Thursday, February 17, 2011

14/02/11 All aboard for a trip around the islands

Monday morning after another beautiful weekend in the Seychelles, and four dive master interns from GVI meet for a three day survey adventure with the Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA). Interns involved were Ellie, Sarah, Tristan and a handsome but modest young man called Brian. The plan was simple, go with SFA to designated survey sites and place VR2 Acoustic Receivers at depths between 15-30 meters, but the unknown fishing vessel we were about to see for the first time made us all a little nervous. These acoustic receivers were being placed in spots where the SFA hope sharks and other fish they tag will pass and leave a signal so that they can better understand their migration patterns.

Our fears were put to rest when we arrived at Port Victoria and set eyes on the glorious thirty something year old Japanese long liner that was going to be home for the next three days. We met the crew and true to form there were some characters; some people referred to it as “The Life Aquatic but more real”

After a quick run to the shop for essential supplies of chocolate, crisps and for Tristan some seasick tablets we were ready to go. Turned out that Tristan’s seasick tablets were more likely horse tranquilisers as he was dead to the world for most of our journey North. While he slept the wonderful cook on board prepared lunch, which consisted of fresh fish, chicken and rice of which we ate plenty and this continued on for the rest of the trip. When we arrived at Praslin our skipper Gerard (no eye patch, peg leg or parrot on his shoulder ) told us we would not be able to dive at Marianne that day and we would be docked at La Digue for the night as there was some sort of pirate issue they wished to avoid.

Extremely disappointing that we had to spend a night docked at the beautiful island of La Digue but we managed to get over it. While there, we decided to go to a small bar near the dock. Sarah and I bought the Seychelles, if not the world’s, most expensive mango juice and on returning to the boat we discovered that we had fresh mango onboard anyway.

As we woke up to another amazing sunrise, Jude (one of the project coordinators) talked us through the plan for our dives at Marianne. On arriving at the site Sarah and Ellie would have to show them the area where the sharks congregate as they were the only two with dive experience at the site. After this the two divers going in first would have to snorkel in the area to decide the best places to put the receivers. After this was decided it was a simple matter of dropping in the concrete blocks the acoustic receivers were to be attached to, and then dive down to attach the receivers with cable ties.

All went according to plan and we were back on our way to the other dive sites around north Mahe by lunch. When we arrived at L’ilot, where one receiver was to be placed, Sleeping Beauty (Tristan) awoke from his coma to be told the current was too strong to dive. As expected he went back to his bunk. The skipper took the boat back to a sheltered harbor for the night where we had another sensational sunset dinner. The following morning Tristan fought through the current to place the acoustic receiver at L’ilot and we moved onto Anse Major where I had a short eight minute dive to place the receiver on site.

The next dive sites where Grand Anse and Anse Boileau. These were exciting for everyone as they were sites no one had dived before so there was the thrill of the unknown. Of course we all wanted to dive them but the diplomatic side came out in all of us and we couldn’t decide who should dive so the SFA divers sorted it out for us.

Turns out that Grand Anse had a ripping current which Ellie said made getting to the concrete block, then attaching the receiver “insane”. At Anse Boileau there were a large amount of coral recruits growing on the granite rocks there, and lots of reef fish.

Port Launay was our last stop and then two other GVI volunteers plus a member of staff at GVI took over from us to help with the placement of receivers around the south of Mahe Island. Every volunteer involved agrees that it was an amazing experience to dive on sites as beautiful as we did and we are all keen to find out the results of the survey. In the mean time we will struggle on with diving on amazing reefs and there is also some shark tagging to be done in the future with SFA. I definitely want to be involved in that one!