetuelle bonne humeur, sa motivation et sa volonte a vouloir rendre tout le monde heureux!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Football celebrations, Vezo style

Everything super here - volunteers happy, staff on good form, village in good spirits. Flotilla of pirogues with flags and singing Vezo came cruising up past the staff beach yesterday - turned out it was the Andavadoaka village football team plus many others who were back from Ambatamilo, a village in the south, with news of a famous victory - Andavadoaka are football champions, having beaten Salary one-nil! Everyone in the village turned out to greet the conquering heroes and Bic, Mr Roger and myself went cruising up and down in front of the beach on the motorised pirogue with 20 excited Club Alo Alo children singing and drumming on the sides (Club Alo Alo had gone with the team to perform at the event). Great fun.

There was also a big party in the village last night with Coco, Roger, Nahoda, footballers and half the village present - I gave a short speech of congratulations with Daniel's help translating and then Club Alo Alo sang a song in Blue Ventures' honour. I also offered to match the football prize money in order that everyone could have a drink to celebrate! -Alex (BV Project Coordinator)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Volunteer Gill Sheen explains all....

I will confess that the days running up to imminent departure were not necessarily as calm and collected as I would have liked. In fact, safe to say that it was more like unbridled panic (where did I hide my dive knife; how on earth am I going to fit all my kit into the vast backpack I was told I just HAD to purchase by the sales assistant in Blacks; is it wrong to take more than 2 bikinis?) mixed with an overwhelming curiosity about what the next 6 weeks held in store.

Questions were constantly flickering through my frantic mind...'what on earth have I signed up for,' 'how am I ever going to learn 150 different types of fish after years of immersing myself in the world of marketing rather than an underwater world,' 'what are the other people going to be like' and 'how on earth are we getting from Tulear to the expedition site'...in fact...'where am I going again...?'

On more 'interesting' bus rides in India I have previously dabbled with the concept that the elation felt on arriving at ones destination (commonly referred to as the 'ahhhhhh' factor) is directly associated to one's journey to get there.

Having crossed the first hurdle and all met up successfully in Tulear (bags, shmags ;-)) it was time for the last leg of our journey to the site.

We crept across the shore in the dead of night (you can forget diamonds.....a head torch is a girl's best friend) and shimmied up a rickety yet strangely sturdy ladder, to reach the deck of what to me conjured up childhood memories of Captain Pugwash's (wasted on the under 25's I am afraid but oh so apt) pirate sailing ship - brilliant. And let the Madagascan adventure begin.

We whiled away the hours and hours and hours and hours reading, napping, whale watching, scoffing, chatting and happily chilling. There was even perhaps a little bit of inventive 'I spy' thrown in for good measure - 'I spy with something beginning with 'w'.....ho ho ho, although if you weren't snoozing at the time it was likely to be a whale.

Some 'time' later we arrived at Half Moon beach in the light of a full moon, polishing our environmental halos, having made the 150km journey from Tulear with only the power of the wind.

Being met by a cheery London greeting and a speedboat, weary but contented volunteers were delivered gently onto the beach, where a short trot up some steps found us at the huts that were going to be our homes for the next month and a half.

We all slept well that night.

Waking up the next morning generated as many sets of wide eyes as the previous night's arrival had done. Our row of huts neatly dotted across the top of a baby cliff overlooking what was appearing to be our own private beach and it was (and still is....never get bored of that view) glorious.

The next few days were a blur of briefings and benthics and bowel movements (er...for some) and books and basic science training and maybe the odd beer or two - all in the name of science and group bonding, of course.

We are roughly half way through the expedition now and those fish aren't looking as baffling at all, the benthic has been well and truly nailed by 99% of us by now, (ahhh what inspiring, patient, helpful and empathic scientists we have to aid us on the path to underwater enlightenment) we are idly humming the choruses of Malagasy pop songs under our breath and local greetings to the Andavadoka villagers roll off the tongue with ease. Home from home.

It still amazes me, at the end of another packed day, at what we have the opportunities to do here, both in and out of the water. Diving and learning and whale watching and pirogue riding and boat marshalling and local school teaching and foot-balling (er, getting stuffed by the the local village team - yeah but we let them win...) and volley-balling and guitar playing and camp-firing and generally getting stuck in and getting the most out of an amazing place and a great group of people.

Monday, September 04, 2006

4th September, First impressions from some of Blue Ventures current volunteers

Carla Reardon:
I've been here for just shy of 3 weeks now, and what a whirlwind 3 weeks it's been! In the first week I completed my Advanced open water training and we had benthic lectures and tests. I've been on 2 exploratory dives to sites which have never been dived before! Saw some Blue Spotted Rays and beautiful shoals of fusiliers which curiously surrounded us for a closer look- it was awesome.
On our last day off all the volunteers helped with some algae farming and then headed to a lovely little restaurant in another bay close by for a lunch of prawns, rice and fruit, with a beautiful walk back along the white sandy beached coast.
The weather and the sun is really starting to heat up now, so helping to record fish monitoring data the other day on the beach at Andavadoaka was scorching. But it was great to see the local women working as a team to record weights and species of fish the local fishermen had caught and I got some great photos.
Yesterday we snorkelled through the mangroves at sunset to see fish juveniles we've learnt about in our lectures. As the tide was going out, the current gently carried us through- although this did cause some minor volunteer pile ups at times!
This morning was an early start with breakfast at 7- but the promise of seeing whales from the Blue Ventures whale watching platform on a nearby island was enough to get me up! Three hours later with 2 tail sightings excitedly recorded, I and my fellow volunteer took a graceful midday pirogue journey back. With a malagash 'thank you', learnt from our malagasy lesson earlier that week, we climbed the steps in the cove where our huts are sited. Just in time for lunch, we had a chance to catch up on the mornings diving activities including some of the first benthic transects completed by volunteers.
No doubt tonight will feature the usual routine of chilling on hammocks outside our huts watching the sunset and consuming vast amounts of peanuts! Then followed by dinner, card games and a visit to one of the Epi-bars in the village along the beach.

Over the next week I hope to successfully learn my fish species, I've learnt a few already and recognising species underwater feels so satisfying. But along with baobab mapping and shark fishing monitoring there's plenty of other things left to experience- can't wait!

Geoff Long:
You're probably aware by now that Blue Ventures Expedition 24 are into their third week at Andavadoaka. Personally, I have completely lost track of what day it is and the only reason I know that 2 and a bit weeks have passed is that we've had two 'party nights'! This event signifies the end of the 'working' week here and provides the chance for volunteers and staff to let their hair down, knowing that they are free to relax the following day. Without going into too much detail, Expedition 24 have made the most of these evenings and have more than entertained the locals with their exotic dance moves.... Tom's double-jointed salsa number really gets the crowd going, he definitely has a career outside Environment Impact Assessment, and Stephanie Post (or Echinostephus as she is commonly known, after that household invertebrate the burrowing Echinostrephus sea urchin) can always be guaranteed to shake her glow-sticks after a word or two of encouragement.. Personally, with my 37th birthday looming on the last day of the expedition I have to say I can't quite keep up with all these young'uns, but I have tried my best and haven't got too much grief for going to bed early on a few occasions!
As far as the diving and conservation is concerned, things are progressing steadily with the first scientific data coming in from 'Benthic enabled' volunteers (Benthic is anything growing/living on the sea floor in case no one has mentioned it). It's a good feeling to think I have started to identify (at least at a basic level), the coral that I have just stared at in so many places around the world! The next big challenge is fish identification and following yesterday's introductory lecture we are all reeling from the long list of species that we have to know. Spotting the differences in a book can be tricky, but underwater whilst tackling buoyancy, fast fish, currents and swell is going to be a real challenge!
In general life is good - with the only major stresses coming from those tricky decisions like how many 'Bolo' to eat (local chocolate bar) and whether the condensed milk supplies will last as it is vital for daily life support for most people, being ladled into tea and coffee, onto biscuits, into rice, on bread and neat for that pure sugar rush. Come to think of it, I haven't seen anyone have it 'on the rocks' yet, but with 3 and a bit weeks to go, I'm sure it will happen...
That's all for now - I'm exhausted after offering to paddle a pirogue across to Nosy Hao (about 2km). I was successfully showing that a Vazaha (European) could do a good job of it, that was until I got to our destination and collapsed on the beach in a pool of sweat and started to blackout... They all found it very amusing as you can imagine!

Geoff Hensgen
Since arriving in Tulear, Madagascar on July 9, 2006, I have navigated a cyclone of adventure that begins at 6:40 a.m. every morning, and does not let up until bedtime underneath a marvellous blanket of stars every evening. Abby and Jan, Blue Ventures Dive Instructors, have worked me through two levels of scuba training, and have showed me safe passage into an incredible underwater world. Both instructors have a mix of charisma, seasoned dive experience, passion for nature, and uncompromising standards for safety and dive protocol.
With almost three weeks of expedition passed, my focus is now on wrapping up my final tier of benthic survey tests, and learning a vast list of fish species and families. Blue Ventures has put a lot of time into ensuring their volunteers are capable of surveying reef fauna accurately - through lectures, computer and live diving tests, you study and practice until you pass muster, or else you cannot participate in scientific surveys - no exceptions.
Scuba and science training have made up a large part of my days thus far, but they are just a piece of a vast tapestry of experiences. Conservation work begins and ends with people, and Blue Ventures has provided a myriad of opportunities to interact with the people of Andavadoaka. Some of them work directly for Blue Ventures, and are rapidly gaining skills in science, expedition management, and English. We also interact with the locals on a daily basis, through fisheries monitoring, whale watching, exploratory hikes to neighboring villages, and adventures to the local Epi-bar for warm beer and sweltering rum. We even played a football match against a determined set of young men who would not accept anything less than victory, or a tie. Trips to town have also included teaching English, and I am eager to visit a church on Sunday to hear singing that is reputed to be angelic. These are just a few of the ways that we try to forge bonds and relationships with the local people, as their trust is a prerequisite to making any progress whatsoever towards achieving conservation goals such as modifying fishing methods and protecting reefs.
The resident scientists and expedition managers are very committed to conservation efforts. Beyond scientific research and data collection, they are working with local village administrators and presidents to establish a Marine Protected Area (MPA). While the MPA is still in its infancy, I strongly believe this is an initiative that is critical to helping the local people establish management practices that help them live off the land in a sustainable manner, and prepare for the inevitable forces of human population growth, development, and tourism. The final outcome is something that will only become clear over a large span of time, and I hope Blue Ventures will bring volunteers and scientists to Andavadoaka for a long time to give the people and wildlife in this area the best chances for long term survival.

Friday, September 01, 2006

More news from Andavadoaka

1st September 2006

News from Alex Mason - BV Project Coordinator:

We're into week three of the expedition here in Andavadoaka. The open water and advanced dive courses have finished, nearly everyone is benthic enabled and volunteers are starting to learn the 150-odd fish species that they need to be able to identify in order to carry out fish belt transects on the reefs. Volunteers and staff have also been whale watching, octopus gleaning, sailing pirogues, playing football against the village, stuffing themselves with lobster at Manga Lodge, snorkeling on the northern beaches, teaching English to children in the village, dancing in the epi-bars, making musical instruments and playing Canadian 'soccer baseball' under the instruction of Ashley and Alan. Oh, and a group of divers got circled yesterday on Andravameiki at a distance of about five metres by a hungry-looking three-metre marlin.
We've also been doing a lot of exploratory diving up and down the coast as work on the marine protected area gathers pace. Villages from Bevato in the north to Tampolove in the south have suggested various reef sites as potential permanent no-take-zones, and Blue Ventures staff and volunteers have therefore been out diving them to carry out preliminary assessments of their ecological value. This typically involves us heading up the coast in the boats to some fairly distant island that we don't usually survey, picking up some presidents from the nearest village and then getting them to take us out to the reef in question. We then chug backwards and forwards pointing a depth sounder over the side while the village elders squint at distant landmarks and try to line them up with each other. When they are happy that we are on the site in question, we take a GPS point, put on our scuba gear and then drop down to take a look.
In some cases we find nothing but sand, or an uninteresting stretch of rubbly bottom. But the last few sites we've dived have been quite interesting: the first, near Bevato, was a pretty cold and bleak wasteland at around 18 metres down (and has thus earned the name Hoth), but had an interesting collection of sponges and a wide diversity of fish; the second, near Lamboara, was a small hill rising off the bottom with a rocky patch reef on top and thousands of juvenile fish swarming around the lower slopes (we have dubbed it Fraggle Rock); and the third was a pretty little patch reef with good hard coral cover just to one side of the channel that leads to the Baie d'Assassins (name still pending but "Endor" and "Rivendell" are strong contenders. "Atlantis" is also on the table but some think that this should be held in reserve for when we find a grander site with towering columns, vast caves and spreading arches).
Having done a preliminary survey of these sites, the next step is to go back and make comprehensive maps, and to gather detailed scientific data on the fish and benthic assemblages they contain. Only then will we be able to advise the villages effectively on where the boundaries of the reserves should lie, the rules applicable within and outside them and the value of the reserves as components of the overall marine protected area. Over time we will also need to set up survey routines for some of them, in order to monitor changes over time following their closure to fishing activity.

Anyway enough from me - time to hear from some volunteers. First a blog entry from our resident primary school teacher, Catherine Farrow:

I've been in Andavadoaka for a week now and I have already lost track of what day it is.
I had planned to make my journey to Toliara alone, and re-read my information like the good girl that I am, but as soon as I opened my Padi Advanced Open Water book in Paris I was approached by a smiling Scott asking if I was with Blue Ventures. With that a young man from Oxford and before long there was a small group of us chatting easily about where we had been before and anticipating what we were about to let ourselves in for!
We arrived safely at Toliara airport together (minus a few bags - make sure that you check your luggage in again yourself at Charles de Gaul - even if you are told that you don't need to!).
We arrived at Chez La La and were met by very chilled out, tanned people who were leaving from the last expedition. They showed us around Toliara and armed us with the essential information of the town - i.e. different banks take different travellers cheques, pay in Ariary - it's cheaper than Euros, always wear shoes on the beach - it's the local public toilet etc.
Three of us were guided to the local market to buy some very stylish 80p pants, shorts and t-shirts in case our luggage was never to be seen again and we held a Tulear style fashion show in the bar of Chez La La, which proved to be quite interesting. The locals at the market were very friendly and happy to talk with us and laugh at my exceedingly dodgy French - somewhat bemused I think by 10 Vazaha (foreigners) walking in and requesting all of their stocks of Nutella, Tomato sauce, jam, Pringles; basically anything with taste and that is recognisable, to supplement the diet of fish and rice!
The boat journey here was very interesting - I had given up all hope of getting my bags at this stage and so armed with one change of clothes and enough food to feed a small army I joined the trudge out through the pooey beach in flip-flops at one in the morning! Trying to sleep on life jackets and foam in our 22 hour journey was almost impossible but for sheer experience I would not change a minute of it! Holding up sarongs while your newly found friends get stage fright trying to pee off the back of a boat, trying to avoid the sails knocking you out whilst alerting your peeing companion of interesting sightings e.g. humpback whales, Pringles, or tourists on speedboats with cameras!
I was pleasantly surprised by the huts when I arrived as I was expecting to be uncomfortable. The rooms, though small and very basic, have comfortable beds which I have enjoyed collapsing into after a busy day!
The diving here has been amazing, and it is all the more enjoyable as you begin to learn more about what you are looking at. The coral reefs are incredible and there is a huge variety of fish and aquatic life to see. The instructors and staff all work very hard in not ideal circumstances - get ready for sand to appear absolutely everywhere!! It's a good idea to bring your own scuba diving equipment as there are a lot of people using equipment regularly and it ensures you have what you need clean and ready to go.
The staff are dedicated to what they are doing as well as being calm, patient and in control when necessary and are friendly and a good laugh. They have been very helpful to me to speed up my science learning as I only have a limited time here ( 3 weeks is not enough!)
Between learning Benthic and diving it has been great to go over to Nosy Hao island to watch for whales and dolphins - they put on a real show for us and are really the most graceful creatures to watch. I recommend finishing that off with a gentle pirogue ride home watching the flying fish - a very relaxing peaceful moment I will remember forever.
The peace was, however, soon shattered by the regular football match between Blue Ventures and the village - a friendly match we were to learn only when the locals draw or win!" This was a great opportunity to interact with the locals and as fast and determined to win as they are, the international language of football had us all laughing and shaking hands at the final whistle.
I have also enjoyed the opportunity to teach/entertain the children in the local school - their enthusiasm for learning the word flip-flop will amuse me for some time, as will the image of one of the volunteers energetically singing ring a ring a roses and accidentally fishing in goat droppings!
As you can see I have had a very busy yet rewarding week and I am very much looking forward to the rest of my time here and really getting stuck into the project. I only wish I had longer!

And now something from another volunteer Claire Gauci:
Well we're just starting our second week after a hectic first. I met the other members in Toliara after a 20hr taxi brousse ride down from Tana, which was tightly packed to say the least, but the children seemed to find the strange white person highly amusing. From Tulear we got a boutre (wooden sailing boat with no engine or toilet :) which meant walking out at low tide through sludge in the middle of the night. The trip took about 22hrs and was obviously totally wind-dependent. The most incredible part was when we were joined by humpback whales breaching close to the boat - completely surreal!
Diving so far has been great and today I took part in an exploratory dive in preparation for the MPA. So I can now say that I've dived somewhere that nobody has ever dived before! Having passed first my computer benthic test and then my in-water one I now recognise a lot of the wonderful things that I see down there, which is a really great feeling. After diving one day we were invited to watch a special ceremony in one of the villages and they actually came out singing and dancing to welcome us! On the way back we walked through the spiny forest and the baobabs as the day turned to dusk.
Being a vegetarian (who doesn't eat fish) I have to admit I was a little bit concerned about what exactly I would be eating, but the food here is definitely much better than I'd expected. Having a great time so far and since I'm staying for 2 expeditions I've got a lot left to look forward to.