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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Pta Gruesa Highlights for October-December 2008 phase

·      6th Annual Marine Turtle Festival

The beginning of Week 3 saw the annual Marine Turtle Festival held in Xcacel, Tulum.  This year was the 6th edition and everyone was really excited about the festival, as a lot of effort had been made.  Despite the rain, which had been pouring heavily over the Yucatán Peninsula that week, the festival was a complete success.

Our experience began with a Mayan ritual in Casa de la Cultura in Tulum, followed by a trip to see the murals that the children had painted in town.  All our Expedition members assisted in the fun and games planned for the event, such as a big puzzle and a labyrinth based on the Turtle cycle, its threats and the efforts made in trying to conserve its population.

The following morning everybody helped out with a beach clean, collecting more than 20 big bags of rubbish over a stretch of beach 3 kilometers long.  Of this rubbish nearly 70 % of it can be recycled.

All the Expedition Members helped in the closing of the event in Xcacel.  Luckily the weather cleared up and everything went according to plan.  There was a spectacular show which everyone thoroughly enjoyed.   We then got to witness the release of hatchling turtles by some of the local children – definitely an unforgettable moment for us all.


The First Tourist Tour at Punta Gruesa

The Pier is once again up and running, bringing cruise ships into Mahahual once more.  Tours from those cruise ships have begun at Punta Gruesa, bringing small groups of tourists to our beautiful beach so that they can enjoy the sea and gorgeous views with a lovely Mexican lunch. This has given GVI an excellent opportunity to share our knowledge of the area and show the work that we are doing to help the surrounding environment.

A bulletin board with all the information of our Marine Project and community work was made to show the tourists what we are doing, and a brief introduction to GVI is given at the beginning of every tour.

These tours mean that as well as providing information to the locals we can also educate on a much broader scale.

Construction of a New Palapa

With the ever-growing interest in the Marine Expedition, we are working on expanding and improving the comfort of the living space at Punta Gruesa. One of our improvements is the construction of a second palapa.

Local superstition holds that the cutting and planting of trees can only be carried out on the full moon – any other time and the wood will rot.  We decided that we should follow this tradition to give our new palapa its best possible start – everyone pitched in over the full moon weekend to help start the framework, and hopefully by the next full moon the palapa will be well on the way to completion!

Community Work

Community work this phase has been a roaring success due to our TEFL program, with numbers in the adult classes increasing substantially.  Now that the cruise ships are back in business the students are excited and motivated, making lessons very satisfying and lots of fun for everyone.  We have also seen an increase in the number of children and teenagers attending the evening class, and we have continued with primary and secondary classes - in which we always receive a warm welcome from both students and teachers. Osiris and Adrian, our two NSPs, have assisted Raph, our project coordinator, getting the students involved and raising awareness of environmental issues.

Pulticub Beach Clean

As well as the monitoring of the reefs we also take part in other marine conservation activities. Beach cleans are just one of the many activities we contribute to. All expedition members took part in the Pulticub Beach clean which is situated 6 km away from the base. Everyone put a lot of effort into the day, working hard as the sun beat down upon them. The activity was highly successful, collecting more than 30 bags of rubbish. The Expedition Members were then rewarded for their efforts with a picnic lunch, and some cooled off with a quick dip in the crystal waters.


After a few windy days the boats were finally able to get out for a dive! To make this day even better a pod of dolphins came to play on the divers’ return to base.  Everyone got to enjoy a snorkel with dolphins, making a fantastic end to the day. Under the water everyone could hear the distinctive clicking communication as the dolphins approached. They dove and swam around everyone, seeming to enjoy the attention and also be bursting with curiosity. After passing by solo, or in twos and threes, they would dive down and continue a balletic performance - swooping and flipping above and below each other, making everyone wide-eyed with wonder.  They got so incredibly close and were so playful and beautiful we could not believe our luck.  For many of us it was our most fantastic experience ever!

This is not the first time dolphins have visited the coast of Punta Gruesa and we hope not the last.

Punta Gruesa and Pez Maya Exchange

In the previous phase we put in place an exchange program between the two Marine Conservation bases, and this was carried on during this phase.  Four EMs from Pez Maya got to come to Punta Gruesa and take part in 3 days of activities, enjoying, among other things, a volley ball tournament. They also got to take part in our TEFL program in Mahahual, meeting the locals and seeing the close relationship that we have developed with them.  Later on, four EMs from Punta Gruesa went to Pez Maya and had a volleyball re-match, as well as being able to dive and see the giant corals they have there.

This exchange has proved be a thoroughly enjoyable experience for both bases, and has helped the bases interact and learn more about each other. The EMs are able to compare and contrast how the two bases function and see how the slightly different surrounding environments can make such a change to the daily routines.

Fantastic Sightings

This phase has proven to be highly eventful in marine sightings.  As well as seeing and swimming with the dolphins, we have also encountered nurse sharks, sting rays, turtles, eagle rays, a number of large groupers and the first sighting of a seahorse to date.

On land, we have seen laughing falcons (that’s the name of the species, not a falcon that has been told a funny joke!), snakes, scorpions, iguanas and geckos, lots of hermit crabs of varying sizes (from tiny to absolutely enormous!), and the biggest spider ever sighted (quite possibly).

6 New Dive Masters

Congratulations to our 6 new Divemasters; Joel, Denise, Ashley, Sam, Andrew and Charlie. They all worked very hard indeed, and showed great enthusiasm in helping the instructors conduct other courses for the new EMs.  Everyone was very impressed by the way they worked individually and as a group – they have proved to be excellent new members of the professional diving society.