Sleeping under the stars

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From our new Field Scientist, Nikkita Lawson

Humpback whale season in the region has officially started! 17 whales were spotted by two lucky volunteers – Ali and Roger – during their shift on our whale watching platform. We even watched a humpback whale whilst eating our breakfast on base! I was lucky enough to have a very close encounter. As we emerged from our dive, our boat marshal pointed out 2 whales that were very close by – a mother and calf. We watched them for 20 minutes as they passed by; they came within 100m of our boat. They didn’t seem at all disturbed by us and the baby calf even breached as we said farewell, but unfortunately I wasn’t looking!

I also had the opportunity to stay overnight on a nearby island – Andragnombala – for a BVCO solar stove demonstration. The voyage there was rather cramped as we had to fit 3 large stoves, all our kit and 5 people into one pirogue. I was surprised at how tiny Andragnombala was – it took us less than 30 minutes to walk round the entire island. We spent the night in our sleeping bags counting shooting stars under the most amazing night sky I have seen. The light from the stars was so bright that we didn’t even need a torch. The following day we painted solar stoves that had previously been bought by villagers on the island.

The people of Andragnombala were extremely friendly, like all the other Malagasy people I have met. We were offered bok bok (a bit like doughnuts) and moukari (rice cakes) as well as a plate of 6 fish heads. I am afraid to say that I could not manage to eat my share of fish heads, so Al had to eat all 6 – I am still feeling slightly guilty. At least we didn’t have to bite the heads off the fish like Alex did during her village stay! I made the mistake of getting my camera out and was completely mobbed by children. They absolutely love having their photo taken and looking at it afterwards. It was extremely hot - 30 degrees – due to the fact the wind had completely dropped, which unfortunately meant that the pirogue ride back took over 3 hours, rather than the normal 45 minutes! However, that did give me a chance to read a book and relax before getting back to the chaos of base.