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.
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.