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

I received a couple of emails from previous team members asking to show pictures of what rain looks like here and I have attached them. (Evidently they did not believe me that it actually does rain here in November!)

Wednesday Stuart, Sandra and Markus signed up for the all day camera trap team. They kept stumm about it all day, yet at briefing they practically burst with the news: they’d seen a leopard running away from them up in the mountains. Quite a lucky team!

Thursday was our vehicle game count, the last of the season with Biosphere Expedition. It was a terrific way to finish off the expedition – all three teams seeing record numbers of animals and getting to spend one last beautiful morning driving on Okambara. In the afternoon the team helped pack up the expedition – each year the first and last teams have the privilege of unpacking and packing the expedition kit and storing it until the next season.

I’ve also attached a picture of all the groups’ elephants sightings in 2014.

Team 6 has now left the farm, and that wraps up our Namibia expedition for 2014. A huge thank you to everyone who volunteered this year. It was great to meet you all and work alongside you. Your hard work, flexibility, willingness to get dirty and be Vera’s “arms and legs and feet” on Okambara has been immensely helpful. Thanks to you we captured three leopards this year and collared two. Vera’s scientific report on the 2014 expedition will be published in a few months.

Best wishes

Alisa Clickenger
Expedition leader

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

One of the things I love about working in Namibia is that when you start your day, you never know how it’s going to end. Sunday I got wet walking to briefing, something that has never happened to me before here in Namibia because normally we work in the dry spring/summer season. Tuesday night I drifted off to sleep to the deafening sound of all the frogs that had come out to call for mates with the rains.

Saturday was the day off and the teams volunteered to check the box traps. Unfortunately they were all empty. Sunday morning Stuart, Markus, Heidi, Sabine and Karen all helped Vera move the box trap from Frankposten up to Bergposten. We placed the trap where Team 4 had installed one, simply called Bergposten 2. Team 6 was hyper organised and had the trap out of the ditch and up on the track waiting for the truck when Vera arrived. They were back to camp in record time, thanks to said organisation plus the previous work Team 4 did cutting shrubs.

The elephant team did not find the elephants on Monday, but the box trap team did on their way back from the lodge, so we know they are still on the farm 😉 The lead cow’s VHF collar is barely giving a signal – very often we have to be within 300 metres or less to pick up any beeps at all.

Monday Markus and Sandra changed the trap meat in the morning, and Stuart, Christaine and Sabine changed it in the afternoon. Rough work in the afternoon for our resident vegetarians when the intestines we started using in the morning to lay a scent trail to our box traps had become fully ripe in the morning and afternoon sun.

Because of the rains all waterhole teams are reporting seeing very few animals. Tuesday we figured out why: we saw lots of puddles of water around the farm, so the animals do not have to go to the water holes where they are extremely vulnerable. Rather, they can grab a drink along the way and not have to congregate in the “danger zone”. Our territorial sable bull doesn’t seem to consider the bush camp water hole a threat, however…

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Update from our SCUBA diving volunteer opportunity & conservation holiday on the coral reefs of the Musandam peninsula, Oman (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/musandam)

On Wednesday, a beautiful day of surveying, punctuated by two minke whale sightings, the first was at 09:00 on our way to our first survey site. They were far from our boat, so we grabbed masks and snorkels and hopped into the speedboat for a closer look. We followed them at a safe distance for about half an hour watching them blow and dive until they disappeared into the deep.

minke whale, Kriss Brandstrom

The surveys were both at Osprey Point, and by the afternoon the swell was so strong that Jean-Luc was given the nickname of Sultan of Swing in reference to the laying of the transect line. The substrate team, Catherine and Nadege, had an equally difficult time reeling it in, but although the team were bashed and tumbled by the waves, the stories were well recounted later!

The surveys on Thursday clarified our hypothesis that the further into the MPA we go, the less coral cover there was due to the environmental conditions, increased siltation, and restricted water movement. Nasser, Kristoffer and Hari went out on the speedboat and documented illegal fishing practices in the area, whilst the rest of the team entered data. The restricted water movement did, however, have a bonus feature in that huge amounts of phosphorescent phytoplankton congregated in Khor Nadj, our overnight mooring area, and with thousands of fish coming in to feed after the moon had set, we were treated to an amazing phosphorescent fish display. It was so beautiful that some of the team were tempted to join in, so donning masks and fins added to the incredible light show – a once in a lifetime experience!

exploring the MPA

Sailing into the remnants of a storm, the sky was hazy and the sea lumpy as we reached our first survey site of Friday, Paradise Point. The coral, though, was good, and the fish life abundant. The afternoon site, named Son of Gargoyle was even better, with ancient porites mounds and prolific grouper. The survey of the MPA was over (for this year at least) and we steamed round the northern tip of the peninsula accompanied by two Indian ocean humpback dolphins, who bow rode with us for a while.

Indian ocean humpback dolphins

Back in Khumsar, as the Mosques called to prayer, we decided to set foot on dry land and visit the village nestled in the rocks with no road in or out, accessible only by boat. It was a great excursion, and gave a little insight into the lives of the local people here – a community reliant on the sea.

excursion to Khumsar

We were woken today, Saturday, at 04:00 by the waves slapping the side of the boat. Nadege, worried for her diving gear, went up on deck and rescued wetsuits and bikinis from being blown overboard. Dawn yoga was a windy affair, and breakfast was tricky with tea literally being blown out of the cups, but we made it back to Khasab, even managing to stop for a dive at Pipi Beach along the way before leaving our trusty survey vessel, the MS Sindbad, after lunch.

Another expedition over, but thank you for a wonderful week, rich in laughter and learning, new experiences and great memories – no one who saw will ever forget the sight of a terrified Hari trying to escape from an innocent turtle! We look forward to Jean-Luc’s report and are grateful for everyone’s involvement. It will be great to see how our understanding of the MPA has developed by this time next year.

the team

Thank you to everyone who supported this project. Special thanks to the Oman Ministry of Tourism for supporting our efforts to conserve coral reefs through tourism.

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