Hayley is undertaking the four week combination expedition and has so far spent two weeks on the marine project. She also spent four weeks at the GVI Limpopo project in South Africa. Hayley comes from Oregon, USA and enjoys cooking up a feast for the other volunteers.
We arrived at the Mkwiro base last Saturday. When I first saw base I couldn't believe that this is where I would be staying for the next few weeks of my life. I wasn't sure about not having running water at first, but it was easy to get used to. Although I did accidently use salt water to brush my teeth the first night, that is a mistake I will only make once. Not having a refrigerator is not that bad either as we don’t have meat that often we get fresh veg and fruit all the time.
After getting settled the sun started to set. The base is right on the edge of the island so we have a beautiful view of the sun as it sets over the ocean. There are lovely hammocks to sit in whilst you take in the sunset as well. I don’t think I will get used to seeing the view every day. It definitely something you shouldn't take for granted.
On Monday we had our first day out on the boat doing marine research. It is the time of year when the tides bring in jellyfish so it did take us a couple of tries before we could find a transect to do a swim test. A staff member always jumps in before volunteers to make sure there are no jellyfish in the water which is really wonderful, well for the volunteers at least. The swim test wasn't too bad, just 200m without a snorkel or fins. Snorkeling is really quite fun here because the Indian Ocean is so warm, it is basically like taking a bath every single day.
We kept searching for dolphins and we finally found a pod of Indo-pacific bottlenose dolphins. It was my first time seeing dolphins in the wild and I was very excited. The pod had about 12 individuals in it. Counting dolphins can be quite tricky at first but after a while you can get the hang of it. My favorite part about the pod was that it had a new born which was adorable. It just was so tiny. Other than noticing how cute the squishy baby dolphin was, we had to take data on the sighting. We always take a GPS location of where we first see the pod, record their behavior throughout the sighting, count the individuals and note their reaction to our presence. Lastly we take data on the tourist dhows, basically recording whether or not they are following KWS guidelines. The staff members take photos of the dorsal fins of the dolphins so that we can use them for identification later.
After the sighting was over Faridhi, our boat captain took us back to base. He is really great, he normally spots most things like turtles and dolphins before the rest of us. Once back at base we unpacked everything. After each day on the boat we also have to input all the data for the day. This typically takes us into the afternoon, but we still have time for some of the activities on the island, like cooking classes or jewelry workshops from the locals of Mkwiro.
As the sun sets here I can’t imagine wanting to be anywhere else on the planet.
Hayley Serres – Combination volunteer