Time to say ‘Veloma’…

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    I am back in Andavadoaka after traveling around Madagascar for 2 weeks over my Christmas break. Alan and I had a great time visiting a few national parks, finally getting a chance to see the mountains, rainforest, lemurs, tree frogs and several bird species. It was wonderful to discover that people all over this country are as friendly as they are in Andavadoaka.
    So now we are back on site for our final expedition. Upon returning, I was immediately struck by how green everything has become, the football pitch actually has some grass on it and all the vegetation in the spiny forest now has leaves which makes everything look full of life. There is also water and marshlands where for the past 9 months everything has been completely dry.
    Personally, I’ve been waiting for this transformation so I can do some bird watching around the newly formed lakes. I was finally able to do this yesterday when Thomas led us on a walk through the forest to a lake where we found tons of shorebirds and at least 150 flamingos! It was quite a sight– a lake filled with birdlife and surrounded by stunning baobab trees.
    I have been here since March and Alan since August, so needless to say we have grown extremely attached to life in Andava – the village, the locals, our little hut on the beach, the constant sound of waves and the fabulous sunsets. On the science side of things, there is so much happening right now – a huge shark and turtle project, bird breeding studies and the final stages of implementing the Marine Protected Area are all getting underway.
    This expedition we will be focusing on exploring and mapping all the proposed MPA sites and conducting the first benthic and fish surveys on these sites. It is going to be very hard for me to leave in the middle of all this exciting conservation work.
    In my final weeks here I am trying to finish up my dive master course. I want to finish at the same time as Bic so we can do our snorkel tests together. Alan and I also want to have a pirogue sailing lesson with Thomas, as Alan is determined to build one when we get home. We will also do some camping on our northern beaches eco-lodge site, visit the baobabs a few more times, search for a few more chameleons and just try to take in all the incredible diversity in wildlife and landscapes that this area has to offer.

    I can’t wait to show off all the pictures I’ve taken and share all the memories of my past year in Madagascar with my friends and family once I return home. My mother already has our homecoming party planned, although right now I can’t quite imagine leaving this tropical paradise and returning home to the middle of the Canadian winter. I will be very sad to say
    ‘veloma’ to Andavadoaka and the friends I’ve made here but I know I wil return one day to stay in the eco-lodge and dive once again on the protected reefs.

    Ashley
    Field scientist