The trip from Beau Vallon to the GVI camp was both nerve-wracking and breathtaking at once (a combination that occurs frequently throughout my first few days here. How we managed to get the van up over the hills was a mystery, every metre of the incline seemed less and less possible. Every hundred metres we were rewarded with a stunning view of the towns, beaches and ocean below. Upon arrival to the camp the reality of it all finally hit home, no internet, no phone, isolated in our own little world, jungle on three sides, ocean on the other. Not 60 seconds into out arrival and we were lugging all our kit into our home for the next 8 weeks. Dormitories consisted of nothing more than a set of beds and a bedside table next to each. Everyone occupied a bed and each eager set up their home for the next 8 weeks.
Rarely do we have an opportunity to ourselves, life on camp consists of duties and responsibilities to keep the camp operational and everyone helps with all aspects of the camp. It feels like we are an isolated community, the world beyond the boundary of camp rarely comes to thought. Not having the connection to the outside does make tasks that would be simple into more challenging ordeals, which I enjoy and this style of living is one I have gotten used to surprisingly quickly. Getting us new recruits up to speed on duties and life in camp involves a constant drilling of information into our heads. Significant portions of this information are passed on by the volunteers who have been here a while.
At the beginning there was a barrier between us “newbies” and the “veterans” relaying us all this information. Relatively quickly the boundary dissolved and after two days you could not tell who has been here 3 years, 3 weeks or 3 days. Except that we newbies still have a lot to learn. Rarely do I find myself alone, there is always someone around with something they need help with, offering you help or there to ponder the mysteries of life and the universe. Everyone assures me I will get more free time once this first week of sponging information is concluded. Being able to explore a little on my own is something I am looking forward to. Everything up to now may sound severe and like serious work but I am enjoying it.
Lectures break up the work duties and dives. Learning and understanding all the fish behaviours and their markings seems less labourious than expected. I finally start my fish survey dives after two days of lectures. Going into the water for my first fish spot dive is something I cannot wait for, finally freed from the clutches of our instructors. We (the “newbies”) can’t wait to be drafted into the survey team and let loose on the reef to do our surveys. Every dive so far has been great, with good conditions and visibility. Relative to the water temps I am used to back home in the UK (until now the range of temperatures I have dived is a slightly brisk 5-12⁰C) the water is a sauna, wetsuits are now optional. Reefs here are full of life relative to back home I am hoping for whale sharks as we are approaching peak season.
I am always finding new things like an old guitar I hope to nurse back to health. Every tour / discussion brings something new. A chance meeting with local farmer Philippe is one of the more notable events. The way he understands the island and its resources is something I admire. During our fruit and machete tour he expertly husked and opened a coconut. A display which put our attempts to shame. While I have only covered a small fraction of life here I hope it has been enough. Now I must go and enjoy my free time before my next dive.