A moment of reflection
by Calvin Ho
I’ve been struggling to write about my experience on Apo island for quite some time now.
I could elaborate extensively about the responsibilities of a volunteer, and explain how the project has the potential to protect the sea turtles and the community they support. Or preach incessantly about how urgently the ocean needs protection.
Palawan – The paradise of the Philippines
I’m back. Once again I find myself back in this crazy and beautiful country of the Philippines. Where travelling from one place to another sometimes takes hours, if not days with a bus, jeepney, trike and two boats. Where finding a quick feed at the bus station means getting another bag of garlic peanuts (yum) and a bunch of bananas. It also means being back in the amazing crystal clear - blue waters where whale sharks, manta rays, turtles and eagle rays live.
Close encounters - out of the blue a shark I didn’t recognise appeared!
Before starting my volunteer placement with LAMAVE I knew I would be spending plenty of time in water with the largest fish in the ocean, Whale Sharks, little did I know the close encounter I was soon to experience.
It all started late in the day, we had almost finished our time in the water. When out of the blue a shark I didn’t recognise appeared. As the shark was unknown to me, my first reaction was to ensure I took a good set of ID photos. After that I needed to make note of the sharks gender, approximate size and behaviour. This is where it started to get strange. Whilst the sharks here are not completely shy, they usually don’t take a huge amount of notice of us, just swimming on by. This shark however was different.
Living and loving the simple life
I’ve learned to love this basic life we have on Apo Island. Waking up to dog barks and rooster calls at 6am and just sitting by the balcony enjoying the morning view with my cup of coffee and bread. Watching the team rushing to change into their research outfit and heading out for the first morning session at 7am. It’s always a joy to watch and identify the turtles in the water. Observing their cute actions and the interactions between them and occasionally getting annoyed at skittish turtles that just wouldn’t show us their left side.
Diving into science - Lene From Christensen
It’s close to 6 o’clock in the morning. The sun rose just as we left the diveshop. The captain shouts “50 meters”. I better get ready, weights, mask, fins, air is open, okay I am good to go. I look at my buddy “ok”. The captain shouts “10 meters”. I look at my buddy: “ready? 3-2-1 go!” Backroll into the fresh, chilled water. Orientate “ahh no current, it’s gonna be a good day”. Get the gear from the boat crew and descend. Immediately, my buddy and I spot the well-known and recognizable shape of the Remote Underwater Video (RUV) at the bottom, let’s get to work.
Another day on the island. 5:30 am and the sun is already peeping through the palms and colouring the sky with the softest tones. The water is looking serene and undisturbed, it is holding in its transparency all the secrets of the amazing reef we are lucky to call a survey area. We prepare and leave home walking among the same familiar smiles that give us their ‘maayong buntag’ (good morning) when we pass by.
Kalena Walker: A Biologist's Elegy
After three months flicking through slide after slide of the same three hundred or so whale sharks, you wonder about the delicate dictation of genes that shape the subtle nuances between phenotypes. Some of their patterns are remarkably similar, different in only the breadth of a stripe here or the completeness of a circle there. Others are perhaps distorted reflections of another. One has its own easily discerned pattern but on closer inspection: the same taper to a V above the pectoral fin, or a familiar swirl adjacent to the posterior-most operculum.
Mauro van Wanrooij: From the pitch to the ocean
At the age of 18, I was attending my final year of pre-university education at my local school in the Netherlands. I was studying really, really hard (:p) and I was playing soccer at a pretty high level, something I loved to do. During my school time, I met some of my best friends. Since they played soccer as well, but at a rival club in the same town I am from, we came up with the idea to play together. That was the moment I made a transfer to the club my friends were playing at. After several test games with the A-team, I made it through the selection. But then in the early season the worst thing I could imagine happened - I tore off possibly all the ligaments in my right-knee and at the same time, I had to do my finals.
SASKIA SCHMOLE: OCEAN LOVE
When you are a volunteer with LAMAVE, you spent a lot of time in the ocean. I choose to spend most of my free time with things that have to do with the ocean as well. During my in-water sessions, I could not help but pay attention to everything that swims and moves under water.
Connie Flora Champman: Missing; the world’s biggest fish
Today’s forecast; clear, sunny skies and a top temperature of 32°C – another glorious day. Whizzing down the coastal road, the breeze providing relief from the already sweltering morning sun, the smell of sea salt wafts through the jeepney. The excitement of soon submerging into the world below the surface builds. Once off the jeepney, each step brings you closer to cooling off with the giants of the deep, in today’s crystal clear blue sea.
MEET THE LAMAVE SCHOLARS - INTRODUCING BRYAN MADERA
Meet our scholars! Each LAMAVE research project has at least one Filipino Scholar who is sponsored to join our team. These are our amazing LAMAVE Scholars! Next up is Bryan Madera who recently joined our whale shark research team in Northern Mindanao. Here’s what the inspiring conservationist had to share with us…
MEET THE LAMAVE SCHOLARS - CHRISTINE (TIN) MAE V. ALAGON
Meet our scholars! Each LAMAVE research project has at least one Filipino Scholar who is sponsored to join our team. These are our amazing LAMAVE Scholars! Our latest scholar post is from Christine "Tin" Mae V. Alagon who was part of our whale shark research team in Northern Mindanao earlier this year. Here’s what the Filipina conservationist had to share with us…
MEET THE LAMAVE SCHOLARS - JESAH BALDESANSO
Meet our scholars! Each LAMAVE research project has at least one Filipino Scholar who is sponsored to join our team. These are our amazing LAMAVE Scholars! Our latest scholar is Jesah Baldesanso who was part of our whale shark research team in Northern Mindanao earlier this year. Here’s what the Filipina conservationist had to share with us…
MEET THE LAMAVE SCHOLARS - KATHY MAUYAO
Meet our scholars! Each LAMAVE research project has at least one Filipino Scholar who is sponsored to join our team. These are our amazing LAMAVE Scholars! First up is Kathy Mauyao who is currently working with our whale shark research team in Southern Leyte. Here’s what the Filipina conservationist had to share with us…
Nick Gray: AS A VOLUNTEER THERE IS MUCH WORK TO BE DONE, BUT THERE IS ALSO TIME TO SLACK.
Living “on project”, a day in the life of a LAMAVE volunteer is usually quite busy as there is always work to be done of some sort. Sometimes it’s easy to focus solely on the task at hand and not get out to enjoy what the rest of the island of Cebu has to offer. I find it’s extremely important to unwind and balance the work life with some personal time.
MEET THE LAMAVE SCHOLARS - TG BONJUANA CAÑAL
Meet our scholars! Each LAMAVE research project has at least one Filipino Scholar who is sponsored to join our team. These are our amazing LAMAVE Scholars! Our latest scholar is TG Bonjuana Cañal who has just finished her placement with our whale shark research team in Northern Mindanao. Here’s what the Filipina conservationist had to share with us…
Nicky Allan: TURTLE LADY
Although the BRUVS project is centered around elasmobranch research, we were all given side projects to work on individually. I was lucky enough to become the ‘Turtle Lady’, tasked with creating an ID catalogue of all the turtles around Apo Reef island and Pandan island, close to Sablayan. Pandan island is home to a well-known resort as well as many enormous resident green turtles. It has been the site of many relaxing days off from the project – a place to snorkel, dive, play pool and eat bruschetta. On each visit you can find yourself snorkeling with as many as 5 turtles at once, as well as multiple Blue Spotted stingrays and Blue Spotted Ribbontail rays. From 5 visits to Pandan, I have managed to identify 20 individual green turtles, and one hawksbill turtle.
MEET THE LAMAVE SCHOLARS - INTRODUCING JALICA DEALCA
Meet our scholars! Each LAMAVE research project has at least one Filipino Scholar who is sponsored to join our team. These are our amazing LAMAVE Scholars! This time we hear from Jalica Dealca who is currently working with our whale shark research team in Donsol. Here’s what the Filipina conservationist had to share with us…
Lou Huskin: LIVING IN A LAND OF COCONUTS, RAINBOWS AND UNICORN GLITTER
WANTED: Volunteers to live and work in the Philippines, studying sharks on a remote tropical island and generally living in a land of coconuts, rainbows, and unicorn glitter
Erm… where do I sign?
Mariana Hill: SMILE!
Walking in the street by my home in Mexico I can be as lonely as in a misty forest. Things are different here in the Philippines; everyone says ‘hello’ or calls my name. When I first arrived in Donsol local people commented that I never smiled, that I was lulong (crazy). But I am shy! It’s not so easy for me to talk with people. However, I’ve never seen a group of guys trying so hard to make you feel happy. In Donsol people joke all the time and laughing is the rule. After I understood that there was no reason to be afraid, I found a place where every day is exciting, where I enjoy every day as if it was the last one.