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.
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 - 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.
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.
Jenny Hardy: DUCK-DIVING WITH GIANTS
It’s an overcast and breezy, yet warm, morning. I’m standing on the sea’s edge, looking out across the water imagining and anticipating what’s to come - I’ll be swimming with whale sharks for the first time today. This amazing revelation doesn’t quite hit through – my alarm woke me at 6:30 in the morning, after which I staggered around the house looking for breakfast before being gently herded into town, bundled onto a jeepney (public bus) and deposited on site, all in a state far from wakefulness.
FABIEN VIVIER, GIVES YOU THE BREAK DOWN ON LAMAVES WHALE SHARK PROJECT IN SOUTHERN LEYTE.
Ever wondered what the daily life of a researcher/volunteer is? Let me briefly explain to you how our days are conducted.
Henry Appelton: MOVIE NIGHT!
Who does not enjoy a good nature documentary? Nobody! At least this is the case on Saturday nights at the project site of LAMAVE’s Bohol fisheries project. Every Saturday we erect our home-made screen and set up a projector to show a documentary to the local community and thank them for their kind assistance in our fieldwork. Documentary themes range from coral reefs and open oceans to forests or the Poles. We hope to inspire an appreciation of the environment and it’s an opportunity to broaden horizons by seeing far off locations and amazing species, providing an escape from typical daily life in a small fishing village.
Nathat Ledger: TOP GEAR CROSSED WITH SCIENCE AND NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
I joined the LAMAVE BRUV Project sometime near the end of March after a friend (out here on the Otter Project) messaged me on Facebook telling me of a last minute space on the project if I was interested, it took all of 2 seconds to make up my mind so I quit my job and in 2 weeks just about managed to get myself ready for the biggest and most spontaneous trip of my life so far.