King of the Barbie!

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By Steve Richards.  Thursday brings us to another blog day and to the end of the fourth of the strange 6 day weeks we operate on here (5 days diving, then party night for the more frivolous, one extra beer for the more sober, and then a no-dive day to recover from any nitrogen absorption – and the party night hangover). By the end of week four the novices are advanced divers, at least as far as PADI is concerned, and everyone is pretty familiar with their fish and their benthics (those attractive rockish structures, which were once collectively known as coral to me, now distinguished by an array of complicated names and three letter acronyms that I am supposed to memorise and regurgitate underwater so I can write them down – hopefully without knocking the tops off any of them).

With everyone thus prepared after training on the nearer reefs, the next three truncated weeks can be spent collecting the scientific data for real, and risking precious fuel on visiting some of the more remote sites. Given the quality of the more accessible reefs I can only wonder how marvellous the deeper ones will be.  My wife Anne was reflecting yesterday that this is a rare opportunity to dive such pristine reefs while still being the only dive boat on the horizon.  I wonder how much longer the relative isolation of Andavadoaka will preserve this experience.  Still, if the Marine Protected Area is in place and BV and others can expand the tourism in a responsible way here, then more people may be able to enjoy this beauty for years to come and bring much needed income to the gentle Vezo people, who are so dependent on their fishing for their survival and identity. Lots of work left to do, but I am King of the Barbie at party time tonight and I am meeting Mr Roger from the Velondriake Committee soon to help him drive his new computer, so time to sign off for now.