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Friday, October 29, 2010

First weeks in Punta Gruesa! -setting up, amazing marine wildlife, hurricane

We all arrived to Punta Gruesa last week where the staff showed us around. Home is basically shared huts on a secluded white sand beach, overlooking the sunrise on the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea… not bad for the next 10 weeks! The local wildlife is beautifully coloured and seems comfortable enough to share our huts each night. This includes being woken up by the scurry of mice, scorpions and the local dogs! Everyone seems to be settling into communal life with everyone mucking in with the jobs around base.

Week 1 moved into week2. Even though we’ve only been here 7 days we all feel very much at home and settled. Also we are beginning to learn the little tricks and strategies that help make life in such a remote place that little bit easier. These include wearing long sleeves from around 18:30 and realising the ineffectiveness of deet in the fight against mosquitoes. Furthermore trying not to get stressed out when studying and working obligations seemed to steal all the hours from the day.

After a week of firsts; bonding with everyone, large amounts of accent translations, and battles against the local insect population (most of them lost), the second week has been a time of learning. If one was to seek shade in the palapa at any moment of the day, there would undoubtedly be a group of interns hard at work studying coral and fish names. Happily all of our hard work has paid off as almost everyone has passed their first test and a couple even their second.

Unlike the fish and corals we work with every day, sightings of rare or large sea creatures has become a coveted experience. Seeing a moray eel, spotted eagle ray, turtle, dolphin, or any kind of shark has become akin to having a cold beer; something very much sought after, but only happens once or twice a fortnight. As a lovely reward for all of our studious efforts, and offerings to the gods of luck, almost every dive group has seen and snorkeled with dolphins! Seeing these sleek mammals leaping and spinning in the wake of the boat is an exhilarating experience only surmounted by hopping into the water and watching them play above and below you. All in all, the second week has been amazing, and it only seems to be getting better!

During the second week there was a hurricane warning. Minutes away from evacuating, we decided to stay and sit it out. The meager wind and rain that followed told us it was the right decision and that the hurricane had indeed missed us.

The longer we spend the more we begin to truly recognize the immense beauty of the deserted stretch of beach we call home. The other day a couple of us saw an Oreal (a small pretty yellow bird) in a dogfight with a 2 inch dragonfly. Also, someone saw an iguana scramble up a small tree, finding no escape route he allowed them to get a really close up look that otherwise would have been impossible. And of course the immense majesty of the sun and sky that plays above our heads all day, every day. This area is known as the Sian Kaan, the Mayan translation of which is ‘where the sky is born’; the name is truly deserved.