First blog post so here’s a little about me. My interest in marine biology and conservation started when I was eight years old and I’ve recently finished my degree in Marine Vertebrate Zoology. I’ve done quite a bit of ex-situ conservation work in zoos and aquariums but wanted to gain more experience of in the field (well, in the sea!) marine conservation. I had been following Sam’s blog (madasamarinebiologist) on Tumblr for a couple of years and often posted about Zoox. The ZEP seemed like the perfect opportunity to gain some valuable skills, knowledge and experience which are vital for a job in this field. So here I am!
It’s been an eventful two weeks here in the Philippines! Wow, has it really been two weeks? I happened to be sat only one seat away from Alan (one of the Zoox Programmes Officers) on both flights which helped to ease my nerves a bit. However when we arrived in Manila we discovered that our bags were still in Abu Dhabi! (Tip for future ZEPers – pack a toothbrush, hairbrush, change of clothes etc in your carry on bag just in case!) Nevertheless we pressed on and caught the bus to Batangas pier and I got my first glimpses of this beautiful country. People came onto the bus selling everything from water to pie, dried mango and eggs which was a new experience for me. We met Sam (the other Programmes Officer) and got a tricycle, which I imagined would be like a rickshaw but it’s actually a motorbike and sidecar! I can’t help but think of Wallace and Gromit every time I’m on one! The next day I met the other ZEPers Ans and Tash who are lovely. Our house is really nice (see photo), has a great view of the jungle covered mountains and is close to Zoox HQ, the beach and shops.
So far we have had lots of classroom days to give us the relevant background knowledge and the bigger picture context of our work. The lectures have been really interesting and useful, especially pointing out the job opportunities available. We also practiced our reef and seagrass surveying techniques, met the Bantay Dagat (sea wardens) and got our bearings around Puerto Galera. All the locals are so friendly and always say hello to you and point you in the right direction if you get lost! It’s such a contrast to the UK where everyone avoids eye contact with strangers. Plus being called ma’am all the time takes a while to get used to! We’ve also had the chance to go diving. I’d forgotten how magical diving can be when you’re warm (unlike the UK) and there’s so much marine life to see. There were giant sponges, huge coral and starfish bigger than a dinner plate and loads of colourful fish. And that wasn’t even the main reef!
Aninuan beach is basically paradise!
Last Sunday we walked to Aninuan waterfalls. Four little Filipino boys offered to show us the way – they were very sweet, holding our hands and singing. There’s a big pool below the falls which Ans, Tash and the boys went swimming in. We bought a fresh coconut there, I’ve never tried one before but the milk is very refreshing.
I’m really looking forward to starting the Green Fins and personal project work next week. More updates soon!