It’s a very low tide in Andavadoaka today and the inviting blue sea that was lapping at the beach this morning has retreated almost to the fringing reef, leaving large expanses of brown reef flat to be baked quietly in the midday sun. Here and there spindly black figures can be seen dotted around the reef like distant wading birds – people from the village poking sharpened sticks into likely looking holes and quickly slaughtering any unfortunate creature that they manage to dislodge. In the foreground meanwhile the yellow-billed kite does its daily patrol up and down the beach, hanging almost motionless on the breeze while its head jerks back and forth and the eyes scan the ground for prey. Every so often it drops down out of site, then rises up again to its holding position with a limp-looking lizard in its claws. The wind changes for a moment and distant sounds come drifting across the reef flats: the voices of Vezo women and children, the harsh cawing of black and white crows, the faint whine of an outboard motor further out to sea.
It’s nearing the end of the expedition here, and the now lean and tanned team of volunteers has settled into a steady rhythm of research dives. PITs, IBs and fish belts are slowly being ticked off the research plan, rescue divers are busy practising missing diver scenarios, and staff are planning how best to drop an artificial reef made of old dive tanks between 007 and Recruitment.
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