Friday, July 25, 2008

July phase gets underway

Seychelles phase number 17 got off to a rollicking start two weeks ago, with 23 volunteers arriving the morning of July 11th. After a good 24 hours of flight recuperation, tours, and information flooding, the volunteers were in the water Saturday morning, starting up the Advanced Open Water course and getting acquainted with the corals that would become their good friends in the coming days.

Though the first week is always notorious for its madness, the volunteers adjusted to life on base in a snap, and the Advanced Open Water course was finished by midweek. Four volunteers, Katie, Val, Wayne, and Lisa, continued their certification fever through the weekend and completed their Rescue Diver course with the local Underwater Centre. Most of the others took advantage of their first, and well-earned, weekend in Seychelles with taxi boats to picnics in Beau Vallon, hikes to the highest point of the island, and some sunbathing on the posh southern end of Mahe. Come Monday, everyone was rested and ready to take on the next week.

All the volunteers were brilliant, studying their corals in the sand and hammocks over the weekend, and they proudly set an all-time record for number of passes on the first attempt, at 11 people! With so many people acing their corals, we’ll be surveying within the next few days and knocking out the work for our partners. Other work has already begun, and we’re excited about our new turtle methodology, created at the request of one of our local partners (MCSS) locating hawksbill and green turtles and observing and recording their feeding patterns. No one knows much about the preferred foods of sea turtles, especially the Hawksbills active in Seychelles, and we’re really excited to be a part of the study. In the last two turtle dives, the volunteers were able to observe eight turtles and collect data on their feeding habits. The megafauna sightings are also gearing up, with tons of bumphead parrotfish, mantis shrimp, rays and sharks already seen in the first week and a half of diving. Beyond the diving, base life is settling in with granola recipes, bread-making, coconut husking, and Friday night makeshift fancy dress parties to rival the best. Hazel’s vegetable pasties and Chris’s Moroccan surprise have taken the status of favourite, but the staff have yet to reveal their secret pizza recipes… The Emergency First Responder Course is also set to go this week, so there should be much fake carnage with tomato sauce flowing freely in the emergency scenarios, after which we’ll have a whole gaggle of new first aid certified volunteers! Overall, the first two weeks have been brilliant, and we’re looking forward to the start up of the satellite camp on Curieuse and surveys.