From our SCUBA conservation holiday volunteering with whale sharks on the coral reefs of the Maldives (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/maldives)

It’s done! Lessons in and out of the water, tests in and out and a mock survey dive. Here is the honour roll of newly qualified Reef Checkers (Umair, Valho, Ibrahim, Shaha, Mohamed, Ann, Tim, Mascha, Alex, Michelle, Song, Maddy, Anais).

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Jen & Suze, who had qualified already on a previous expedition, put in a heroic effort and surveyed two full transects just as a buddy pair over our two training days at Banyan Tree house reef. Thank you!

Even during training we saw lots – turtles and sharks, but also the little things that make a reef so fascinating. As Anais said, after the training you’ll never look at a reef in the same way again. Once you can distinguish hard from soft corals, from ascidians, sponges, algae and others, and you know what a Drupella looks like, there is endless fascination in even a small patch of reef.

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Yesterday afternoon we moved on to Rasdhoo, where we ended our day with a mock survey. Now the day is dawning, colouring the sky pink and orange as I type.

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Downstairs our local dive guide Valho is briefing some of the team on a dawn hammerhead dive in the blue.

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The rest are having a lie-in and an unfeasibly late breakfast at 07.30 before we start our survey day.

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From our SCUBA conservation holiday volunteering with whale sharks on the coral reefs of the Maldives (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/maldives)

Almost everyone was on time for assembly and those who weren’t didn’t do press-ups ;( After that disappointment, we made it to our beautiful research liveaboard and almost straight into briefings and Reef Check training as we steamed over to Banyan Tree. Once there, we got wet and settled into our diving at the really nice house reef with a couple of sharks and plenty of fish and coral for company.

No rest for the wicked as the sun set, however. Instead more Reef Check training (see below. I think we’ll all sleep well tonight!

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From our SCUBA conservation holiday volunteering with whale sharks on the coral reefs of the Maldives (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/maldives)

My bag: Some of you have said that “men can pack like that, but women can’t”. I’m not sure. Some of you have very rightly pointed out that there is a scale missing on the photo, so you were unable to assess whether my bag was small or humongous. That of course is a very valid point, so a picture of the bag (with my dive watch for scale) is below. I would argue it is small.

Bag2

And I have an admission to make. I am struggling to fit it all in! The main culprit is Buff (who?). Well, as you may know they help us out on the expeditions and supply us with Buffs (what?). Their latest shipment has arrived this morning and so I have to fit your Buffs in to my bag.

If you are still not sure what this Buff thing is, then have a look below.


See you in a couple of days.

Continue reading “From our SCUBA conservation holiday volunteering with whale sharks on the coral reefs of the Maldives (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/maldives)”

From our SCUBA conservation holiday volunteering with whale sharks on the coral reefs of the Maldives (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/maldives)

I am 45, pushing 46, and I am told – by someone who does – that I will soon need glasses to read small print. Well, some people on the expedition last year were there already and one of them suggested that we should have underwater magnifying glasses to help us old people with data slate filling-in. So, voilà, here they are and in my bag, which I packed today. That bag, incidentally, is the entirety of my luggage. Beat that troopers!

 

Another beautiful addition is a map of our proposed route with some background info:

 

Enjoy and see you in Male’

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From our SCUBA conservation holiday volunteering with whale sharks on the coral reefs of the Maldives (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/maldives)

Hello everyone and welcome to the Maldives 2013 diary. Here is a welcome message with some news –

I look forward to seeing you in Male’ on Sunday (no change to what it says in the dossier).

We have also put more study materials on www.biosphere-expeditions.org/checklist > tab “Diving expeditions” and I attach our itinerary and the dive sites plan. As you can see, it’s a packed schedule, so please come rested and as swatted up on Reef Check and whale sharks as you can.

My local number should be xxx. Remember that this is for emergencies (such as missing assembly) only and that I will only be in Male’ from Saturday 15.00.

Safe passage and see you in a few days.

Matthias

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Update from our SCUBA diving volunteer opportunity & conservation holiday on the coral reefs of the Musandam peninsula, Oman (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/musandam)

We made Rita happy by collecting the same dataset for her again as last year (for comparative analysis). This was all done by yesterday morning, so we had a few lazy dives and enjoyed being just travellers visting Telegraph Island Bay with its towering limestone cliffs plunging straight into the water and fringed by equally impressive coral reefs. We also made a few crabs and fish happy by rescuing them from a ghost net.

Finally, we also made Reef Check happy. Dr. Gregor Hodgson, its Founder and Executive Director, sent through this message in reply to my earlier challenge of over 90% hard coral cover: “Congrats to all who passed their Reef Check training. There are now fewer and fewer places left in the world with such a high percentage of living coral cover. 90% used to be a much more normal condition. Have a wonderful time surveying those lovely reefs. I am jealous. Thanks to Rita for being a great teacher and to Biosphere Expeditions or organizing this expedition.” To this I can only add my thanks to you the crew of MS Sindbad, Rita, Heidi, Jennifer, Tina, Kathy, Alison, Michael, Andreas, Eric, Adam, Kelvin, Daryle and Nasr. You had a million options for your holiday and you chose to spend it helping us with this important research project. Thank you!

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As Rita explained during her results presentation (now also available via http://tinyurl.com/9ullz4e), the news is mixed with coral cover and other substrate indicators pointing towards a steady recovery of the reefs, but with our fish data also suggesting that overfishing is still an issue. Moving forward, for us this means more work with Nasr, Daryle and the Omani goverment on getting the area protected within the framework of an MPA (marine protected area), as well as continuing to collect data within the framework of our expeditions, keeping a guardian eye on the reefs and strengthening our fact-based firepower.

Safe travels home and I hope to see you again somewhere, some day on another expedition.

Best wishes

Matthias

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Update from our SCUBA diving volunteer opportunity & conservation holiday on the coral reefs of the Musandam peninsula, Oman (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/musandam)

Everyone passed their Reef Check tests and we have not looked back since. Checking those reefs already seems to be working like Swiss (or German?) clockwork, plus or minus a few air, weighting and underwater overtaking issues. We’ve had lots of HC, some SD, RB, RC and very few SC, OT and SP. Those in the know will know what I mean.

The weather is balmy, the landscape (above and below the waterline) stupendous, the water reminiscent of a bathtub and the company entertaining – especially if and when Kathy and Alison manage to take a breath when talking to each other. Rita seems to be happy, but tired, and making her happy (by feeding her lots of data) is what we are here for after all.

We will spend the next two days doing more of the same. Thank you everybody for contributing your time and money to researching these Musandam reefs in order to get them protected. I think we all agree that they really deserve it.

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Update from our SCUBA diving volunteer opportunity & conservation holiday on the coral reefs of the Musandam peninsula, Oman (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/musandam)

Day two of our coral reef research expedition and the team has left Dubai, crossed the border into Oman and installed itself on the liveaboard.

Research team
Research team

Rita, our scientist, is in full teaching swing, has us hanging off her every word and our heads reeling with groupers, snappers, banded-coral shrimp, bleaching averages, black- and white-band disease, and more! When you read this, most of us will be sweating it out in our first exam (on fish). Only those who pass are allowed to collect data. Luckily Rita is a very good teacher.

Rita in full teaching swing...
Rita in full teaching swing…
...with students hanging off her every word ;)
…with students hanging off her every word 😉

The diving has not been bad either. Coral Gardens is as beautiful as ever and with over 90% hard coral cover still more than deserves the name. Anyone here who knows a site anywhere in the world with higher hard coral coverage?

Coral gardens

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Update from our SCUBA diving volunteer opportunity & conservation holiday on the coral reefs of the Musandam peninsula, Oman (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/musandam)

Have you ever wondered what an expedition packed up looks like? Probably not. And yet the answer is below.

Musandam expedition boxed up and ready to go
Musandam expedition boxed up and ready to go

Adam (my sidekick) and I have arrived in Dubai and spent the morning going through the kit list and checking everything is there. It was, so our shopping list for this afternoon is simply a laminator, HP 121 printer cartridge, bungees, Nurofen, zinc oxide tape, nasal spray, antihistamine cream. Exciting – not!

Our scientist Rita has also just arrived at our hotel and as I type this, she is going through the emergency numbers and procedures with Adam, updating things as necessary. It’s all the usual pre-expedition fun and games.

The weather? Have a wild guess. Blue skies and temperatures of around 30 degrees Centigrade. Welcome to the Middle East.

See you tomorrow in the lobby at 09:00 and let’s go check those reefs!

Continue reading “Update from our SCUBA diving volunteer opportunity & conservation holiday on the coral reefs of the Musandam peninsula, Oman (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/musandam)”