by Caroline De Willebois, Blue Ventures volunteer, Madagascar
Descending into the cool turquoise water below, I am overcome with that well-known sense of utter peace that accompanies the stillness and weightlessness of being underwater. After a few days of not being able to dive due to the wild, unpredictable Malagasy winds the temperature is perfect, the visibility has improved and our spirits are high. Before us the reef has come alive with pairs of butterfly fish chasing each other like flirtatious lovers, curious crescent wrasse darting around like energizer bunnies and tiny nudibranchs showing off a spectacularly mismatched array of colours that no human could pull off with half as much dignity.
Having passed our benthic test we can now identify the elegantly swaying soft corals, the grape-like hard coral massive bubble and the lacy gorgonian fans. Knowing what we see makes the dive so much more rewarding, for now instead of saying ‘oh wow did you see that funny looking blob thing that looks like it arrived on a spaceship’ we can say ‘those tunicates were amazing!’. Time flies when doing PITs (Point Intersect Transects) and before we know it the time has come to return to the boat. Dive tales are exchanged over the sound of a sputtering engine as we bounce back our way to shore. And right on time, little Papose is waiting for us with a basket full of fresh fish samosa and spicy mofosakay. Her age changes from day to day according to her mood, so sometimes she will tell you she is eight years old while other days she is thirteen, which we have taken to mean she is about ten. We satisfy our post-dive munchies with Paposie’s fried snacks and thank her with a grateful ‘misaotra’ which is silently returned by one of her adorable shy smiles.
We now have some free time before lunch, which can be filled with a nap in a hammock or volleyball on our private Half Moon beach. And you really do know life is good when the hardest choice you have to make is deciding between samosa or mofosakay and hammock napping or beach volleyball!