It’s rainy season here in Andavadoaka, which means impassable roads, no fresh bread, creaking huts and leaking roofs. It also means impressive sunsets, bok bok for breakfast, spectacular lightning and good drinking water. So on balance a good time to be here! The state of the roads has also led to an exciting change of plan as regards the trip back to Toliara. Instead of cramming everyone into a camion for 20 bumpy hours overland, we will be leaving Andavadoaka in a boutre – one of the stately wooden sailing ship that plies the coast between Toliara and Morondava. A staff team led by Expedition Managers Jenny Hyde and Alex Mason swam out to the ship yesterday, and having surveyed its two-masted splendour and interviewed the captain decided that it was eminently acceptable for a Blue Ventures adventure (subject to the current cargo of dried fish being removed). So on 31 January we set sail for Toliara.
Lots more diving to do before then however, and the pace of reserach is hotting up. Everyone has now completed their PADI Advanced course, under the calm and expert instruction of Diving Manager Mark, and all volunteers are now benthic-enabled. Most are also very close to being fish-enabled – i.e capable of correctly identifying the 150-odd species we survey during ‘fish belts’. The conditions have also been excellent – apart from the occasional brief storm, and we have been waking to find the sea like a mill pond, with visibility improving daily. The only exception was a bizarre visual effect one day at 15m, when a layer of cold muddy water from the Mangoki river removed the legs of one volunteer (temporarily).
Other news in brief: Saturday saw the whole team working in shifts round the clock on Andavadoaka beach in a marathon fin fish monitoring exercise with local fishermen. The aim was to get data on the fish landed during a whole day’s fishing in Andavadoaka, instead of just those landed during a two hour interval. Also Club Vintsy met twice in the last week, once to paint the outside of the clubhouse and once for the official meeting. Both events were well attended by children from the village.
The whole team leaves this afternoon for a camping/diving trip on Nosy Ve, a nearby island, which will see some exploratory dives and the first deployment of a new rapid survey method. Field scientists Tom and Amelia have given us all a crash course in the new method and so tomorrow we’ll be trolling up and down in snorkel teams surveying benthic coverage. Report in next update.
Finally, could whoever has borrowed fish bowl please put it back.