The fact that my final week on this trip was one of my favourites is bittersweet, because whilst it was full of great experiences, it makes it that much harder to leave.
The week started off with a bang, with another successful manatee search on Monday! After not seeing any signs of manatees on the boat, we began a relaxing snorkel session that was cut short by another tour boat signalling to us that there was a manatee in the channel! We rapidly swam in its direction and slowed to a float as the massive creature majestically cruised in our direction. The beautiful creature wore a stretch of scars on its back and fin, with the fin appearing to have a piece missing. Seeing the direct effects of humans and boats on the manatee itself was heart-breaking - but it didn't dim our excitement as we surfaced, yelling to each other how crazy and amazing it was.
The middle of the week included more trips to shark, ray alley and a special trip to preservation zone that allowed me to have a good go at identifying all of the fish I had learned in this month. My last boat trip and manatee search took place on Thursday and included us driving around for miles and checking multiple spots but with no luck. Just as we were heading back, thinking our last trip hadn't been the most successful, a pod of dolphins began breaking the surface! We counted 7 in total, as they continuously swam and played, appearing unbothered by our boat. This was the perfect way to end my final research project with the program.
I am so thankful to be able to leave this trip with extensive knowledge on our oceans and their creatures, as well as research skills and techniques. One thing I cannot leave this trip with is the amazing group of people I've been able to learn from and gain meaningful friendships with.
I will hold on to these memories for the rest of my life and forever appreciate this trip.