Interphase tranquility

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    It’s maintenance fortnight and a cool humid 35 degrees here in Andavadoaka. With an unusually long window between expeditions over the festive season, those of us left behind during this blissfully quiet time on site have a daunting schedule of maintenance and repairs to wade through before the new research season begins in less than a week. Alo Alo and Tson Tso, the trusty boats driving all BV’s marine work, are perched high on the beach being repainted and strengthened round the clock with hundreds of kilos of new fiberglass and decking. Several truck-fulls of new reed roofing are being relaid over the classroom and bungalows, tonnes of sand are being shifted around site to remake paths weakened during three years of tropical storms, walls are being refitted, hammocks rehung, motors serviced and a monumental new shipment of freight from London is now safely housed in the bat cave. It’s a race against time as we work around the rains, which have arrived here at last (and over a month late). Rain here is irritatingly sporadic, falling in short sharp bursts separated by blistering sunshine. Unpredictable at all times except when re-roofing is taking place, when you can be sure it will pour at the exact moment a roof is changed, dropping a cleansing deluge on the room – not to mention equipment – below! As the rains arrive the seasons are changing in the spiny desert. Browns are turning to flowery greens, sand is turning to swamp, birds and reptiles thriving and breeding, and at night voices have to be raised to deal with the chorus of relieved frogs and cicadas. And then there’s the sea – winds changing direction every other hour, corals threatening to spawn any moment, marauding pelagics holidaying inshore, kamikaze terns dive-bombing anchovies. As long as you can find a good hat and some shade this is a truly beautiful time to see this extraordinary corner of Madagascar.

    2006 has been a hugely successful year for the Andavadoaka Project. We’ve seen tremendous growth and diversification of research, education, conservation and ecotourism projects developed by Blue Ventures regionally. All of these have moved forward leaps and bounds thanks to the tireless commitment and vision of a world class team of local and international conservationists working on site, as well as the invaluable efforts of volunteers who have joined the project from all over the world, each bringing their own skills and expertise. Work continues apace with the marine protected area network, which now involves 21 villages throughout the region – a first for Madagascar, and a project we hope will become a model for community centred marine conservation initiatives in years to come. We’re delighted to be welcoming new staff and volunteers to the project in the new year – we’ve a daunting task ahead of us in 2007 but look forward to it with eager anticipation.

    Happy new year & Triatri’n’ i taona from all of us in Andavadoaka! Al.