• 27 March 2020

    The final one; it came by too quickly!

    First of all I'm so sorry for missing out the past few weeks, but it shall all be explained here. 

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    • 10 March 2020

    Week 17; A few more delays, but I'm getting back on track.

    This week had a frustrating beginning, after finishing my course of antibiotics, I had found that my skin was still not healing up. The older wounds have nearly vanished, only recognisable because of the paler skin, but I was seeing more patches pop up. This meant another arduous trip back to the hospital in Toliara, where I received another 5-day course of antibiotics. This meant another week without diving! It's been especially hot recently, and I'm definitely craving the cool ocean!

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    • 3 March 2020

    Week 16; It's been a little busy

    Apologies for the delay on these posts, since it took so long, I've decided to put them together into an extra long post.

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    • 17 February 2020

    Week 15; Leading dives, it’s surprisingly stressful.

    My first few experiences leading dives were definitely stressful. I was scheduled to not only lead a double mapping dive, but also a deep dive later that week. Both were stressful in their own ways. The double mapping dive was plagued by bad visibility and a constantly shifting dive time. It started with us leaving at 8:00 and it was soon pushed forward to 6:00, which meant a super early start to our day. Unfortunately when we arrived at the site, we discovered that the visibility was less than a meter, meaning we could barely navigate, never mind trying to create a map, we spent most of the time marking out the two ends of the reef so that we could have better anchor points for future dives. It was unproductive in some ways, but we have some good plans for next week’s mapping dives! Then, at the end of the week, we had our DM deep dive, which I also had to plan. This involved a lot of detailed planning; from learning what the site would be like, to how much air we were expected to use and how long we could dive for. I spend the whole week building up to it, and thankfully the dive was mostly problem-free. It definitely was a weight off my shoulders when we were on the boat back to camp! The site that we went to was called The Wall, a large plateau reef that drops off into sand as it gets deeper. The reef was packed full of really cool fish, a bunch that i’d never really seen as we don’t go deep that often.

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    • 10 February 2020

    Week 14; On land training is important too!

    This week we prioritised on-land training, the dives being nothing new, but what I learnt in briefs and theory sessions was far more interesting. 

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    • 4 February 2020

    Week 13; Rescue scenarios and exercise, oh no!

    I’ve done a lot of fun things this week! Firstly, I continued my rescue dives with the rest of our intern group, practising a variety of skills, like mask removal, and reacting to your regulator being ripped out of your mouth. This time at 5 meters, rather than waist-deep water, it was fun to practise and also useful skills to train up! We then went on a double dive later in the week, where we did a full scenario of a missing unresponsive diver. I got to be the victim, so after 10 minutes of floating around as the rest of my group searched for me, and then the exciting stuff kicked in. I got taken up to the surface and rescue breaths commenced, as it is impossible to properly do chest compressions in the water, those are put on hold in favour of doing one rescue breath every 5 seconds, and taking the spare seconds in between to tow the diver towards the boat and start removing equipment. The scenario didn’t even stop when they hoisted me up on the boat, we legitimately had to ring camp on the phone we bring with us, and tell them to prepare for the victim. This meant that I had to have very gentle chest compressions, getting rescue breaths, and breathing from faux oxygen for the 15 minute boat ride as we raced back to camp. I spent most of the time with my eyes shut, as water was dripping everywhere, which was very off putting when we arrived on camp and I was lifted onto a bodyboard and carried to the dive shed where chest compressions continued and we started a countdown for when the “taxi” would arrive to take me to hospital. It was a very surreal experience, as I spent most of the time napping ironically, otherwise I was whispering advice into my fellow interns’ ears. Overall it was a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to being one of the rescuers in the repeat of the scenario next week.

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    • 4 February 2020

    Week 12; Due to inclement weather, dives have been cancelled.

    Apologies for the delay the internet was not working last week, causing a bit of a backlog.

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    • 20 January 2020

    Week 11; New things and fun dives!

    Though we have had a lot of science dives in the past weeks, there is also a chance to try something new every now and then. This week was definitely one full of new things! 

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    • 15 January 2020

    Week 10; First working week of 2020, and a busy one at that!

    I finally completed my Advanced Open Water, concluding my training with a deep dive to 25 meters. I was in charge of planning this dive, so was looking over maps and calculating surface breathing to see how long we could spend at specific depths. It was really fun to do, and it is a skill I will have to get used to, as it increasingly becomes the intern’s responsibility to plan and lead dives. Though we will have our instructors monitoring and helping us for now, one we become rescue divers, which we should be by the end of the month, then we shall be leading dives by ourselves! Scary, but exciting!

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    • 10 January 2020

    Week 9; Holidays and lazy days

    From the 25th to the 6th, I have been on a holiday from work. Though most of it was spent lazing round camp. Christmas was quiet, with only four people, and it was a weird experience knowing that it was Christmas, but without the excitement apparent in the UK. There was the same meals that we’d always eaten here, though we had all bought extra snacks to enjoy throughout the day. Not only that, but it was a blisteringly hot 45 degrees! I managed to call a bunch of family and friends and catch up with them, and it was lovely seeing everyone’s faces again, even if it was just through a phone screen. The rest of the week was spent lazing around on the porch, reading and napping. It was definitely too hot to do anymore than that. 

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    • 25 December 2019

    Week 8; Scuba Diving and UVC training

    After 2 months here at Reef Doctor, I’ve finally started more dive training! Now that everyone is up to the same level ( as some had to learn to dive first, coming here with no prior experience) we have started our Advanced Open Water. The AOW is made up of at least 5 “Adventure dives” intended to expand the variety of things you can do while diving, this week we have already completed our Buoyancy and Navigation dives, which were both loads of fun to do. 

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    • 15 December 2019

    Week 7; Taking a break is important

    I have been feeling a little under the weather for the past few days. And though for most, I have managed to continue diving, today I had to take a break. I realised that I was pushing myself too much, especially since another intern has also been taking a break this week- due to some ear issues-  I knew that one less person on the dive would mean that it would have to be cancelled. (This is because of a rule on site that ensures that the dive will be cancelled if there are less than four people on it.) I decided to take a break and have a lie-in instead. The afternoon dive was cancelled due to high wind and surf, there is the tail-end of a typhoon passing by at the moment, so we will likely suffer from a few rainy, thundery days until it passes by. Though for now it is simply ominous clouds hanging overhead.

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    • 10 December 2019

    Week 6; Camp manager and other such duties

    This week has been fairly peaceful, with another batch of seagrass surveys, each one getting closer and closer to the final survey. In addition to the surveys, I did my first coral clean! We dove down to a rebar structure covered in coral, and cleaned all the algae off the metal and the bases of the coral, to ensure that the algae doesn’t take over and kill the coral. The coral has to protected at all times, so we dived with latex gloves, which is a very peculiar feeling- to swim with such gloves on- and toothbrushes to scrub the rebar. It was really interesting and fun to do, quite a calming exercise, and there were tonnes of curious fish swimming alongside you the entire time! 

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    • 29 November 2019

    Week 5; Busy, Busy, Lazy, Busy, Busy

    I’ve had another jam-packed week! On Monday we had a fun dive around a site called Vato Soa, it was the third time I have been there, but the first time I’ve really had a chance to explore the site and relax, rather than doing a specific task. In the afternoon I started my EFR (Emergency First Responder) course! I vaguely remember doing first-aid training while in Primary school, but it was loads of fun to learn it again and even more! We learnt about CPR and rescue breaths, how to put someone in the recovery position and how to support someone with a spinal injury. Plus, everyone had a laugh while doing it!

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    • 22 November 2019

    Week 4, Oh wow it’s been a month!

    By around the middle of next week ( the 29th specifically) I will have officially been in Madagascar for 1 month! I’ve had the time of my life so far and have already learnt so much in such a short amount of time! 

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    • 18 November 2019

    Week 3, A busy time to be had!

    I’ve had a busy week so far, with tonnes of dives and new projects started, I’ve learnt lots already. 

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    • 8 November 2019

    Week 2, The beginnings of dives and new things to learn!

     The beginning of my first working week at Reef Doctor was loads of fun, and a little hectic. On Monday, most of the day was spent in Toliara, sorting out our visas to ensure that we would be able to stay for the full length of time. I was also busy with moving into my own hut, though it isn't a large space, it's nice to be able to unpack and spread out in my own space!

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    • 4 November 2019

    Week 1, My first few days in Madagascar!

     The first week of my trip has been thrilling. After an insanely long journey, including a 10 hour flight from Paris to Madagascar, I finally arrived at Reef Doctor, the site is well-laid out, and I settled in quickly. I have been staying in the dorm for the past few nights, as the site was full of people, but a few have now left, meaning that by Monday I shall have my own space and will be able to full unpack, rather than living out of my suitcase.

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    • 25 October 2019

    Dictators and rebellions, the modern history of Madagascar!

    Some news and updates before I begin, my visa finally turned up! So I am ready to head off this coming Tuesday!  I’ve spent the whole week packing and repacking my bags, trying to get the correct weight. It was heartbreaking to realise that I could not take the six books that I have envisioned, especially since I have been holding back on reading some for 4 months now! I’ve had to narrow it down to three for the sake of ease, but they can always be posted over if I am desperate. Ironically, my first full day working with reef doctor will be Halloween!

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    • 18 October 2019

    A brief history of Madagascar, Colonisation and piracy!

    The island of Madagascar was isolated for a great many years from both Indian and African continents. Thanks to this, it allowed a great many endemic plant and animal species to develop before the first human colony, predicted to have arrived between 200 BC and 500 CE. Since then, the island has received waves of settlers of diverse origins including; Austronesian, Bantu, Arab, South Asian, Chinese and European. Through centuries of intermarriage, the Malagasy people developed.

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    • 9 October 2019

    What’s happening? General updates.

    It's been a busy few weeks, with a rush on preparing final things, organising documents and other such mayhem due to the approaching departure. Unfortunately, my visa documents had been delayed, which left me at a loss of what to do. As I am working out there for 6 months, a standard tourist visa would never be accepted, so I needed to take the more complicated route of sending off for what is called a “short stay extendable visa” which requires a thick stack of documents for it to be approved, including a work permit from the Madagascan government, which had been subsequently delayed. My original plans to fly out with a fellow volunteer this coming Friday have most definitely been cancelled. Luckily, the documents turned up last Wednesday which, though it still meant I would not be travelling out on my original date, I would not be pushing back my dates too far. 

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    • 2 October 2019

    ABC’s of scuba diving, interesting facts about diving you may not know!

    A few nights ago I was chatting with my dad about my new scuba equipment, explaining the purpose of the variety of pieces needed to scuba dive, when he commented about how he was completely unaware of the existence of a secondary regulator (breathing apparatus) that all divers carry. This “2nd Stage” is usually bright yellow and is used if your companion (or buddy) has any issues with their air whilst diving, you can share your tank and surface safely with the use of this apparatus. Dad then recommended that I write a post about these sort of facts. I did a little research into frequently asked questions that most non-divers ask, so I hope that I can educate everyone a little in the complexity, and simplicity of diving. I have picked out a few questions that people have asked me before and shall answer them here.

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    • 25 September 2019

    Good health and healthy eating what I’m doing to self-improve!

    Apologies for the delay in this post, I’ve had a rather busy week, so it took a little time to get this out. 

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    • 13 September 2019

    Doctors appointments and ‘Fit to dive’ Medicals.

    Travelling to a third world country, especially for such a length of time as six months, is no simple feat! To comfortably live in such an environment, there are many vaccinations that I need to have. To organise them was a bit of a kerfuffle, I originally rang up my local clinic to see if I could receive the vaccinations through the NHS, but unfortunately, there is no travel clinic in Wellingborough and I was instead directed towards Boots Pharmacy in Rushden Lakes. The staff were happy to help and I was soon booked into once-a-fortnight appointments, to ensure that I didn’t experience too many negative side effects from being jabbed with all kinds of diseases. 

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    • 7 September 2019

    Reality setting in, scuba equipment shopping spree!

    Spending six months in another country having the experience of a lifetime is definitely exciting, but simultaneously terrifying. While the rest of my friends are only travelling only a few hours away from home, towards university, I have found myself travelling to the other end of the world, a 13-hour flight in its own right! My worries have been slightly eased as I have organised to travel down with a fellow volunteer at Reef Doctor. That reminds me, flights have been booked! I am travelling from Heathrow, stopping off at Paris, then travelling down to Madagascar non-stop all with someone far more comfortable with doing such things by themselves, unlike me. When booking the flights, I got to pick seats and I must admit, I got rather over-excited when I discovered that my long flight would be spent on such a large plane! As I have never travelled further than Morocco, a trip on a plane with a centre aisle of seats has never been experienced (Until now!). 

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    • 30 August 2019

    What is Reef Doctor, and how are they helping?

    Reef doctor[https://www.reefdoctor.org/] is a non-profit organisation created 15 years ago based in the Bay of Ranobe in Southern Madagascar. They aim to protect marine and terrestrial habitats through conservation, research and restoration projects, but also support the local community with social development and poverty alleviation. Reef Doctor has created and nurtured many community-led local initiatives to encourage environmental stewardship and sustainable fisheries. 

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    • 22 August 2019

    What is Madagascar like? A few facts and figures!

    For those who didn’t know,Madagascar is an island country, found off the east coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean. Madagascar is actually the fourth largest island in the world, whilst Great Britain rests in eighth place. 

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    • 19 August 2019

    An important announcement!

    Oxford Street Therapy Centre is kindly dedicating their fund-raising efforts at the centre to help support Reef Doctor's work! The first drive will be to encourage everyone interested in contributing to gather together any old One Pound coins they may still have 'kicking about'. The Bank of England will still accept these and duly pay any credit to a nominated bank account. So in this way we hopefully can gather some funds to help support this valuable cause. Please start your collection and look out for more information here whilst I talk about how Reef Doctor is contributing with their important and truly sustainable program serving both the natural environment and the local community in Madagascar, along with my personal experience with them!

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    • 16 August 2019

    Packing lists and purchases, preparations for the trip.

    Packing for a one-week holiday is hard enough, now the greater challenge of packing for six months has appeared, deadline looming on the horizon. I like to think of myself as rather organised when it comes to holiday packing, and I have been given a packing list of recommended things to bring along, which makes my job relatively easier. The harder task is working out how to pack six months worth of sun cream without confusing some poor customs officer! Reef doctor has also introduced a ban on using any sun creams with reef-damaging chemicals, which are surprisingly many brands. Chemicals such as  Oxybenzone, Butylparaben and Octinoxate are known to cause coral bleaching, disrupt coral breeding and damage coral’s DNA. Oxybenzone can be found in over 3500 sun cream brands worldwide! 

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    • 8 August 2019

    A new journey

    Gap years are the chance to try something new, to have a little taste of adult life before diving into education once more. Before heading off to university I was determined to travel somehow, and I found myself applying to intern with a reef conservation project in Southern Madagascar. I was terribly surprised to discover that I had been accepted onto the team, with a childhood of watching National Geographic documentaries, a dream has somehow become a reality.  As a member of the reception team here at Oxford Street Therapy Centre, I have been offered a chance to publically chronicle my experiences in this little corner of the internet! For the next eight months I shall be documenting my preparation and journey itself through this blog, I hope you enjoy it.

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