I came to Madagascar with no experience of marine conservation or diving. From the moment I started my project I realised I had a lot to learn but that was okay! Magnus the dive officer here is fantastic and I had completed my open water and advanced open water in just over a week. Fairly quickly I had passed my invertebrates’ test which meant I could start participating in surveys the moment I was finished with my advanced open water. Besides this it was great to be able to start identifying things underwater straight away.
Most dives we do we’re surveying. On an average day we are surveying four different groups of underwater life; territorial fish, schooling fish, invertebrates and benthic. However sometimes we do Nudibranch surveys and reef cleans too. The aim is for each of the marine volunteers to be schooled up in each of the four aspects so we can swap around and get experience surveying all of them. The overall aim of the surveys is long term monitoring of coral reef health and overall fish abundance in our area.
We have five sites we survey regularly and twelve in total that we visit to carry out Nudibranch surveys etc. On top of this we also get to do discovery dives and of course fun dives! Discovery dives involve finding new sites for surveying and getting to explore some more of the local reefs. Alongside this we regularly get to go on night dives which are out of this world! The reefs are completely transformed when the sun goes down; sea urchins and other invertebrates come out in their masses, phosphorescent plankton sparkles and you might be lucky enough to see a sleeping turtle! Fairly regularly we also get the opportunity to dive at a wreck not too far away from camp which is pretty amazing. It’s full of fish and always nice to dive somewhere completely different.
As well as this we go on trips (which happen most weekends) to some of the surrounding islands, Tanikely and Nosy Komba being some of them, where we get to dive on some different reefs and relax on beautiful beaches! It was on one of these trips I was lucky enough to tick something off my bucket list; to be in the water with a whale shark! This definitely was one of the most incredible parts of my time in Madagascar so far. Dive skills are also sometimes incorporated into fun dives for example for Halloween we dressed up and learnt new skills and techniques and also got to mess around in the water.
Overall, I feel like I’ve learnt and continue to learn so much here. All of the staff are so passionate about what they do and it’s infectious!