Final days on the current expedition…

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    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!