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the first batch of photos are online and can be found in the gallery. (or click here)

Takes for ages to upload them, so bear with us.

And of course the great news that I became and uncle !

Big gratz little brother, I hope to see the pictures soon. We will bring Mike some nice mexican stuff to play with 🙂

So finally here it is the 1st update of our trip.

After arriving thursday the 10th in Cancun, our ride to Hotel La tortuga was nicely there to pick us up from the airport eventhough we had a delay of around 2 hours. From Cancun it took about 55 min to reach Playa del Carmen. After a quick settle in we went into town to get some pesos and food. The evening ended rather early at 20.00, which was fine as that corresponds with an Amsterdam time of 3.00. The next morning we get up at 6.00, time to repack a couple of things; grab a quick breakfast and then move on to Hotel Colorado.
After meeting up with GVI and our fellow expedition members there at 7.00, we load the luggage into a truck and walk to the bus station. There the bus to Mahahual leaves at 8.30. It takes about 4 hours from there on the reach las casitas (the cruise ship area of Mahahual).

The new GVI base is actually a bit further up the coast than we initially thought, about 45 min. north of Mahahual in a pretty secluded area. No cell phone coverage or internet connections available here. The staff goes out every to mahahual every other day and in case of an emergency we have a radio. The damage hurricane Dean did, last august is still clearly visible. The new base consists of 2 concrete buildings: the office, where data processing and stuff is done and the divecenter where all the scuba gear is stored. In between those two is the communal area: a large palapa with the kitchen and two bathrooms.
On the side of the palapa, there are 3 huts in which we sleep. Jessamijn and I sleep in hut 1,Tiburon (shark),which we share with 8 other expedition members.

The group is 22 and pretty mixed, quite some people from the UK, but also belgian, swiss, united states, canada, ireland and wales are present. The ages range from 19-60.

The first few days were pretty much filled with lectures on safety: general base stuff, diving safety, boat and radio procedures. We are pretty much 3-4 hours away from decent medical help, so it’s good to have all this stuff covered; in the next few days all of us will also receive additional first aid and CPR courses.

Next up the duty rosters are handed out: Kitchen, grounds, communal and boat. We are split up into 4 duty groups and cycle through the roster. Kitchen duty is rewarding and hard at the same time. A lot of the food we have around has to be rationed an d is already divided into weeks. Fresh vegetables and fruit are delivered once a week, but things like rice, pasta, beans and all other packed stuff is limited. Water is a precious commodity here so thats rationed as well: military showers once every 4 days and – if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down- for the toilets. Drinking water comes from big bottles and is unlimited as we easily use upto 4-5 liters a day because of temperature and diving. The drinking water supply has to be monitored so we can order fresh stuff in time.

We’ve had only 2 diving days this week as the wind shifted and became too strong to get through the pass in the lagoon. This did give us some additional time to study on the fish and coral. Wednesday we took the test: Jessamijn had 85% on her coral test and I scored 81% on the fishes. Unfortunately, this is not enough to pass. To pass we have to score 95% or better. Most volunteers score about 70-80% on their 1st test and then pretty much ace the 2nd.

Friday we completed our introduction into TEFL (teaching english as a foreign language), which means that during the upcomming weeks we might be a bit more often in town than just in the weekend. Tuesdays and Thursdays we will be teaching primary, secondary and adults english. Additionally, the secondary students will be taught to environmental awareness.

So far for now, as 20 more people are in line to use the internet.

Next time we will preprep the pictures and upload them.

Teaching will start next week and then we probably be in town more often.

Only three more days and we are off to Mexico.

Before telling you about our final preparations I’d like to point your attention to some new additions on the site: a map showing our precise location and some more background of the project we will be joining. At the last moment some more people joined, those I added to the Group Members page.

Diving gear all sorted, this afternoon a short trip to the pharmacy will take care of the last prescription medications as hydrocortizone and acidic eardrups cannot be obtained without a prescription in the Netherlands.

-more to follow shortly

As I am sure most of you would have read or seen on the news, the southern region of the Yucatan Peninsula was badly affected by Hurricane Dean in August, as one of the strongest hurricanes on record hit the southern coast of Quintana Roo, Mexico.

After inspections by engineers, it was unfortunately decided that a return to the new GVI Mahahual base at Punta Dzucoch was not an option so the October phase went ahead in our old base at the Estacion Costa Maya (ECM) in Mahahual. This was our home for 3 years prior to the move to Punta Dzucoch in June and we are proud to be able to help two of our partners (the University of Quintana Roo and Amigos de Sian Ka’an).

This move had many benefits, in particular for our local partners and the community of Mahahual. Expedition Members played an active role in rebuilding the ECM as a functional research station and community centre, as well as developing it as a satellite camp for future expeditions to utilise. We were ideally placed to continue the Hurricane relief work ongoing in Mahahual, making a real and direct difference to the lives of many locals. It also gave us a great opportunity to monitor the sites that we have amassed 3 years worth of data for and thereby obtain some greatly interesting data that can directly compare the state of the reef before and after a devastating hurricane.

Parallel to this, we have searched and found a new base, in conjunction with our local partners, who we have spoken extensively with regarding their focuses for a new permanent and long term base.

The new base is just South of the Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site of Sian Ka’an. This means that we can easily monitor the south of the Reserve, something that CONANP (the government agency that manages the reserve) have been requesting, but has not been possible due to the distance between Mahahual and the Reserve. We also hope to use the ECM as a satellite camp in the near future. This combination of sites will mean that we have a much wider geographical span when monitoring. It also means that we can continue monitoring the sites we have been studying for the past 3 years.

The main differences you will notice about the new facilities and location, compared to the existing base, which we are leaving:

  • Our new base is much bigger
  • Accommodation will be in smaller but less cramped rooms sleeping from 6 to 8 people as opposed to everyone in one dormitory at the ECM.
  • There is running water (still only cold water, but who wants more in the tropics!)
  • There is little passing traffic so you can experience the peace of your beautiful new home on the beach.
  • Being further from town does mean that unfortunately you won’t be able to walk down the road and buy an ice-cream or cold drink but you won’t even notice with the tranquillity of the base.
  • A lot will be new and there will be a sense of being a part of the beginning of something. You will have the exciting opportunity to dive at places and dive-sites that no-one has ever been to before.
  • Being further from town you may incur some small costs in local taxis if you want to leave the base and go to the town, however there will be regular GVI visits to town for food shopping, teaching and other reasons

Your new home for 5 or 10 weeks:

base1.jpgbase2.jpg

These are just couple of photos to give you an idea about our new home. We are sure you will enjoy your time here, the facilities are definitely an improvement and the location is truly spectacular. We are extremely excited about this new location. It not only allows us to provide you with better facilities, but more importantly, it allows GVI’s partner in country to continue and grow the monitoring programme GVI provide them with. This will provide data that will assist in the management and preservation of the fragile marine ecosystem we are living right in the middle of.

We will be endeavouring to get some more photos and text up on the GVI website soon.

So the time is nearing that we will leave for Mexico.

A few weeks ago we’ve received our research assignments: Wouter and I have to study fish (some 175 distinct species) and Jessamijn has nice task of distinguishing 51 species of coral including their Latin names. The fish list will be put up on a separate page, so everybody can join the fun 🙂

Most gear has been bought as well: Emergency Kits including a bunch of sterile needles (let’s hope we don’t need ’em), Mosquito nets and some assorted small diving stuff like spare straps and clips, a reel and SMB for Wouter and Jessamijn. When at the scubacenter I decided to also replace the double-ender of my SMB for a stainless steel one, as the brass one actually was already quite corroded.

After some discussion about what kind of suits to bring (Laslzo: 7 mm or else you will be freezing, Jessamijn: 7 mm I’m melting already) We decided to ask around a bit before making a decision. We emailed dreamtime diving in Mahahual to ask them which kind of suit their instructors wear. Reply: 3mm or 5 mm full. Final confirmation came from someone who has been diving near Tulum last week in a 5 mm as well. So last weekend we swung by the scubacenter to do some fitting. We found some nice cressi suits.

In the meantime we were also trying to arrange a hotel for the first night in Playa del Carmen. Unfortunately most hotels I found on the net either did not reply to my inquiries, had a defect email-adres or were just not taking any reservations/bookings anymore for January. After some serious searching I remembered that the airline we use (Martinair) now also has some additional booking options, like car and hotel, for popular destinations. Some browsing on their website let me to a citymap of Playa del Carmen, which had some bars and hotels marked upon. I noticed the name La Tortuga as one that I remembered from I think it was the website of Jan and Carolien from Mayaluna. I emailed them to inquire for a room. Yesterday evening I’ve received a confirmation email that we have a room. They will also send a driver to come and pick us up from Cancun airport, what a luxury.

Now we just need to get a hotel for the return journey and some ointments for in the first aid kit (DEET, cortisone cream, acid eardrops etc etc) and we are good to go.

Now just need to memorize all the fish and coral as the TEFL (teaching english as a foreign language) assignments are finished already.