So… I am feeling like I have been away from home for forever and haven’t even really given one full update yet, so here goes!
Things have been pretty non-stop here since we arrived. We got to our hotel at approximately 6:00pm on April 26th, and unpacked our bags, and ate dinner. After dinner we had a safety lecture regarding the dangers involved with snorkeling and some of the creatures we may encounter which may do us harm.
After that we were all pretty quick to get into bed and get a good long sleep, as we have been in airports since 7:00 that morning.
The next morning was an early one, and we were up and eating breakfast by 7:00am. At 8:00am the group met in the “lab” building and suited up for our first snorkeling experience! Dressed to the nines in our wetsuits and toting with us our flippers, masks and snorkels, we walked to a nearby beach area, (Stafford Creek Beach) and began our adventuring! The beach was quaint and small, and had it not been for the occasionally anchored sailboat, you would have thought you were marooned on a deserted island somewhere!
We snorkeled around the area, getting to know the common fish, algae and plant species, and recording those we couldn’t identify. We spent all morning in the water and at around 11:30 we made our way back to the hotel for lunch.
After lunch we again donned our [very attractive] wetsuits and made our way just past the beach we visited in the morning and down to a small “resort” of sorts. Here we got on a boat and took a trip out to a blue hole.
Blue hole are essentially large depressions or drop offs which are circular in shape and can be seen aerial, since they appear as a large dark blue circle in the middle of the turquoise sea. These areas were FILLED. With fish of all types, shapes, sizes and colours. It was pretty amazing to be able to see them relatively up close!
After we did some exploring of the area, we completed some monitoring in the form of quadrat sampling and line transects (all of which is much more difficult to complete underwater in the middle of the ocean!). We snorkeled around there for approximately three hours and by 4:30 we were making our way back to the beach by boat. During our data collection we collected samples of algae and vegetation which we could not identify so that we could look at them more closely when we got back to the lab.
Dinner was at 6:00 pm, then we had our usual lecture after dinner from 7:00pm until 9:30pm.
After a full day of sun and activity, we were all pretty tired and simply headed to bed in preparation for another full, busy and tiring day.
April 28th 2013
This schedule for the morning today was the same as any other day, breakfast at 7:00 am and then meeting to leave for our daily excursion at 8:00 am. Today we went and explored around inside of a mangrove mangle and got pretty muddy in the process. In the mangle we completed line transect and my group even got to see a shark!! Up close and personal, swam right into our legs! That was pretty amazing.
After we were finished taking our measurements from the mangroves mangle, we made out way back to the hotel for some lunch.
After lunch we got suited up in our wet suits and headed upstream. Once upstream we swam along the shore and collected data and observations on fish animal and plant species seen within varying shoreline compositions.
Day 3 on the Island- April 29th 2013
Today was a full day excursion day, and it was amazing! We left the hotel at around 8:30am and took a boat out into the middle of the ocean and got to swim around some patch reefs. (these are essentially just patches of reef and not a full reef). Here in among the patch reefs we saw tons of fish and tons of coral. Among some of the fish we saw here we saw; Scrawled Cowfish, Angelfish, Sergeant Major fish, Damselfish, Parrot fish and even a ray! (I have/will be including pictures)
We snorkeled around the patch reefs until about 11:30am and then headed back to the boat. We then took the boat over to a totally deserted, abandoned island and had a packed sandwich and chip lunch.
We spent another 40 minutes hanging out on the island, exploring and collecting shells (I found a big conch shell!).
After our lunch break was over we climbed back into the boat and headed for a place called “Rat Key”. Here we got to explore around another Blue hole. While we were there among the highlights of the species seen was a GIANT southern stingray! It was easily 3 feet in diameter. It was hiding half buried in the sand at the bottom of the blue hole, until it got spooked and, almost majestically, floated up out of the sand and swam away. At the blue hole we also got to get up close and personal with some very interesting brain coral, sea rods and anemones. We also got to see Blue Tang fish, Gray Angelfish, French Angelfish, Yellowtail Snappers, Gray Snappers, Stoplight Parrotfish, Starfish, and plenty of rock boring urchins!