Tag Archives: volunteer

The first GVI Kenya recorded tiger shark

We had a very exciting sighting a couple of weeks ago on marine – as you may have read – our sighting of a tiger shark, and in remarkable circumstances. This was the first GVI recorded tiger shark in our south coast study area and caused quite a stir amongst the team!

There are around 50 species of shark in the western Indian Ocean region from 13 different families – one of those families is named the ‘true shark’ or Carcharinidae family containing 20 species of powerful predatory shark. The tiger shark or Galeocerdo cuvier falls into this family and is distinguished by its pattern of darker spots and stripes on its grey dorsal surface; it has a large blunt head and mouth and a long slender tail with a pointed tip. The most unique feature of the tiger shark is its teeth (!) which are serrated. They reach up to 5.5m (18ft) and are quite robust, heavily built specimens.

Tiger shark

Tiger shark

The two individuals we spotted exhibited the distinctive patterning and were around 4m in length; they also had with them a young individual. Sharks are normally solitary, and tiger sharks feed on turtles seabirds and other more opportunistic items, but may have gathered here at the opportunity of this food source (see previous blog on the stranded humpback whale body).

Tiger sharks are listed as the most dangerous to humans seen in this area; but I for one hope we see them again.

Fishy feeding frenzy!

It was just another day out on marine, with the calm waters and light breeze of early April. The rains had come and gone early, but the skies remained overcast and ominous. We had set out in search of Long-snouted spinner dolphins, but after a fruitless hour of dedicated survey our hopes of seeing the last spinners of the season were quickly fading. Then Faridi, our boat captain, drew our attention to an area of turbulent water 500m away. Could it be that we had found our dolphins?

We quickly headed to the scene and there we found that, rather than dolphins, we had been lucky enough to come across a large feeding event where a school of fish were being herded by predatory king fish. The frenzied fish were jumping out of the water this way and that and above the confusion seabirds were waiting to pounce. We sighted brown noddies and sooty, roseate and common terns. No doubt there were a number of other species present that we were unable to distinguish in the fray. The birds wheeled and dove into the water, coming up with beaks full of small fish. There were literallyhundreds of them and the air was filled with their cries. Against the backdrop of the dark, forbidding skies the terns stood out stark white and the noddies black, creating a chaotic and almost sinister tableau. The frenzy was undisturbed by our presence and we were able to follow the event for 20 or so minutes, and could have stayed longer if we hadn’t had to get on with our survey.
Various species of seabirds gathered for the feeding frenzy Various species of seabirds gathered for the feeding frenzy

It was exhilarating to follow the event as the kingfish turned their prey this way and that. We would head for 20 metres in one direction, only to have the frantic fish double back and head the other way. They were easy to follow, the water bubbled and frothed and often many of the terrified fish would leap from the water at once. If the chase ever disappeared deeper under the surface we could simply follow the birds, watching as they rose to a greater height to better seek out their prey below. As a born “birdo” I found this event to be one of the great observations of the expedition. I had witnessed birds and fish hunting smaller fish at home but never in such great numbers and never had I been able to follow the event for such a long time or distance.

Perspectives from Tom, our Marine Research Volunteer

Tom O’Dell travelled from the UK to assist us with our marine research programme so we thought we’d share is perspectives on the work and the life out here in Kenya… 

 tom-odell.jpg

I think I am a little different to the others here, everyone else is involved in some type of conservation work, or has spent, or is spending months travelling. Not me!

I am a so-called IT professional who was owed a couple of week’s holiday and can’t stand the idea of sitting on a beach reading and sunning myself for days on end. I had two weeks, no plans, a hatred of being bored and fancied something different , so I packed my bags and headed off to Kenya to do a couple of weeks marine conservation work. That was two weeks ago, and I am sitting here, on my last day wondering how I can wangle more time off work.

humpback-dolphins-tom-odell.jpg

To say the conditions here are rustic is a small understatement, there’s no fresh water except that which is collected when it rains, the shower facilities consist of a bucket and jug on the floor and the toilet is, literally, a hole in the floor. And with all this “rusticness” comes probably the greatest sense of community and togetherness I have ever experienced.

You are never alone here, unless you want to be. If you are feeling under the weather, everyone does whatever they can to help you out (I have had my fair share of acclimatization problems); if you are feeling down, they will do whatever it takes to cheer you up and if you do want some time to yourself, then they will leave you to it.

Despite my intentions, being here is not a holiday, you work most days, cooking, cleaning, building, but everyone has their jobs and everyone helps out each other where they can, adding to the sense of community.

Working on marine conservation is quite simply amazing. The best way to describe it is probably to quote a text I sent a friend of mine back home; “Typical day, up just before sunrise, have breakfast and traipsed down to the boat. Watched the sun come up across the water then started “work”. 7am, watching a pod of bottlenose dolphins feeding about 20 meters away from the boat; 10am snorkeling on a reef looking for turtles, managed to photo a green before it swam away; 11.30am back on the boat heading home for lunch, took a slight detour to watch some humpback dolphins socializing. Back at base to learn about the dolphins and turtles we saw, relax in a hammock, do a little computer work, then dinner and drink in Paradise. Wednesday tomorrow, more of the same”. Let’s just say the response I received was blunt (she was a little envious).

 green-turtle-tom-odell.jpg

Were it possible, I would stay out here longer, and I definitely heading back to explore further. Unfortunately, the “modern world” beckons. I’ve been two weeks without television, internet access, cars, running water, microwave and have only sent and received 10 texts in total which for a so called IT professional borders on heresy, and I’ve loved every minute of it.