Guest Blog - Sarah Webb, Charles Sturt University
The nights consisted of long walks on the beach – although on these walks we would stumble upon turtle tracks – these would lead to where the female turtle (green or hawksbill) would be creating a nest to lay her eggs in. Trekking through the island mainlands differed on each island some required us to dodge hanging vines, or follow the path through shrubs and bushes, avoiding tripping on falling branches and leaves and spikey seeds that would try to indent into your feet. The sand on the islands ranged from soft and loamy to granular, which would require more effort to walk through. By the end of the trip we were all very fit from all of the walking!
I have written a couple of things about each of the islands we visited here:
Panasesa: the mother island, home to our bungalows and abundant hermit crabs with a 4 o’clock dolphin pod gallivanting just out the front of its reef each day!
Baeden: flying beetles
Kolavia: eroded and small
Panarakum: mosquitoes and chasing crabs
Nothing could ever come close to the night sky. The stars and moon filled the sky each night, I counted at least eight shooting stars on my first night patrol. The moonlight reflection on the water was magical.
Each of the islands had their own quirks, fireflies and families of crabs scurried on muniara island – my favourite island – every island was surrounded by fluorescent water, the bioluminescence flickered and shimmered in the water reacting to our dinghy when it cut through the ocean on our way to the islands.
The scuba diving was a not literal but unbelievably breathtaking experience. The marine life was sublime and the water was clear. I learnt how to dive on this trip, it was magical and calming.
In the deep dive I did for my advanced course, I swam down next to the reef edge drop off point – the deep blue on my right, and the wall of coral and fish on my left.
On the night dive we adventured down amongst the reef, finding an obscure sea cucumber and a cement block that had been dropped from a ship wreck. On the ascend, we all turned our torches off, and began floating up to the surface surrounded by floating blue bioluminescence fragments, and this was the most beautiful and precious part of the entire trip for me. Scuba diving for me was like uncovering a new hidden world! I loved the feeling of being almost weightless and the floating feeling was like flying.
Handling the delicate young turtles was a spectacular, each had their own defining features, some were more energetic than others. We took their measurements each day to keep track of their growth and development before they are to be released, this was my favourite job on the trip.
Overall the conflict islands were an enchanting place that left me bewildered and in awe of those who were lucky enough to discover them.
My experience scuba diving for the first time was excellent. I leant with Hayley the basics, first we got used to just breathing underwater in a shallow part of the beach, it was very surreal at first. We then learnt to take our mask off under water and then swim without one on, this was a real struggle for me as I am naturally a nose breather, and losing vision underwater was difficult to overcome, but Hayley and Dave had lots of patience and were able to instruct me well by teaching me their coping techniques. After learning the basics, we went to a deeper dive site, where we went 15 meters under the water and sat on the sea floor, this was an incredible experience, as I hadn’t ever in my life sat 15 meters underwater perfectly calmly enjoying the coral reef around me before! We redid our basic skills and went through some emergency procedures such as using your buddy’s oxygen supply and our underwater signals, as well as repeating the removal of the mask underwater and the correct technique to retrieve our regulator whilst slowly blowing bubbles out of our mouth, as we are never allowed to hold our breath under water.
We also learnt the importance of equalising in descent and ascent.
I loved scuba diving so much that I completed my advance diver certification with the team too! I did my theory in my free time and practical components included a night dive, deep water dive, a fish identification and marine life component which helped me to spot familiar species and write down unfamiliar ones underwater to look up later!
In conclusion of the trip, I am an advanced underwater open diver, which I was able to do in under two weeks, which is amazing considering I hadn’t ever been scuba diving before the trip!
Thank you all for the incredibly memorable experience both underwater and on land!