Friday, September 12, 2008

Turtle tagging, whale sharks and all.

Week eight has been wonderful, and it’s hard to believe that we’re in the home stretch of this phase! Last week was chock full of surveys, and with all the hard work that the volunteers and staff have been putting in, we’re running ahead of schedule and look to be able to do a fair few fun dives in the next week or two. We were able to fit in a fun dive on Friday last week and it seems that the water is buzzing with life. Just on Friday, divers saw white tip reef sharks, several octopi, 29 devil rays, eagle rays, turtles, mantis shrimp, bumphead parrotfish, huge humphead wrasse, and much more.

We also, for the first time this phase, got to see… whale sharks! A five meter whale shark came to say hello to our boat during a dive on Friday, swimming right up to the stern and giving us a little nudge. Apparently he decided we weren’t another whale shark, interested in playing, and after hanging out for a minute, he ducked back down. We’re hoping that this is a good sign for our last two weeks, and it seems to be true, as our partners at MCSS have had several recent sightings right in our backyard.

Last week also marked the first round of Curieuse for the second group of five week volunteers. Jan, Patrick, Shawn, and Shelley headed off to join Rich and Rosie on Curieuse for week eight, where Shelley caught a turtle! Unlike last week, this little guy was new to the area, and the group was able to get him tagged, recorded, and back in the water. The last group of volunteers, including Tim, Katie D., Alex, and Jenny, is now off to Curieuse, and then our satellite camp wraps up and heads back to base on Mahé. They’ve only been gone a couple days, but they’ve already gotten to witness the birth of nine new baby chicks! Genevieve the chicken (not the staff member) appears to be exceptionally fertile, having hatched ten chicks last phase, and now nine more only two months later. Though Rich and Rosie now appear to be swimming in chickens, they’re excited about the little fluff balls and their burgeoning farm on Curieuse.

Last week we also celebrated staff member Ben’s birthday in style with a barbecue bash on Port Launay beach on Saturday. We cooked sausages and chicken and honoured our Aussie friend with beach cricket and dominoes. Our beach clean on Grande Anse was also a success, though the record for stray flip flops wasn’t quite broken at 21.5. Ben, Katie L., Emma, Mike, and Alice spent a couple hours on the nearby beach and made a pretty good dint in the bits and bobs littering the undergrowth. We should be able to keep up the tidying and come turtle nesting season, the turtles should find clear paths to nesting ground. Though we’re wrapping up the surveys and week nine is starting to feel like the close of the phase, we’re having an amazing week, and looking forward to fun dives and the ten week barbecue!