Monday, February 10, 2014

10/2/14 - New and Improved Cap T Laundry Facilities

Heather explaining the new laundry facilities

This blog, I’m afraid, must begin with an apology. I prefer to think of it less as late and more in line with island time. I’m a GVI Divemaster Intern volunteer now based at Blue Sea Divers on Mahe completing my divemaster internship. 

While on base from September to December, our Team Leadership and Biological Survey courses began our preparations for the divemaster internship. We were asked to think of a project to benefit everyone which would last the duration of our stay at Cap Ternay. After much deliberation and discussion with my fellow volunteers a renovation of the laundry area was decided and “Operation Touching Cloth” was born, or OTC for short. Through the heat and insect bites the OTC volunteers and I created a semi civilised washing facility complete with hand crank washing machine. 

I must explain....the previous facility consisted of a couple of bowls which sat beneath the pillar which supports the kitchen, the general hope from washing your clothes was more to evenly distribute the dirt or remove sand than to actually clean them. I’m not complaining, there was something quite bonding about a general consensus to smell, an acceptance of being human that isn’t often found in general society. Still, we all yearned to feel the comforts of smelling like modern man. 

We set to work, first clearing out the room then step by step getting closer to civilisation, plumbing, a sink, shelving, wash boards, and of cause our reinvention of a washing machine. We took the drum out of an old washing machine and created a hand-crank washing machine so volunteers can now properly wash and agitate their clothes, as long as they have the arms strength for the spin cycle! We used old pipes to create a plumbing system so the water is disposed of properly, and not just poured onto the floor like the previous laundry facility. Now, the washing area is located inside the same room as all the clothes line so it is a mere 1 meter walk to hang clothes up, instead of the 100 meter walk previously. Of course, volunteers are asked to use biodegradable and environmentally friendly soaps so we do our part to keep this island paradise pristine. Thanks to all of the members of OTC, now future volunteers have a much more civilised laundry facility at Cap Ternay! 

I would like to introduce to you GVI’s one and only, real life, lovingly created laundrette. Well done guys – We did it J

-Heather, Divemaster Intern

The hand crank washing machine

Heather demonstrating how to use the washing machine

The drain

The piping

The many helping hands

Mural on wall, painted by OTC volunteers


Friday, February 7, 2014

7/2/14 - Cap T Week Three

Week Three

And so week three begins in earnest… It’s hard to believe we’ve been here for a full fortnight as some of the four-weekers have very little time left before they leave and are replaced by other eager volunteers. The camp is beginning to settle down and tasks are becoming more familiar with each passing day. Everyone appears to be familiar with the workings of the compressor, the required boat and grounds chores, and kitchen duty is becoming smoother and tastier. This morning we had the usual weekly full camp clean followed by a dorm clean, both of which make life just that wee bit more comfortable. Congratulations to Dorm 1 for having the cleanest and most presentable dorm! Long may it continue!

Of course, the diving is why we are all here, and our time over the past week has been well spent. Those participating in the Advanced Open Water Diver qualification have, under the direction of Lee B, completed Boat, Peak Performance Buoyancy, Navigation, Naturalist and Deep Dives, have finished their knowledge reviews and filled out the required PADI paperwork so those shiny new cards should be delivered soon! It’s really satisfying to have gained the AOW certification and we all look forward to honing and developing those skills as we continue to dive.

Fish, coral and invertebrate spots are dives where the students attempt to name species underwater, and serve as the mechanism by which classroom tuition is translated into practical recognition and identification on the reef. It can be quite daunting writing down a species on your dive slate, the pencil marks patiently waiting for a big OK or a not-so-good wavy hand from your spot leader which either makes you smile or sends you back to try again! Once we have achieved a good level of knowledge we will be signed off on our Group 1 species in the water, which will rank as another significant achievement.

We have sat our first exams on Group 1 species recognition, and Group 2 study is well under way with the Fish volunteers now focussing on groupers, sweetlips, parrotfish, rabbitfish, wrasse, triggerfish, emperors and snappers. 

Meanwhile, the coral guys and gals are learning all about the faviidae, fungiidae and siderastreidae families.

Two of the most interesting dives over the past week have been the turtle spot and the fun dive. The turtle spot begins with buddy pairs being dropped at consecutive points along the reef in order to cover as large an area as possible. The buddy pairs descend and navigate a particular pattern while looking for turtles. As soon as a turtle is spotted the navigation pattern is abandoned and, as long as it is safe, the buddy pair follow the turtle for as long as possible while recording the turtle’s activities. This was a massive success with only one buddy pair being unfortunate enough not to see a turtle, and a few of the other buddy pairs were treated to other megafauna delights such as guitar and white tip sharks, octopus and squid!

The fun dive does exactly what it says on the tin: a dive with no real objective other than enjoyment. Fish, coral and invert buddies were all mixed up which provided a differing viewpoint on the reef and the chance to share knowledge between and across the specialisms. It also provided a chance to work on buoyancy, mask clearing, regulator recovery and other skills with a new buddy, perhaps a different swimming style, and for some maybe a little more air consumption!

Thursday Barbeque Night provided the now standard level of entertainment with the entire camp pitching in to help prepare the barbeques and food, and this week we were treated to hand-made burgers, chicken legs, breadfruit crisps and home-made rolls. Also, the previous Dive Master students paid a visit and shared a couple of beers with us. It was great meeting them, getting some tips and pointers, and hearing about the dive centres which some of us will be working with and for in a few months time. Once the food was gone and the music started which kept us all entertained until the wee small hours and a few of those booked on a Friday morning shark dive didn’t make it!

Away from the reef, GVI works closely with the International Seychelles School and each week volunteers meet with the schoolchildren for lessons. The volunteers not only prepare the lessons in advance, but also deliver those lessons to the kids. This week concerned sea-grass, mangroves and coral reefs, and how they work together to clean the water, provide homes and shelter, and aid the entire local ecosystem. Three groups were led through three different lessons with each group summing up the key facts at the end of the lessons. Afterwards everyone enjoyed a frenetic game of bull shark (an adaptation of British Bulldog), nicely rounding off a very entertaining and fulfilling experience.

After a weekend without diving we are all itching to get back into the water and back on the reef so roll on another week at Cap Ternay!

-Martin, Divemaster Intern


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

5/2/14 - Cap T Week 2 Recap

So, the start of week two and most of the base members have settled in. All of the routines that were learnt in the previous week have now become just that, routines. However life can never be routine at Cap Ternay.
During one of his first coral spot dives, Master Tom came across a new species of coral. This in of itself would be an amazing feat, however in a twist of fate, it seems that Tom’s freshly shaven head provided the perfect substrate for this new species of coral to attach to, which has now been named Eltonis tupeae.
The coral would be described as orangey-brown in colour, with permanently extended tentacles reaching a few centimetres in length. The corallites wall height is uneven all around the polyp, but the reason for this is currently still under investigation.

As little is known about this species, it was deemed prudent to leave it on top of Tom’s head for further observation. When asked what it felt like, Tom gave a succinct reply of “I quite like it”, leading us to believe that it changes the host’s perception of style. It seems to be a hardy species, able to survive long periods (well over 24 hours) out of the water. Unlike other corals, this one does not sting when touched, so what it feeds on remains a mystery.

This week celebrated the completion of the advanced course for those that needed to undertake it, so congratulations to all the volunteers who passed.

Thursday became the first day since the volunteers arrival that everyone could just enjoy the day. With no more advanced open water reviews to be concerned about, the day started with everyone going on a fun dive, basically being dropped into the bay to go for an underwater exploration. A couple of white tip reef sharks, turtles, octopi and squid were spotted by different dive groups, as well as the now usual myriad of fish species.

No one got lost unintentionally (intentionally may be a different case but does that count as being ‘lost’?) so the day spent bumping into things on base with towels over our heads must have had some effect. Later that afternoon was the first match of the GVI Beach Rounders League, an extremely competitive league with a whopping 2 teams with dubious levels of skill.

The volunteers were split into teams based on topic of study with Fish on one team and Corals+Inverts on the other. ‘Faceplanter’ Connie led the way for the Corals+Inverts team while ‘Top Scorer’ Tam schooled the fish. This brutally competitive game basically constituted people attempting (but failing) to run from base to base in knee height water or deep wet sand for an hour which had results that I will just leave to your imaginations. The evening was finished off with the Thursday night BBQ that the whole camp had been waiting for since about Monday, and did not disappoint.

- Alex, Divemaster Intern


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


Friday, January 17, 2014

17.01.14 Island Life. Week One.


It’s nearly been the new volunteers’ first full week here at camp and everyone is starting to get along really well.  It’s been a packed week so far and here are some of the highlights:

·       On our first day we went snorkelling and were definitely not disappointed. Not only did we get to see the beautiful marine life that exists in the Seychelles but we also managed to catch a glimpse of a Green Turtle.

·       On Monday, we excavated two sea turtle nests. One did not survive due to wet conditions on the beach while the second had a huge number of eggs which hatched successfully. We were about to walk off satisfied when someone noticed a small hatchling that had lost its way and had fallen behind. We helped it on its way and to our delight, saw it all the way to the water.

·       On our walk to the rangers’ station the volunteers were able to experience their first encounter with the weird and wonderful giant tortoises. We all had photos with them and were able to feed them (quite a lot).

·       On Wednesday, Kate baked a delicious chocolate and coffee cake as we were celebrating not one but TWO birthdays on camp Curieuse. The first being the science coordinator, Noël’s and the second being Digby, the dog’s. Unfortunately for Digby, he missed out on the cake.

·       At dinner on Wednesday night the group was introduced to the game of Camp Cluedo. It seems to have really brought out people’s competitive sides and has proved to be a great deal of fun so far.

After seeing the incredible wildlife and scenery that Curieuse has to offer, everyone is really looking forward to getting back into the field after a good rest this weekend. 

Thank you for following us on this blog. In 2014 we will be launching an improved GVI blog site which will be announced shortly. In the meantime, you can follow the latest developments on our facebook page GVI Seychelles Mahe & Curieuse and/or twitter @GVISeychelles.