Definition of wrasse: a family, Labridae, of marine fish, many of which are brightly coloured. The family is large and diverse, with over 600 species in 82 genera, which are divided into 9 subgroups or tribes.
Meet the Jeep
Our backpacks finally appeared on the belt at the tiny airport of Dumaguete. After nearly six months on the road, they were ready for another country and a new experience: volunteering at a marine conservation program.
With no shortage of smiles and a tropical climate, The Philippines is still of course part of South East Asia. Same same, but different. Take the Jeepneys for example. Vehicles that were left behind by the Americans after World War II. Some genius thought they were too precious to be left to rot and decided to turn them into mini buses. The result? Affordable local transport for everyone, seventy years later.
Marine Conservation Philippines
Our curiosity for understanding marine life and the threats it faces has grown with each dive since we took our first breath under water a couple of years ago. Since the Philippines was on our route, signing up for a volunteering placement at Marine Conservation Philippines (MCP) was a no brainer.
The location could not be better, a beautiful camp hidden inside a botanical garden away from all the hustle and bustle. And there was so much going on at MCP that we could not believe it: education projects with the local schools, mapping of the different Marine Protected Areas, baseline survey of the nearby coral reefs, aquaponics and more.
Our first job would be to learn how to identify the local wrasses – all 70 of them – so that we could take part in the baseline study of the reef, which was now focusing on this particular tropical fish. Once in the water, we would have to record their appearances. Ready? Let’s get wet.
A day in our new job
The morning routine is slightly different to the one we had in London: the alarm goes off at 6:30am and a healthy (or not) breakfast gives way to a last minute check on the wrasses book before we load our diving gear on the truck.
There is no rush hour and definitely no crowds. Getting to the office is simply a walk to the beach.
Meeting rooms are replaced by something a little bit more inspiring and once in the water your eyes need to pay attention to more than just your inbox.
Some things don’t change though – a cold beer (San Miguel Pale Pilsen of course) was also the perfect way to finish a day in the “office”.
Christmas in the tropics
Swim shorts, santa’s hat, dive gear and a lot of fish around me. Not exactly how I thought I would spend Christmas’ Eve this year.
A gorgeous day of diving gave way to a bonfire, lechon – a full pig slow roasted on a pole, the real Filipino way – and a few drinks by the beach. Hell, I could get used to this.
Three weeks later
After thirty dives one becomes familiar with the different dive sites. Some of them boasted beautiful hard and soft corals but lacked marine life due to overfishing whereas others had nearly been obliterated by typhoons and dynamite fishing. An ecosystem that has survived thousands of years now faces its biggest threat of them all, humans.
Which is why it is crucial that projects like MCP are successful. They certainly seem to have found the perfect recipe: education and regulation, while making sure that local communities are an integral part of their initiatives.
Farewell Soren, Hellen, Annelise, Dolf, Pete and our fellow volunteers, it has been an huge honour to work alongside you!
Information on MCP
- Web: http://www.marineconservationphilippines.org
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MarineConservationPhilippines
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
We change sandy beaches for rice terraces. We travel north, to Luzon, where it gets greener and colder.