Update from our working holiday volunteering with leopards, elephants and cheetahs in Namibia, Africa (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/namibia).

Final preparations (with a look of utter concentration) before we start our four months of big cat & elephant conservation and research.

Final prep

Our next e-mail (with the emergency contact number) will be from Namibia!

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From our conservation holiday volunteering with jaguars, pumas, ocelots, primates and other species in the Peru Amazon jungle (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/peru).

Just a quick update on the expedition preparations while I am still in Europe. Have a look below for the map we’ve created for us trailblazers and be prepared for intensive GPS & mapping training.

The map is still quite blank for us to fill with lots of waypoints and tracks of trails on land and on water. We will be talking a lot about quadrants and how to access remote parts of the study area to place camera and track traps and to conduct our visual encounter surveys. I am looking forward to entering the jaguar’s realm, encounting & recording primates and other wildlife species together with you.

I am off later today and will be in touch again from Iquitos with the latest on-the-ground information.

See you soon

Malika Fettak
Expedtion leader

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Update from our working holiday volunteering with leopards, elephants and cheetahs in Namibia, Africa (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/namibia).

Mutiny already and we have not even started! We’ve received replies containing the s/h/v-words in open defiance of the ban. Smartphones will doubtless have to be confiscated. Do you know why they are called smartphones by the way? Well before the NSA (hello, by the way – we hope you are also enjoying reading this), there was a secret agency based somewhere in Washington with a secret agent called Smart who had a portable phone way before anyone else had….

And while you ponder this, we leave you with some girl power pictures so that you all know who to hand your phones into…

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From our conservation holiday volunteering with jaguars, pumas, ocelots, primates and other species in the Peru Amazon jungle (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/peru).

Two weeks to go until the start of our Amazon biodiversity expedition to Peru. Next week, Malika Fettak, your expedition leader will be off a few days ahead of you to set things up.

Malika Fettak
Malika Fettak

The weather in Iquitos at the moment is damp and hovering around the twenties (Centigrade). High twenties during the day, low twenties at night. Your scientist Alfredo Dosantos is at base already, preparing the research and maps for you.

Alfredo Dosantos
Alfredo Dosantos

Where we will work is shown below.

Group 1’s task will be opening and exploring more trails so that we can increase our sampling area and cover as many of the big squares (quadrats) around base as possible with camera and track traps, and visual encounter surveys on foot in the jungle and in wobbly canoes along the waterways, recording species as we come across them and hoping to catch the very illusive ones in our low-tech track traps and our high-tech camera versions. All in an effort to show with hard data how biodiverse this place is, and therefore worth protecting.

But beware! Monkeys and jaguars will not be falling into your lap, despite what TV may want you to believe (and what took months to film). The forest is full of life, true, but it is also full of leaves that swallow almost everything a few paces away and reduce encounters to fleeting glimpses of monkeys in the canopy and black shadows streaking across dark green canvas. You’ll hear things before you see them – if you see them – and there will be a cacophony of unfamiliar sounds, and smells and sights, dulled by the constant assault of green on your eyes.

If you come with the expectation of entering into a zoo full of animals on silver plates, you will be disappointed. If you come to soak up the wonders you will hear yet not see and to just be amongst life in one of the most biodiverse spots in this green sea of our blue planet, you won’t be. Come with all your senses open (and perhaps even leave your cameras at base unless you are a lens hunter of the small wonders the jungle has to offer). And come in the spirit of David Henry Thoreau who said “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

Malika and Alfredo will be in touch from base a few days before the off. The forest of hidden wonders awaits!

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Update from our working holiday volunteering with leopards, elephants and cheetahs in Namibia, Africa (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/namibia).

Not long to go now. With Vera already in Namibia, Kathy will join her from the UK via Germany next week and Alisa will from the US, also via Germany. Girl power indeed.

Meanwhile a male particpant is clearly struggling with the Buff that you will all receive when you get there (he won his in a competition).

john

And usually it’s only male cheetahs that get caught in a box trap repeatedly. Females, once trapped once, will by and large never be caught out again. Draw your own conclusions 😉

The weather in central Namibia is sunny with temperatures during the day in the twenties (Centigrade) and dropping to single figures at night. Getting up in the morning will feel decidedly cold – there is no culture of heating in Namibia anywhere, so bring warm clothes group 1. The good news is that as soon as the sun comes up over the horizon, you will quickly be able to shed those layers.

The girl power team will be in touch from Namibia once they have settled in and awoken the expedition gear from its Sleeping Beauty lull in a shed near the expedition base.

Sleeping Beauty storage

Alisa will send her mobile number for emergencies a few days before we start and update us all on final preparations.

We hope yours are going well too. We have attached the plan so far as well as some datasheets for you to swot up on – and dispel any last myths there may persist of anyone joining some kind of safari holiday 😉

Two weeks to go for trailblazing group 1…

P.S. In case you were wondering what the heck a Buff is, have a look at

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From our marine volunteer holiday with basking sharks, whales and dolphins (including orcas) in Scotland (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/scotland)

So after 10 days out at sea covering 404 miles around the Inner and Outer Hebrides we came back into Tobermory yesterday for our final meal together before saying our goodbyes to each other, the crew and our trusty yacht ‘Silurian’.

Although the weather throughout was pretty grey, damp and windy and we were stormbound for one whole day, the wildlife was abundant – we had 56 separate sightings with 91 animals in total. This included 46 harbour porpoises, 1 basking sharks, 6 minke whales and 16 common dolphins.

There were some really positive signs such as witnessing 4 minke whales “lunge feeding” for the first time in couple of years, which indicates that their habitat and food source has been restored, and seeing so many harbour porpoises (some with very young calves) which will support the current application for a Special Area of Conservation for that species.

So a huge thank you to the expedition team for their contribution to this valuable work – Brian, Steve, Elke, Lena, Celine and Alex, the crew – Stuart and Tom for their professional handling of the boat, and our scientist Olivia for her education, guidance and teatime treats!

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We now go for a 5-week break and I hand over the reins to Adam as expedition leader, who will be in touch in due course. Enjoy the summer!

Best wishes

Kate

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From our SCUBA conservation holiday volunteering with whale sharks on the coral reefs of the Maldives (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/maldives)

Well, we’ve thoroughly checked those reefs! We put two more surveys under our belts on Thursday, arriving in the south of Ari atoll as the sun was setting over Mamigilli. One survey was along the wall of a sea mount (thilla) with dense growths of coral, ascidians, echinoderms, sponges and encrusting algae painting the wall in all colours of the rainbow. Large groupers and sweetlips lurked in the overhangs, jacks traversed the blue and sharks patrolled the sea fan gardens below.

Once at Mamigilli as night fell, most then opted for a last twilight dive to round off the day.

Today brought storms, which blew out our whale shark survey efforts and made for an interesting crossing of the channel back over to North Male’ atoll. The excellent crew of the Carpe Vita steered us through this too with total assurance, as they have done all week. Thank you again for looking after us so well!

As I type this, night has fallen over Male’ and Hulamale’ harbour. The bright lights of the city can be seen not far away, but for one more night we hang onto the relative solitude of our live-aboard home. The week has gone far too quickly and all that remains is to pack up and say our good-byes tomorrow.

Thank you to the whole team for making it pass so quickly. You could have gone to a resort and read a book on the beach for a week; you could have gone anywhere. But you chose to put your time and money into reef conservation. My respect and gratitude for this and I hope to meet you again sometime, somewhere on this blue planet of ours.

Matthias

Thank you Shidha for sharing this beautiful selection of your photos

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From our marine volunteer holiday with basking sharks, whales and dolphins (including orcas) in Scotland (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/scotland)

What an epic day! 63 miles and 11.5 hours of surveying. Sightings of 12 harbour porpoise (two very young babies), 3 minke whales, 3 grey seals and 1 possible common dolphin.

There was lots of activity up on deck during the day including taking turns to climb up into the crow’s nest in the calm waters between the mainland and the Isle of Skye (as modelled by Lena in the photo), Steve counting over 900 Manx shearwaters, who just wouldn’t stay still off Ardnamurchan Point, using the Swarovskis and Alex preparing dinner.

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From our SCUBA conservation holiday volunteering with whale sharks on the coral reefs of the Maldives (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/maldives)

We’ve had a very busy day. The hammerheads did not show themselves for our dawn “lazy dive”, but there were schools of fish in the blue and a moment of diving amongst the stars as we passed through tiny and strange bioluminant creatures all around us. Coming back up, we passed a beautiful reef full of life.

Our survey dives weren’t bad either. Two steep slopes with excellent visibility and lots of biodiversity for us to record. As one team returned from laying out the transect, two eagle rays gracefully swam with them for a while before turning left into the blue.

We ran out of sunlight for a third survey towards the end of the day, but made the best of it by scheduling in a twilight lazy dive. A large manta visting the back of the boat at dinner time rounded off a memorable day.

Impressions from the last few days are below.

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From our SCUBA conservation holiday volunteering with whale sharks on the coral reefs of the Maldives (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/maldives)

It’s done! Lessons in and out of the water, tests in and out and a mock survey dive. Here is the honour roll of newly qualified Reef Checkers (Umair, Valho, Ibrahim, Shaha, Mohamed, Ann, Tim, Mascha, Alex, Michelle, Song, Maddy, Anais).

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Jen & Suze, who had qualified already on a previous expedition, put in a heroic effort and surveyed two full transects just as a buddy pair over our two training days at Banyan Tree house reef. Thank you!

Even during training we saw lots – turtles and sharks, but also the little things that make a reef so fascinating. As Anais said, after the training you’ll never look at a reef in the same way again. Once you can distinguish hard from soft corals, from ascidians, sponges, algae and others, and you know what a Drupella looks like, there is endless fascination in even a small patch of reef.

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Yesterday afternoon we moved on to Rasdhoo, where we ended our day with a mock survey. Now the day is dawning, colouring the sky pink and orange as I type.

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Downstairs our local dive guide Valho is briefing some of the team on a dawn hammerhead dive in the blue.

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The rest are having a lie-in and an unfeasibly late breakfast at 07.30 before we start our survey day.

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