Sunday, January 19, 2014

19/1/2014: Cap T - Week 1: Life on Base

As 22 new volunteers who just arrived a week ago, nothing we could have imagined could have prepared us for life on base.

Our days since we arrived have been jam-packed full of new knowledge and life skills with barely a moment to think. Many countries are represented on this trip: Scottish, English, German, Danish, Swedish, Swiss, Belgian, American, Canadian and Australian. The on-site banter currently involves mercilessly assailing every national stereotype one could imagine, which is pretty amusing (and scarily accurate!).

A typical day at Cap Ternay starts off with an early wake up call, generally about 6 (5 if you’re really unlucky) before starting duties at 6:15. There is a rotation of 4 duties that everyone does: Kitchen, Tanks, Grounds and Boats.

Kitchen involves cooking every meal, catering for 30 people. Staples include a diet of mostly beans, vegetables and fruit.

Learning how to fill tanks and properly measure the amount of air they contain is really interesting, while grounds includes keeping the common areas and toilets spick and span for the other volunteers. Boat usually involves a (very) early rise to help load the pickup with the necessary gear every dive requires, for further loading onto the boat: this kit contains emergency oxygen, surface marker buoys (SMB), weights, personal flotation devices (PFDs).

At the moment we have been running through all our check dives, including basic skills, buoyancy control, navigation and basic instruction in species identification. Buoyancy control involved us spending most of the dive floating up and down in the water column with our faces in the sand. Navigation required a bit of on land training prior to hitting the water. To the outside world, 30 people walking around the yard with towels on their heads, bumping into things, would have been rather amusing! This was all in preparation for our attempt to swim in a square under water, easier said than done. 

Next week, once everyone has proved their abilities in the water, and those without Advanced Open Water tickets have achieved them, the real fun begins with fish, coral and invertebrate spots which everyone is frantically studying in advance of our knowledge exams.

Base orientations have been enjoyable and teach a basic level of life and subsistence skills, for example breadmaking, fruit identification and collection, cinnamon harvesting, machete training, coconut husking and preparation, and drinking. 

Some intrepid volunteers have already reached the summit of Cap Matoopa on a hike which involved slashing through jungle, Predator style, and scaling rocks before being greeted with a stunning panoramic view of the bay. Some other less intrepid explorers decided to catch up on some shuteye...

The weather is changeable at the moment with lots of heavy, yet warm, downpours during the day and at night. Four seasons in one day is not wrong! From the boat the views of the sea and the surrounding lands and beaches is really stunning and makes it all worthwhile.

Even though we’ve only hit the water a few times, the underwater world is spectacular. So far we have been graced by moray eels, sea turtles, eagle rays breaching out of the water, inquisitive spade fish (bat fish), defensive mud crabs (they’re really quite chicken), many varieties of butterfly and angelfish all of which we can definitely identify already. At low tide, we trudge our way out to the boat, through knee deep water across a seagrass and sand bed of cucumbers and razor clams but once at the dive sites we descend on a beautiful coral garden of immenseness, tranquil, colourful and incredibly peaceful.

By comparison, the wild life on land is equally as diverse. Between the screeching bats and the barking gekkos we also have an abundance of snails, frogs, feral cats and tigers (just kidding). Oh, and the mosquitoes!

That’s all for now, stay tuned for next week’s crazy adventures!

Martin & Connie