Guess the marine creature of the week!
23rd May 2013
Reef Rangers at Napantao
CCC volunteer, Emma Edwards, tells us about the recent Reef Rangers programme at our Philippines site.
"The schools of Southern Leyte are currently on summer vacation and for the past two days we’ve been joined on site by twelve students and one teacher from Santa Paz National High School, who came to learn about the reef. The kids arrived by boat while we were on our morning dive and started classes with Ma’am Hazel (as our Education Officer is known), who taught them about the reef ecosystem and coral lifeforms. When we got back from diving, us volunteers took the Reef Rangers out snorkelling in pairs. After a lot of nervous giggling when I explained that its best to spit in your mask to stop it fogging up, and some trouble with waterlogged snorkels, we saw two cuttlefish, one laying eggs, got followed by a big school of tiny damsel fish, chose our favourite coral (Pocillopora obviously) and spotted a sea snake coming up for air; a pretty eventful first ever snorkel for my two girls!
After a delicious lunch together squeezed around our extended table, we were subject to some rather personal interviews from the Reef Rangers (probably designed by Hazel to find out the latest gossip) and some more snorkelling to give the kids a chance to spot more things they’d learned about in the classroom. Thursday was fish day with more classes, snorkelling to identify fish families and find their favourite fish and Ma’am Hazel’s famous Coral Reef board game to teach the Reef Rangers about marine protection. To round off a great two days the Reef Rangers presented the posters they’d made in the afternoon to all the volunteers. As well as some very impressive drawings of coral and fish, and some creative pull out information pockets, it was actually pretty amazing to hear how much they’d learnt about the reef and had a genuine appreciation of its value and the importance of protecting it, plus they’ve promised to spread the word to all their friends; good job Reef Rangers!"
17 May 2013
Creature of the week!
The team at CCC are getting excited about the launch of the Montserrat expedition, so in honour of the terrestrial project who can guess this weeks creature?
10 May 2013
Creature of the week!
Who knows what this weeks Marine Creature is?
8th May 2013
Community fun in Cambodia!
CCC volunteers Ida Hendricks and Emma Camm tell us about the latest community engagement work in our local village of Prek Svey in Cambodia…
“Last week we gathered together some of the kids from the local community during school holidays to trial some marine themed educational games and find out how much about the marine world they know. Turns out they know a lot! We showed them flashcards with different marine creatures on and they called out names for each then had to put them into categories such as fish, invertebrates, corals, or seagrasses. We held a couple of competitions based on “Who Am I?”, where one of the boys had five questions to guess which marine creature the other children had chosen for him. Then the kids taught us some local games involving a lot of running around and tagging, pretty exhausting but great fun! All in all a really awesome afternoon!”
3rd May 2013
Creature of the week!
This week's creature has been chosen in honour of our Head of Operations. Does anyone know its scientific name...?
29th April 2013
Reef Rangers in Action!
It’s the summer holidays in the Philippines and this brings a great opportunity to get the local kids involved in some fun (yet educational!) activities. Earlier in the year, our Education Officer taught at Marayag High School, near to our base in Napantao. The students were so enthusiastic about the marine environment that we invited 12 of their 4th year students to become Reef Rangers and attend a two-day training workshop at our base.
Reef Rangers learn all about the marine environment and why it is so important, as well as gaining some basic skills which enable them to look after their local marine resources. The Reef Rangers from Marayag arrived at our base ready to get stuck in! They attended workshops where they learned about marine ecology; they went on three different snorkelling sessions to see what the reef is really like and learn to identify the creatures found there; and they interviewed CCC’s international volunteers to find out where they were from, what they have studied and, of course, their favourite things about the Philippines. The two days culminated in the Reef Rangers showing off their fantastic posters about coral reefs and how we can help protect them to CCC’s staff and volunteers. It was really great to have them around and they all agreed “it’s more fun in Napantao”!
26th April 2013
Creature of the week!
Got any ideas about this week's creature...?
25th April 2013
Working towards effective marine protected area management in Cambodia
This month CCC’s Project Coordinator and Project Manager, Sok Sopheary and Sophie Clay, were in Phnom Penh for meetings with our project partners, the Fisheries Administration of the Government of Cambodia and Fauna and Flora International. The aim of these meetings was to complete an internal management effectiveness scorecard known as the Management Effectiveness Tracking Tool (METT). This tool allows managers of protected areas to assess their progress towards meeting objectives and outcomes to enable a more proactive and adaptive approach to management. The meetings were very successful, with a scorecard completed to reflect the current stage of implementation of the Marine Fisheries Management Area (MFMA, the local name for a Marine Protected Area) around Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem islands, which CCC is working with our partners to help to establish. An aspirational scorecard was also created to reflect where we would like to be in 2015. With such a proactive approach to ensuring sound management of the MFMA it is likely to be a great success once implemented later this year!
23rd April 2013
Education Update from the Philippines
Hazel Murray, CCC’s Education Officer in the Philippines, tells us about what she’s been up to recently…
“For the past few weeks I have been joining the team on the boat to Limasawa Island. It takes about an hour to get there from base so it’s usually an early start. The boat drops me off on the beach and heads out to the Marine Protected Area to deploy our survey teams. I have been working my way round to the different barangays (villages) and running open days for the communities. These consist of an interactive lecture, which gives information about coral reefs as well as the work CCC do. This is followed by some underwater footage of the reefs in the area, which the kids really love. Then I usually run some more activities like pin the eye on the fish, or draw your favourite reef creature. After that, if they have an appropriate place, the older kids help me with a reef mural. In a couple of barangays we have given old CCC murals from previous years a facelift, which has been really cool; it’s nice to feel part of a continuous presence CCC have here. Overall it’s been a fantastic couple of weeks; I’ve had such a warm welcome and it’s great to have education events in the same location as the surveying.”
19th April 2013
Creature of the week!
Can you identify this week's creature? It's a tricky one!
18th April 2013
A day with the whale sharks in the Philippines!
It was an early start, but nobody complained about the 05:00 breakfast call. The boat was loaded as the sun was rising over the bay, and we were on our way to Sonok to pick up our “spotters”. Sonok is a sleepy fishing village at the southern end of Sogod Bay, but due to regular visits from the world’s largest fish, many local fishermen have taken on the extra role of whale shark spotters. The barangay captain (village head) came onto the boat to greet us, and let us know how happy he is that Coral Cay are helping in the Philippines. He wished us well, and we were joined for the day by his son who gave us a thorough briefing on how to behave with the whale sharks.
The spotters, each in a one-man batangas cannoe and armed only with a face mask, were linked up to the back of our trusty dive boat Banakun and we towed them to the area where the whale sharks are often sighted. There followed a sleepy three hours aboard Banakun, while the spotters rowed almost constantly around, periodically dipping their heads below the surface in search of the elusive “Tiki Tiki”.
Just as we were being lulled to sleep by the gentle rocking of the boat in the morning sun, our boat crew Ricky and Bok suddenly burst into action, steering Banakun in the direction of one of the waving spotters. In seconds, everyone had on fins, masks and snorkels and were in position at the sides of the boat. At captain Bok’s signal, all carefully slipped in alongside the enormous dark shape beneath the surface - our first Tiki Tiki. The sight was outstanding: magnificent colour and markings and the awesome power of a 2 metre tall tail as we struggled to keep up swimming beside it. We were very lucky to experience five minutes alongside the biggest fish in the world, before a single flick of the tail took it down into the depths and out of sight.
Back on the boat, elated by this once in a lifetime experience, the conversation was non-stop. Just as things started to settle, we were informed that there was another whale shark very close by. Again we put on our equipment, got ready, and in we were. We thought the first one was big but this one was even bigger - a good 9 metres, and this time much shallower. A few of us free-dived down alongside it, and in total we spent around 10 minutes with it and taking fantastic photos and videos which we all watched together upon return to the site.
12th April 2013
Creature of the week!
Do you know what's going on here...?
9th April 2013
A day in the life of a CCC Science Officer
Bobby MacFarlane is currently working on CCC's project in the Philippines, here's what he's up to:
A typical day starts with an early rise and shine around 6.30 am. At 7am on the dot the air is full of the sounds of music ringing through the building to signify breakfast is ready. The choice of song varies depending who was on cooking duty, but Bob Marley tends to be a favourite followed by Creedence Clearwater Revival (and once even Gangsta’s Paradise by Coolio was the chosen alarm clock). Breakfast consists of porridge, livened up by cinnamon, sugar and raisins, with some eggs and toast on the side. When everyone has finished eating, it is time for morning announcements. As the Science Officer it is my job to explain the dive plan for the day, including dive times, buddy teams, profiles and the purpose of each dive. During the Skills Development Programme there will also be lectures and tests scheduled so I will discuss the allotted times for these. After announcements it is time for chores. These work on a rota, decided by the Field Base Manager on Sunday evening before the week starts. Most of the chores involve sweeping and then mopping part of the building in a team of two and will usually last between 10 and 20 minutes.
Post-chores, everyone sets up their dive gear for the first dive of the day. The briefing is given at 08.15, when all buddy teams are kitted up and ready to get in the water. Dives will mostly last for 45 minutes, and will involve pointies, validations, practice surveys, actual surveys and a number of other constructive in water activities (there is one day a week devoted to recreational diving). If numbers require 2 waves, the second group of divers will enter the water around 09.30. The reef out front is one of the best in the world; I myself have dived in 6 other countries including on the barrier reef and in the red sea and I’ve never seen biodiversity like we get here in the Napantao MPA.
Lunch is at midday, were we get treated to mounds of rice, often with plenty of noodles and heaps of stir-fried vegetables. As you would expect, the food requires some ‘digestion time’, but not too long as the afternoon’s diving commences at 13.15. This leaves most of the afternoon for lectures, tests, snorkelling and whatever else needs to be completed. If nothing is scheduled and the weather is nice, it is nice to have a bit of down time, sun bathing on the sea wall.
There is sometimes time for a cheeky game of volleyball in the afternoon that finishes when the sun starts to go down. There is just enough time to check the picturesque sunset before dinner at 18:00. The menu will typically consist of fried chicken, curries or a classic Philippine dish called Adobo (a curry/stew made with soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and lots of ginger and garlic) which is a particular favourite amongst the team. After dinner is time for more lectures and tests or a movie. I happen to think a couple of beers go down a treat in front of a proper old school classic film. Most people are usually in bed by 10pm having been active for most of the day. It’s an early start tomorrow after all...
5th April 2013
Creature of the week!
Do you know what it is this week?
4th April 2013
Being a scholar with CCC: A Filipino Perspective
“Our responsibility begins with the power to imagine. Just like Yeats said: In dreams begin responsibilities.” –Haruki Murakami (Kafka on the Shore)
One of my university professors once said that the recipe for happiness and success is to find the intersection of what you want to do, where you are needed and what your skills are. Since graduating from university, I have tried to work towards finding the balance between these three things. I have always dreamt of working for the environment and this motivation has somehow pushed me to finding a career in the environment sector. I knew that marine conservation was needed and it was something I wanted to venture into, but I also knew that I wasn’t equipped with the necessary skills to contribute to this cause. After spending four weeks in Napantao with Coral Cay Conservation, however, I think that I have somehow gone a step closer to realising this dream of becoming a soldier for the environment.
I had qualms prior to going onsite because I would be away from home and work for a month, and having grown up in Manila, staying in a remote area where I couldn’t speak the dialect would be quite a challenge. But the experience proved to be very worthwhile. I found a new family onsite that was made up of passionate volunteers, inspiring expedition staff and helpful locals. I became busy with studying various species of corals, fish and invertebrates and I managed to increase my Visayan vocabulary. I become more proud of being a Filipino after hearing stories from other volunteers about how beautiful the country is and how they would love to stay. And most of all, I was able to contribute to the community through the marine surveys and Open Day that we organised for Sta. Paz.
It was quite easy to get into the routine things we did and when my four weeks expired, I felt sad to leave the Coral Cay Base. For one, the experience made me appreciate diving more. I used to just go diving and identify that something is a fish, a coral and carry on. But after the Skills Development Program, I found myself having a somewhat deeper understanding of the reef because I knew most species by their scientific name, as well as implications of the presence of these marine creatures. Secondly, the experience of interacting with young children from Sta. Paz during our open day gave me a sense of fulfilment as I was able to contribute to spreading the importance of taking care of our reefs. For a country like the Philippines, alleviating poverty comes first and protecting the environment doesn’t seem to be a priority. I am hoping that what we have done will cause a “ripple effect” that will influence the community to care for their Marine Protected Area. Lastly, staying in Napantao made me fall in love with the place. Both the House Reef and the sunset over Sogod Bay have charmed me. They are reminders of our responsibility to be stewards of the earth.
I see my experience as a Coral Cay Conservation Scholar as an opportunity for me to develop my skills and at the same time, contribute to nation building by providing the necessary science to help decision-making and empowering communities by starting with awareness and appreciation of the environment.
Jem Baldisimo, CCC Local Scholar, March 2013
2nd April 2013
Four months in the life of a CCC Science Officer...
This time last year I was working in North-East Scotland teaching students about biology and the art of playing Netball. Twelve months later I have just returned from the Philippines having taught volunteers from all over the world about the underwater world and marine creatures of Sogod Bay.
My journey to Napantao started seven years ago as a gap year student searching for something worthwhile to do with all the money earned sitting at an office desk for six months.I ended up volunteering on a coral reef conservation project in a remote part of South West Madagascar; my first experience of scuba diving and the underwater world. One degree and two years working in a boarding school later and I was off to the Philippines to take on the Science Officer job at Coral Cay’s Filipino site in the tiny village of Napantao.
In my first few weeks on site I learned more than I had in four years of university; the science programme (SDP) provides you with a wealth of knowledge about the coral reefs of Sogod Bay and around the world. Diving gets progressively more exciting as you put more names to some of the beautiful reef creatures, and the enthusiasm of everyone on site is infectious; each person determined to identify all those mystery fish they haven’t quite been able to learn yet. Once everyone on site has completed SDP the surveying can commence. In my first few weeks overseeing the surveying on site we completed the house reef transects that have been constantly monitored for the last six years. Suddenly a month had flown by and it was my turn to teach SDP for the first time!
What followed were some of the best few months of my life; working alongside wonderful people (staff and volunteers alike) to contribute to the outstanding efforts being made to protect the reefs and support local communities in their bid to manage and conserve their coral reef resources. Staying onsite for an extended period of time meant I had the chance to see the bigger picture of CCC’s work. After a month of surveying the beautiful Marine Protected Area (MPA) at Punta we escaped the Napantao bubble to meet some of the local community at the official opening of the Punta MPA. To hear the local Barangay captain speak so highly of the work CCC had done in the area made me incredibly proud to be involved in such a positive project.
Life in Napantao passes by way too quickly, you meet incredible people, are lucky enough to dive on some of the best reefs in the world and, with any luck, score a “superstar” 90 at the local
karaoke bar on a Saturday night. The Filipino people
pride themselves on being the friendliest in the world which makes travelling
around this beautiful country an absolute pleasure.
If I could go back tomorrow, I would!
Hannah Capstick, CCC Science Officer, Philippines 2012-2013
28th March 2013
Creature of the week!
This week it's a rare sighting from Camboida, do you know what it is?
26th March 2013
Seeing more of the Philippines...
Volunteers and staff recently went on a day trip to a cosy little beach get away near out Philippines project site, known as Bito-On White Beach Resort. With the current Skills Development Programme (SDP) in full swing, and volunteers in need of a bit of down time from learning various species of hard coral, invertebrates and fish, we organised a day trip up the coast on our day off. After the Sunday morning chores were completed, the group of 13 volunteers and staff started our journey with a short trip from site to the main road in bright sunshine. There, we headed north to the town of Liloan. There was just enough time to pick up some Barbeque chicken from a street stall before we headed out of the town centre to Liloan bridge where the hiking began. The views were spectacular and a quick 5 minute photo break was required so that everyone could get a few striking snaps to show off to their family and friends back home.
The 10-15 minute hike along the coastline took a little longer than planned (partly due to an unplanned shoe malfunction along the way!) but the beautiful forest surroundings gave many more photo opportunities. Once the flip-flops were fixed and the posing was complete we turned a corner and saw the most unbelievable white sand beach. Picturesque doesn’t really cover it. The ‘beach resort’ was pretty remote with no one else in sight, but there were hammocks and deck chairs aplenty and a cheeky videoke machine for those of the more musical persuasion. In the heat of the day everyone jumped in the sea to cool off (and wash off the barbeque chicken sauce) and proceeded to climb on a makeshift raft belonging to the resort owner that was parked up nearby. While some volunteers ventured on an ‘epic’ paddle around the shallows, the rest of the group explored the reef crest, happening on a friendly group of sea snakes and some funky invertebrates.
After all the splashing around everyone had clearly earned a long chill out in the afternoon sun. One volunteer was buried in the sand, with a mermaid tail fashioned by the local kids. They even went so far as to decorate her tail with various shells that were lying around (although the education officer had to use his stern voice to tell them why taking star fish out of the sea was a very naughty thing to do). We managed to fit in a quick game of Frisbee with the rest of the local children before we made the short hike back to Liloan bridge. More breathtaking views were in store, with the sun on its way down only adding to the beauty of the scene. While everyone waited for the bus we dined on more street food, with the Filippino locals more than happy to provide chairs for a place to sit down outside their stalls. The friendliness was well received by more than a few sets of tired legs.
Once on the bus back, everyone started to get a second wind. LMFAO was pumped out of the bus’ speakers at a volume that would make many a London nightclub proud, and ‘Sexy And I Know It’ was sung/chanted/yelled, as our amazing day came to an end. Once back at base everyone collapsed down in front of the projector for a bit of TV before an early night. Breakfast on Monday morning was full of tales of the previous day, with everyone agreeing how much fun we had all had and, despite the addition of a touch of sunburn here and there, what a perfect day it had been.
25th March 2013
Camping in Cambodia...
We’ve just returned to our base in Prek Svay from an amazing multi-day camping trip on the opposing tip of Koh Rong. Over three days, we successfully completed three full surveys of Buddha Reef, finished up the Skills Development Programme for our newest staff and volunteers, and even managed to squeeze in a couple of recreational dives on what is known as one of Cambodia’s most diverse and productive reefs.
With hammocks and mosi nets pitched in the shade of beachside trees, we spent a couple evenings bonfiring in the sand, splashing in the vibrancy of bioluminescence under the crescent moon, and debating our competing nominations for Fish (/Sea Creature) of the Week. The six Bamboo Sharks collectively reigned victorious, just outdoing a number of Blue Spotted Ribbontail Rays and the plethora of nudibranchs we did our best to keep tally of. For a few of us not yet completely worn out from a couple very full and productive days, we opted to throw our gear on the boat and hike the distance of the island (roughly 15-20km) back to base. A well-deserved full night sleep commenced shortly thereafter.
20th March 2013
A Volunteer's Perspective: Life with CCC in the Philippines
How many great adventures have you had? I'm lucky enough to have travelled all over the world and had my fair share. I now count my expedition with Coral Cay Conservation in the Philippines as a very special grand adventure indeed. Cocooned in a bubble of fun with a most excellent band of fellow divers and nature lovers. I had initially booked myself for 1 month, which with hindsight was idiotic. It takes a good three weeks just to get fully trained and confident enough to join a formal survey team, and that's with me having ten years of diving experience and being a certified divemaster. Some brave souls join the expedition having never dived in their lives so the learning curve can be very steep. It was evident that I would need to stay longer, so four became ten weeks. The expedition should come with a health warning, you will get addicted to the lifestyle...
Obviously the main focus is diving in the most richly biodiverse marine environment in the world. The house reef itself is an absolutely fabulous slice of the famous Coral Triangle, jam packed with technicolour critters. Paradise. After every dive, we emerge with huge smiles and the latest discovery, eagerly pouring through the books to find out the name of our latest find, with the hope of winning 'the fish of the day' competition. Occasionally discoveries are made which are not even in the books: I unofficially named my own nudibranch - a colourful sea slug! Depending on conditions and training requirements everyone dives twice a day, six days a week with Sunday off to recuperate.
The training is intense but fun. In order to become certified as a reef check surveyor you will need to become a proficient diver with excellent buoyancy skills. Imagine flying like superman every day or hovering upside down inches from fire coral whilst you count shrimps. You will learn around forty hard coral species – in Latin! - as well as many other life forms and structures that cover the sea floor, along with the wondrous invertebrates which live amongst them. You will also learn around forty families of fish and their specific target species, and for butterfly fish alone you will be able to distinguish between forty six different varieties. Impossible? No. With help from the awesome staff and the veteran volunteers you'll soon know the difference between a 'Foliose mycedium elephantotus' and an 'Encrusting pachyseris rugosa'. You will also be able to name the fish you'll be devouring for dinner!
When not diving, life on base can sometimes seem quite regimented: breakfast at 7, lunch at 12, dinner at 6, and collapsing in bed by around 10 pm. There is a daily / weekly chore list, with everyone taking it in turn to perform various cooking and cleaning tasks. On the other hand there is much chilling time between dives with happy banter, playing games, sunbathing on the sea wall, snorkelling, going for a wander through the surrounding coconut jungle and villages, swinging in hammocks, reading, learning, snoozing, trading favourite TV shows and movies, and getting to know one another. I've not laughed so much in ages. It has a feel of student days. An international cast with all ages represented from 19 to 64.
Come Saturday night we hit the karaoke bar for a big party which usually ends with a bonfire on the beach under a starry night and fireflies. Sundays afternoon is free to embark on a mini-adventure to a local beauty spot. We also have other entertainment events such as pub quiz, movie nights, fancy dress, and puppet shows to the local kids...
Each awesome day feels like a week, but the weeks pass all too quickly. Folks come and folks go, and then sadly it's your time to leave. Great memories, life-long friends and promises made to meet up again in far flung places. CCC has bases around the world from Montserrat to Cambodia to Mozambique. Add to that the numerous paradise locations where you may be able to participate in reef check surveys with your globally recognised certification. I'm counting the days until the next great adventure.... so should you!!!
Jerry Slater, CCC Volunteer Philippines
15th March 2013
Creature of the week!
This week's creature was spotted in Cambodia - do you now what it is?
Why not join our Cambodia project to see creatures like this and much more. Plus, book now and you can take advantage of our special offer: book 8 weeks in Cambodia and receive 4 weeks in the Philippines free!
13th March 2013
A day in the life of an Education Officer… Awareness Day in Sta Paz Sur, Philippines
Straight after breakfast the Project Scientist, Casper, and I head to the site of our Awareness Day. We turn off the main road and head into barangay (village) Santa Paz, the palm-lined road winds past glistening rice fields, the odd water buffalo and of course a few dogs sleeping on the road. We wiggle through the barangay, waving at the kids who pop up from behind every corner, until we reach the beach. There is music blaring and the barangay captain waits for us smiling and a sizable group of people are gathered to see what this CCC is all about.
After a quick welcome, our activities start with a beach clean and painting two big rubbish bins with sea creatures. The finest artists are pulled from the crowd and get to work while the volunteers acquire groups of giggling children and head off along the beach armed with tongs and rice sacks for collecting litter. The next set of rotating activities commences to the blaring soundtrack of remixed 80s classics, and it feels more like a party than an education event. Activities include the ‘MPA game’, which results in two of our volunteers, Jerry and Noodles, running around like mad in the sun with the kids, all with big smiles on their faces. Down on the beach, our scholar Jem chats to the kids while she lends out snorkels and masks and I can see a blur of legs in the sea as kids try out the equipment and are opened up to the underwater world. Casper gives a short lecture on the reasons for, and benefits of, Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and also gives a breakdown of the basic findings from the MPA survey CCC have conducted here in Santa Paz. It’s important for us to maintain a link to the communities in which we survey, and especially to let them know about the condition of their reef.
For our finale we perform our Fred the Fish puppet show, which goes down famously. Our curtain call marks the end of the show, and the end of the day. Kids pose for pictures with Fredo, our giant clown fish mascot and we pack up our stuff. We thank the people of Santa Paz and the volunteers wade out to the boat with puppets and all sorts above their heads. Later on, as we reflect upon the day, we all agree that the kids had a great time and were keen to show off what they already know about coral reefs and wanted to learn more. A very successful day.
8th March 2013
Creature of the week!
1st march 2013
Creature of the week!
What is it this week...?