So here I sit, as attentive shore marshall for the 6am dive on the 7th of December 2006. As I look out of the “Nosy Cao” window (our classroom-computer-communal room) onto the turquoise Mozambique Channel at the crashing thunderous high tide waves that pour onto Half moon beach, Andavadoaka Rock and in the distance the crests of the waves on the fringing reef.
What an adventure it’s been so far! With ten other fantastic volunteers, and the lovely BV staff, we’ve dived in wonderfully warm (28°C +) waters; surveyed corals and fish life on many reef sites; measured and mapped majestically awesome 8 metre and 10 metre in diameter; 1000 year old Baobab trees; swam in the fish nursery of the mangroves; raced zebu (local cattle) carts pulled and driven by bonkers staff and volunteers; camped, watched and helped in the construction of the new fabulous “Eco-Lodge” site……………endless activity on endless blue skied days.. ……….it’s such an honour to be here.
Living side by side with the Vezo people of the village is what makes the expedition truly special and real. The children are beautiful; lively to say the least, yet their manner is gentle and somewhat wise. They have very little materialistically but they live in harmony with the sea; fishing, playing in the water, wanting to know who and why we are here with wide eyes and lots of laughter. They have an eagerness to learn and are inspirational to us volunteers from the western world to keep focussed upon the simple joys of life. We can learn as much from them as they can learn from us. They live in poverty and yet are so very rich.
An average day here starts at 5:30am, which may sound horrifically early (not for a Dibbo!) but it’s perfect. So calm, so cool and the only sounds are the waves, the birds and the odd horny goat! The early morning dive is the best way to start your day, floating whilst observing hundreds of colourful lively fish species in their coral garden homes, is quite possibly the most magical way to fully wake up in the morning. Idyllic. Or boat marshalling to support the dive team for safety with the satellite phone, radio, medical supplies, GPS etc and a 45 minute peaceful meditative space as you sit and wait patiently and watch the waters for the divers to ascend.
After the 6am dive it’s a breakfast of coffee, local freshly made donuts or “bok-bok”, rice, eggs etc in the restaurant with ocean vistas from every angle. Up we all get for the 9am or 11am dive, with rotational shore or boat marshalling duties, learning those fabulous 150 fish species and benthic species to help in the collection of reef data, recording the weather 4 times a day, designing and delivering presentations, maintaining the “Bat Cave” (the impressively named dive kit room!) enjoying a huge hot fish lunch, tests to see if we do actually know our fish etc, downtime to snorkel, snooze or swim in the heat of the afternoon, a chance to share the days events and news at “Vao Vao” (“news” in Malagasy) at 7pm every evening, which usually includes much laughter, some fascinating new facts and data, the secret Golden Fleece awards, a DVD, lots of smiles and a sense of achievement for all the team, dinner……………and the day begins again.
Other highlights of this most excellent adventure have been party nights; dancing ‘til the early morning at the Epi bar to soulful, funky Malagasy music with the much more flexible locals! Watching the sunset that electrically lights up the 6:30pm skies with reds, purples, orange and shades of blue that seem too bright and magnificent to be real (photo shop eat your heart out!). Fish monitoring the local catches of 1.5 metre green job fish to 10 cm damsel fish caught from small wooden, wind and paddle powered pirogues manned by fathers and sons as young as ten years old. It’s a chance for us to get to know the local people and share in their knowledge of their ocean.
You couldn’t make it up if you tried!
It’s great to be part of project that is making a huge positive impact locally scientifically and upon every volunteer who is lucky enough to spend 6 hard working, fun packed, educational weeks here in this remote part of an inspiring and unique land.
What would I change about this expedition? That’s easy. I just wish I could bring everyone I know and love here to experience how spectacular it really is in Andavadoaka. It suits all ages, backgrounds, all needs – you’d be blown away ?.
So what are you waiting for – go on do it – make a difference!
See you all soon.
Kelly Dibbert, Brighton, UK
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