20th June 2009
We are almost into the last week of our expedition and I am starting to feel sad that we have to leave this paradise. For me the trip to Andavadoaka has been the best experience I have had since having children. My husband and I decided to leave behind the spoils of Australia and head to Madagascar where we could show our children how spoilt most Australian kids really are. I am extremely proud of how they have adapted. As I write I can hear them playing soccer outside our hut with the Malagasy kids and their laughter and giggles are much greater here than at home. They have their own pirogue (thanks to Bic) so now they have the freedom to explore the Mozambique Channel.
Every night I go to sleep with the sound of waves lapping at our hut’s door and I wake with the feeling I am on a yacht as I can see the tropical blue water from my bed. The morning begins with a run out to the phone point (approx 5km) to receive news from family and friends. Breakfast is at 8am (bok bok and a cuppa). We are usually up at the Bat Cave by 8.45, kitted up and ready to hear today’s dive brief.
Today we had our first recreational dive (no slates or data recording) at a site called “Recruitment”. After the cry of Raiky, Roa, Telo (which translates to 1, 2, 3 in Malagasy) our boat captain yells “DIVE” and over we go backwards; sometimes managing a perfectly executed backward somersault! Once in the water, my cumbersome equipment is forgotten and I am surrounded by peace and tranquillity. There is no sensation of cold as the water temperature here is around 24 degrees. The visibility is approximately 10 meters and the colours of the reef are amazing. This dive had loads of Tabular coral that sheltered both big and small colourful fish. My aim was to see a Clown Trigger fish as this was the one fish that had eluded us so far and everyone was keen to spot one.
My husband and I sank to 14 meters then levelled out and finned our way to the edge of the reef. We saw lobster, most species of Butterfly fish, a magnificent Regal Angelfish and masses of Big eye snapper and sweepers. Ten minutes into the dive my husband taps me and points very calmly to my left. I look eagerly but have no idea what he is so excited about. Then I see it! The magnificent Clown Triggerfish in all its glory. I am mesmerised by its beauty and stay with it for five minutes conducting my own little conversation. I feel sad as I know my 11 year old son Vincent, would give anything to see this favourite fish of his. Should we tell him or keep it a secret? He was out there in his pirogue with his sister trying to locate his triggerfish, snorkelling on any bombie he could find.
Tonight Maggie (a BV staff member) organised the Miss Andavadoaka pageant to hopefully spread the word about contraception and family planning. The night was a huge success and finished around 1am. The next day was our day off so we hired a pirogue and sailed over to Nosy Hao for some snorkelling and exploring. There was not that much reef to see as most of it was dead but the trip was still relaxing and I met some local children (whom I gave all our lollies, coloured pencils and peanut brittle to as they were irresistible). The other volunteers chose to stay back and relax.
As I am writing Shawn, one of the BV staff members is teaching Olivia, my Year 9 daughter how to solve linear equations. The guy is an absolute legend and has taught us all so much, not only about Malagasy history but American history and socio-economics. All the staff have been brilliant and go out of their way to make you enjoy yourself. We only have 4 more dives left before our expedition concludes so we are counting down. It is going to be sad saying goodbye to everyone!!
We will all miss Bic’s homemade yoghurt, Georgie’s cooking lessons (cake and coconut balls made with the kids), Amanda’s amazing crazy sense of humour and of course those two friendly villagers in the techno house Charlie and Thomas!! Life in Andavadoaka will soon be a memory but one that will be treasured forever. Our expedition had only the 6 of us (an Aussie family of 4 and two U.K. residents) but we still managed to have a blast. The weather has been magnificent; only one day of diving missed due to strong winds. Every day is approximately 28 degrees so I really don’t want to head back to winter in Oz.
Strange things start to happen when you eat rice, fish and beans every day. We have all had dreams about food and imagine eating roast dinners and amazing desserts like apple and ice cream. Vincent (11) and Olivia (13) have even started a list of foods they are going to eat when they get home and have prioritised each item in terms of importance. Little things will certainly be appreciated!!!! School cannot teach them what they have learned here in Madagascar and I am sure they and the rest of us will all take something of value back from this incredible experience. Veloma !!!!!