In January of 2016, I fulfilled a bucket list dream and learned how to scuba dive. After gaining both my PADI Open Water and Advanced Open Water qualifications, I’ve not only fallen in love with diving and the underwater marine world, but I now just want to go Pro and be a dive instructor. So in a bid to increase my dive experience, learn new skills and make a positive contribution to marine conservation, I’m about to embark on a 4 week marine diving project in the month of May (2016), with Coral Cay Conservation on the Carribbean Island of Montserrat.
So who are Coral Cay Conservation?
I first learned about Coral Cay at the International Dive Show in London in February of 2016. They are an internationally renowned and accredited conservation NGO that aims to help protect coral reefs and tropical rainforests in the developing world. Their current marine and terrestrial project locations (at the time of writing this) are the Phillipines and Montserrat.
Initially I had no idea where on earth Montserrat was. To my delight, it’s located in the Carribbean, and nicknamed the Emerald Isle, with jungle covered mountains and blue waters. Unfortunately the island experienced a series of volcanic eruptions that first began in the mid-90’s, devastating the southern part of the island. These eruptions impacted the tourism industry and the island community continues to struggle.
What will I be doing?
You can choose to work as a terrestrial or marine volunteer. Both roles focus on scientific research, environmental management and training and educating locals to help protect what is left of Montserrat’s unique ecosystem. I’ll be spending my first week taking part in a Skills Development Programme, which includes workshops and lectures, learning new skills in underwater surveying, and fish and substrate identification. I’ll then spend my time conducting coral reef surveys across a variety of reefs and helping with habitat mapping.
Coral Cay Conservation teamed up with a local dive shop on the south coast to help volunteers kit out for the expedition. I managed to arrange a similar offer with my local dive shop, Mike’s Dive Shop in West London. If this is a one off marine experience, then the essentials are needed including a 5mm wetsuit, dive compass, dive computer or gauge, dive knife, slate, boots, fins, mask and snorkel. Some of this equipment I already owned, but I splashed out on a more expensive wetsuit and fins for my go pro plans.
What am I most excited about?
I can’t wait to be underwater again, not only to be diving and exploring the marine world, but to also help in its conservation and protection. I can’t wait to travel to another part of the world I haven’t yet ventured, (country number. 31!) And I’m looking forward to meeting new people, and learning new skills.
I hope to write regular blogs about my experience while I’m away. So fingers crossed I have internet access. Stay tuned…