|Traveling through the mangroves to get to San Pedro|
For the expedition. we have on camp: an expedition manager, a scientist, a cook, a boat captain, a night watchman, a dive instructor and the volunteers. Our exact numbers have dropped as volunteers have left and staff people have moved to prepare the next part of the expedition in Sarteneja. At our peak we numbered 11 people, and now we are down to 4 staff and 3 volunteers.
|Almost everyone! Minus our cook who had to return home for a family emergency|
If dive camp were to be summed up in 3 words, they would be: rustic, exhausting, and ITCHY! In regards to rusticity, our camp is literally located in the middle of the Bachalar Chico Reserve near the southern border of Mexico. The nearest town is San Juan, Mexico, a 1 hour boat ride away. We have no human neighbors to speam of, so the only other people we see are the occasional tourists and fisherman who pass through our waters and the fisheries department who check in on us every few days. The buildings on camp are constructed from small trees and palm fronds, with some screen in various stages of decay to form a rudimentary barrier against insects. Our camp has a generator to supply us with electricity every night from 6-9, which also fires a pump to fill the water tank for showering and washing up, drawing from our brackish well. We have to be quite self-sufficient here, sporting our own compressor for filling dive tanks, tanks of gasoline to fuel our generator, compressor and boat, a compost pile, burn pile, and huge jugs of fresh drinking water that we will be bringing back from San Pedro.
|My hut--shared with 2 other volunteers|
|Showers on the left and bathrooms on the right. Can you guess which bathroom is for men and which for women?|
|Yesterday's schedule, which was quite light given that today was the day off, so we had a light afternoon, and a party to send off another volunteer!|
In terms of ITCHY, that was the first word I thought of to describe camp. Given we are located in a mangrove, our camp is a breeding ground for sand flies, mosquitoes and doctor flies. As it is wet season here, we have seen the number of mosquitoes shoot up, even within the week I have been here. I have had my share of mosquito bites, as my family well knows, but this experience, honest to goodness, is the worst for mosquitoes I have ever had. Just to paint a picture for you, I need to wear deet 24/7. Everywhere. Every time you come in off the water--reapply. I bought a new can of insect repellent before coming to camp, and it was empty within the first 6 days. As a further example, I got up late yesterday, and was on the first dive. This meant I needed to set up my dive kit quickly in order to get to the briefing. I rolled out of bed with 5 minutes to get into my suit, set up my kit and get to the meeting. I grabbed my gear (BCD, regulator, fins, mask, weight belt and booties) and went to set up. In the 30 seconds it would normally take to slip my BCD over the tank and fasten it, I had to swat about 15 mosquitoes off of me when I had done that step, and subsequently after each next step. On the one hand this constant swatting added time, but it sure does force you to get very efficient about assembling your kit! Sand flies (no-see-ums), are brutal. They are so small, that you don't see them until they are done biting you, leaving a bite that lasts for days. The best way to stop them is to wear a generous coating of baby oil, so that they drown before being able to bite you. Though less common, my least favorite are doctor flies (essentially horse flies), because they are the most painful. On top of all this, I have my own added itchiness. Given I have to wear baby oil to keep off the sandflies, I made the mistake of going for a long walk down the beach to go snorkeling with some of the other volunteers. 1 hour 15 minutes later, I started to break out in a heat rash... alllllll over. It seems that the oil doesn't let your skin ventilate properly, leaving you with a persistent, and uncomfortable rash that apparently lasts for days! Thank goodness I brought Claritin with me, because without it, I don't think I would be able to sleep at night!
Despite all of these challenges, camp has been interesting, and a nice new challenge for me. It is not without it's peaks. Our location is definitely beautiful, and we do share the space with some friendly neighbors.
|There are always Friggits, Cormorants and Pelicans perched out here|
|These guys are all over our beach|
|My favorite spot on camp|
|We call him Gordo|
|A huge hermit crab! He's about 4" wide!|
|A little Amber Jack that swam with me for the whole time I was snorkeling!|
|Conch we found while snorkeling, carefully put back in it's place, of course|
Even though my brain was fried from boat marshalling in the morning, it has it's perks. I hopped in with my snorkeling gear and made some new friends while we waited for the divers to surface!
|yes, those are dolphins. I snorkeled above them for 3 minutes!|