In the morning Cam and I woke up just after 7am to go for a swim to the edge of the reef and back before breakfast. The water was much cooler than it had been the day before but we plunged in and ploughed up to where the waves break. The tide was with us on the way out so when we turned around to go back it was suddenly a bit more effort but nothing that we couldn’t handle so we were back on shore again soon enough, with the whole swim taking about twenty minutes. The water was pretty murky because the tide was high so I didn’t see much in terms of wildlife but it was just so lovely to be up and swimming first thing.

After our swim we showered and had breakfast (it turns out I am incredibly popular having brought Marmite with me so I think it will disappear pretty quickly) before meeting Benji to talk more about permaculture. He explained the three main concepts of permaculture to us which were: earth care, people care and fair share (I’m going to do a separate post about that because it’s really interesting stuff!). The main idea is all about using nature to fight pests instead of chemicals – like pairing banana trees with ducks because the ducks eat all the slugs and snails that prey on the bananas or planting leeks with kale so the leeks repel aphids which eat kale and the kale provides canopy protection for the leeks.

We then went over our fish species again – there are quite a few and it’s easy to muddle up a ternate chromis with a Klein’s butterflyfish… And still so many species left to learn. After that we had lunch and did some brainstorming for ideas of content for the Kuruwitu Conservation and Welfare Association website and for the volunteer guide as well as equipment that the house needs. We then met Des in the sea when we went out for a snorkel.

The light was just sublime and the sunlight was streaming in to the water, illuminating the most fantastic corals I’ve ever seen. I thought I’d seen thriving coral reefs, but never like this before. There’s one that almost glows iridescent purple in the clear shallows and one that’s covered in what looks like tiny anemones that wave in the water and filter out nutrients and phytoplankton. We start learning those names soon too… I can’t wait.

While we were out and about we picked up small pieces of live coral that had been either displaced/broken off by waves or were in poor locations to grow (such as under lots of eel grass). We gathered all of these together into a big mesh bag and Cameron carried them over to a buoy and tied them so that we could collect them the next day and attach them to metal sculptures that we’d secure underwater. SO COOL! While Cam was gone we stumbled (…swam?) across the most beautiful octopus. She was huge and fully out of her den and was hunting. We watched her for about twenty minutes, as she flashed different red and white to warn us not to get any closer and then would disappear in the seaweed, raising her papillae (small ridges under the skin that she has incredible control over to change her texture to blend seamlessly into her surroundings) and basically becoming a plant. It was incredible.

Throughout the snorkel Des also had a fish the size of the top section of your thumb swim with him for about an hour. It was yellow with black stripes and is called a pilot fish. It’s favourite place was right under Des’s chin where it would swim alongside him, presumably hoping for scraps of whatever it thought Des was hunting. Sadly it was not to be and when Des got out of the water it moved on to me and I was very taken with it. Eventually, though I did get out, leaving it behind. We walked up into the house that Des owns a few metres down from the volunteer accommodation and used the infinity pool there. It was heaven.

We then had a Tae Kwando lesson with Bavil, who lives in the village. When I asked Cameron how he knew him he just sort of shrugged and said,

“I’m not too sure… he just rocked up one day and asked if I wanted to learn Tae Kwando so I said yeah.” After that I swam out to the reef, but didn’t go quite all the way as it was starting to get dark and I really didn’t want to be the stupid Gap Yaaahh student that ends up in BBC News because they die on the second day of their travels by being a bloody idiot. We then stayed on with Des for dinner and walked back to the volunteer housing along the beach. The Milky Way stretched out over our heads and Yael and I got so excited because we managed to see some bioluminescent plankton as we walked. Cameron was very underwhelmed but we couldn’t believe the tiny glowing dots that would appear here and there as we kicked sand along the beach.

When we got back to the house we got into bed and I slept like a dead thing until morning…

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