Coral Planting

This time I went alone down to the reef for my swim. The sun was still low in the sky and it was. Just. Gorgeous. Again the water was pretty murky so there wasn’t much to see but it was so nice. There was quite a tug coming back in so it required a little bit of effort but so lovely all the same. After the swim I walked up to the house for a shower and breakfast. We then had a Swahili lesson with Benji and I learnt my first Swahili! I can now say ‘I am volunteering’ and ‘salad’ among some other equally vital words and phrases.

After the Swahili lesson we walked down to the beach for a reef walk. The tide was really far out so it meant we would be able to get out pretty far with ease. Outside the house there were two wire frame statues, one of a bird and one of a palm tree, that we would be attaching coral to. Sadly the palm tree was too tall so will have to wait for when we go diving to be put in place but the bird came with us. Cameron picked up the bag of coral he’d stashed the day before and Des, Cameron, Yael, Katana (a local who knows the reef better than I know my family) and I started walking. It was about a thirty minute walk through the part of the reef outside the marine protected area. The contrast was shocking. You wouldn’t expect the difference to be so stark when they’re still very close to each other but this section of reef was just barren and covered (and I mean COVERED) in sea urchins. This is because all the fishermen have totally overfished all of the urchin’s natural predators and so the population has just exploded.

We found a site for the bird and snorkelled around to see what kind of wildlife was around (now back in the marine protected area). The water was only one or two feet deep at it’s maximum which provided an unprecedented close up of the corals and smaller reef fish. I have thoroughly fallen in love with the Allard’s anemone-fish (more commonly known as Nemo) because they’re so ridiculously aggressive that as soon as you get near their anemones they’re all up in your face and your camera trying to chase you away. And they are just so photogenic.

We tried to attach the corals to the sculpture using fishing line but couldn’t get it tight enough so had to abandon that attempt and decided to come back with cable ties or marine cement to attach them. We went over to one of the metal sculptures already in place that was in the shape of an octopus and tried to remove the cable ties but the pliers weren’t strong enough and we were at risk of damaging the coral so we just had a look around before going back. We saw a huge shoal of Moorish idols (or Gill from Finding Nemo) and loads of cornetfish.

It was about 3 o’clock by the time we got back to the house so we had a quick lunch and then drove into Kalifi, the nearest town, to pick up some supplies. On the drive back we stopped off on this rocky cliff for sundowners. I can tell you that I’ve never had a cider in such a beautiful place (I mean Reading Festival is beautiful in it’s own way…). The waves were huge and the cliffs jutted out up to 2m out from the headland made from fossilised corals that looked more like volcanic pumice – it was a fantastically dramatic landscape.

After our drinks we went back to the house for dinner and played a few rounds of Top Trumps (including my Shark cards which are the coolest thing in existence), listening to music and chatting.

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