Welcome to the Marine Mammal and wildlife Research and Community Development Expedition blog where you can keep up to date with all the happenings and information from Kenya

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Buckle up: the new marine research volunteers have arrived!

Our group of volunteers for Expedition 103 has finally arrived. After months of intense preparation, around 30 volunteers from the Americas, Europe and the Pacific joined the GVI staff in Shimoni. We were quite excited about the weeks to come, but unsure of what lay ahead.

Our group of volunteers is quite diverse. We have volunteers ranging from, give or take, 20 to 60 years old. Some came with a conservational or biological background and others are students or professionals in IT and financial services. We have got everything (and the staff and volunteers will know who we are talking about): the high-tech fully geared, the sarcastic Brit, the World Cup crazy and the loudest voice on Earth. Around half of our volunteers are scheduled to stay for just a few weeks, whereas the other half for longer-term periods ranging from 6 to 12 months.

-- Lots of new faces and friends to be made --

Most of us arrived in Mombasa a day before program start. General feelings of uncertainty filled the evening before program start at the Reef Hotel in Mombasa. The brief information provided by GVI about the Wildlife Conservation and Community Development program was attractive enough to get many volunteers signed up, but truth is: Were we going to support professional biologists in conducting their research or were we actually going to conduct our own research with the help of more experienced volunteers? How would our time be divided between marine research, forest research and community development? Were we going to sleep in tents or in dorms?

Upon our arrival in Shimoni, our group of volunteers was split in three: (i) marine research; (ii) forest research and; (iii) community development. We, Anisah (USA), Fernando (Brazil) and Jessica (Australia), were assigned to marine research. Our marine research group crossed the channel to the Mkwiro Base in the Wasini Island, where we will be staying for the next 1-2 weeks.

-- View of Wasini Island from the boat --

We were all pleasantly surprised with the living conditions at the Mkwiro Base. There is a nice big communal area, an organized kitchen, nice bunk beds and nice clean squat toilets. Although the supply of electricity and fresh water are limited, the Mkwiro Base has everything the staff and volunteers would need, as well as an incredible community spirit. The staff and volunteers at the Mkwiro Base live under a very functional community system, where everyone shares tasks, including cooking and washing. Furthermore, most of the practices at the Mkwiro Base are environmentally friendly, which means sink water is recycled in the toilets and so forth. It has been quite pleasant to live at the Mkwiro Base. And… as for the creepy crawlies, it’s not the big mosquitoes you have to worry about, it’s the tiny flies that attack your ears and elbows!

-- Life on base - the communal living area --
The first couple of days were designed to adapt volunteers to their new tasks and activities, including lectures on marine life. So far so good! We are enthusiastic to the point of “fighting” for tasks at the Mkwiro Base. We are also “dying” to spot bottlenose and humpback dolphins. In the next few weeks we will put our boat boots on and hop on Bardan (“the boat”) to explore the area. We are very excited and we are sure we will have an absolutely fantastic time performing marine research. Buckle up, because we will rock Mkwiro!