After arriving in Andavadoaka as a complete diving novice, I have completed my training to PADI Advanced Open Water level. I’ve passed the tests to allow me to contribute to BV’s science program by conducting Point Intersect Transects (PITs) and Invertebrate Belts (IBs) in which we survey and record the coral and invertebrates present on the reefs. Yesterday I was the first to carry out a PIT & IB on Tampolove patch reef, a newly designated site which has been included in the MPA set up by BV.
Earlier this week we had a day off from diving and travelled into the spiney forest in zebu (oxen-type work animal) carts to map the position and size of baobab trees in an area which is also covered by the MPA. We also observed the human impact on these incredible trees that live for more than 1,000 years; often visible are holes dug or stakes driven into their huge trunks to gain access to their fruit. I took the opportunity to climb one of the trees which gave incredible elevated views of the forest, along with the challenge of ascending and descending! A few days ago I went octopus gleaning (fishing) with fishermen from the village on Nosy Hao (a nearby island). Watching an octupus get caught with a spear was certainly an experience, however with it being low season there was only one caught on our trip.
A group of us volunteers have initiated our own pet project in Andavadoaka village; painting a map of Madagascar and a map of the World onto the walls of the local youth/ecology club as the children have no other access to geographical information. The local children are involved in drawing fish on the outside walls and painting them under our supervision; oil paint + excited children can make a huge mess! We are part-way through the painting, but by the time we leave in 2 weeks we hope to have a detailed map of Madagascar, a map of the world – indicating the continents and some individual countries, and a seascape on the outside wall – including a BV diver busy surveying the coral & fish!
Ben Cheesman (Volunteer)