The whale watching season in the south east of Madagascar runs from the end of June to the start of September every year. Whale watching is a very popular tourist attraction here and around the world.
During this year’s season, the Junior ReefDoctors undertook a study programme on whales and completed a quiz as part of their marine conservation curriculum. In August, the 23 ReefDoctor Juniors accompanied by ReefDoctor staff Rinah, Apo, Manjo and Francois, got the opportunity to take to deep waters to do some whale watching of their own as a reward for all their hard work.
The group headed off early on ReefDoctor’s boat, Fay, together with two boats and crew generously provided by Paradisier Eco Lodge of Beravy and Jean Pierre of Atimo Plongee Dive Centre in Mangily. Once everyone had their lifejacket on and taken a seat on the boat they were off! Most of the children had never been on a powerboat or even been outside the Bay of Ranobe before so there was great excitement all round (and a little bit of seasickness!).
On the exterior, all eyes were on deck and everyone kept an eager look out for Humpback whales. It was not long before the group was rewarded with a sighting of a mother and baby, a group of four adults, and seven dolphins! The whales breached to the awed wonder of the juniors. One whale even chose to show its tail fluke. The juniors were surprised and amazed by the experience of seeing Humpback whales, which quickly got rid of any feelings of seasickness or deep water anxiety.
It was then time to put the hydrophone in the water to see if any singing males could be heard. It is not guaranteed that whale watchers will get to hear whale song but the group got lucky again and heard a male singing on the first try! After a thrilling morning of whale watching the group returned to shore, a slightly salty but very happy bunch.
ReefDoctor would like to thank Paradisier Eco Lodge and Atimo Plongee for providing boats, crew and this amazing opportunity for the Junior ReefDoctors.
Story by Oriana Wouters
ReefDoctor has introduced new participants from neighbouring villages into the Alternative Livelihoods Project. Amboaboky now has ten farmers which form part of the project and Ambolomaileky has 46 farmers showing growing interest in seaweed farming and a willingness to invest time in other means of income, in addition to fishing. Not to mention, the farmers of Ifaty have had their fourth seaweed sale in October, with a record breaking 1490 kg of dried seaweed sold.
ReefDoctor, together with farmers, is aiming at a 200 kg harvest per farmer. With this amount per harvest, farmers will have the assurance of a sustainable income. Some farmers were on the brink of reaching this goal, which shows their commitment to the project.
An additional sale took place in the village of Mangily, where 548 kg of seaweed were sold. Unfortunately there was a reduction in the amount of dried seaweed compared to the previous sale, due to the occurrence of pathogens in the bay. The growth period was shortened to limit the spread of the disease in the farms. ReefDoctor is helping these farmers get back to previous production levels by providing new seeds to the farmers affected by the disease. Production will increase in due time and ReefDoctor is working hard to get everyone back on track.
ReefDoctor’s alternative livelihoods project is funded by the Darwin Initiative.
Story by Dan Guerin
Junior ReefDoctors provided an energetic presentation to Ifaty residents this weekend, aiming to address the problems of littering. The event was well attended by the children’s families, village Elders, teachers, fisheries association Fi.Mi.Ha.Ra, villagers and ReefDoctor representatives.
A poor and remote area of Madagascar, Ifaty lacks infrastructure for waste collection and management which inevitably results in the spread of litter across adjacent land and coastline. Through weekly classes at ReefDoctor and active participation in regular beach-cleans, the children learn the negative effects of littering and it’s impact on the marine environment, and are keen to spread awareness throughout the community.
Junior ReefDoctors make a powerful conduit for communicating the message of conservation to their families and wider community, who might otherwise not have time to give it much consideration. Presenting to a large audience also helps the children to gain self-confidence in public speaking and affords them the opportunity to share their beliefs with a wider audience.
The event held at Ifaty’s school, opened with an enthusiastic speech by the school’s Director, followed by songs written by Junior ReefDoctors, individual presentations, performance and dance. Labelling the day a great success, Rinah Rakotondrazaka, ReefDoctor’s Head of Community Education said: “This was a great opportunity to teach the community about the dangers of their actions to the environment, through the Junior ReefDoctors. The children had a great time, as did the audience who’s feedback was universally positive. As a result of the event, there has even been talk of introducing new dina [local law] specifically addressing littering!”
Story by Cale Golding
ReefDoctor’s Darwin Initiative funded alternative livelihoods project continues to grow, with ten farmers from the village of Amboaboaky this week receiving training to start their own seaweed farms. Encouraged by the success of seaweed farming in the nearby villages of Mangily and Ifaty, the community of Amboaboaky have embraced the activity and are enjoying learning the skills necessary to be successful seaweed farmers.
And they have good role models. Their trainers are themselves successful seaweed farmers from the village of Ifaty. These trainers underwent intensive education in seaweed farming with technicians from ReefDoctor, and upon successful completion, graduated to the position of Seaweed Trainer. As a seaweed trainer, farmers engage with new communities, guiding and teaching them in the skills required to set up their own farm, with support from ReefDoctor. After assessment of this training period, trainers may advance to the position of Community Seaweed Technician. Community seaweed technicians have demonstrated the skills necessary to act as independent seaweed specialists, advancing their job prospects wherever seaweed is farmed.
For the new farmers of Amboaboaky, who also have the potential to advance through this training program, starting their own seaweed plot may be just the beginning of a truly sustainable alternative livelihood.
Story by Ivana Rubino
In April 2015, a team from ReefDoctor and the villagers of Ifaty held a swimming relay race from the ReefDoctor camp to Rose Garden and back (that’s about 3km!), raising funds to refurbish an ageing classroom. This important project will provide a better place for Junior ReefDoctors, adult English classes and other community projects to take place. The Ifaty team enjoyed a comfortable win and a great day was had by all. The event was generously supported by Mangily-based businesses Atimoo Dive School, Hotel Princesse du Lagon, Hotel Les Dunes d’Ifaty and Hotel La Plage du Lagon and raised a grand-total of £750.
The refurbishment of the classroom began in July with ReefDoctor volunteers and interns helping to demolish the walls and roof. It took quite a few pairs of hands and some hard work to strip the classroom back to it’s shell.
Once this was done the staff, volunteers and interns set to work on a design for a bigger and better space with an outdoor area so that classes can be conducted comfortably all year round. Wood and vondro (reeds) were ordered for the rebuild and it was all hands on deck when the materials arrived. In August the walls were up and ReefDoctor members helped local builders to raise the concrete floor and extend outside. Some volunteers even got a lesson in thatching a vondro roof.
Now the classroom structure is almost finished and everyone is excited about putting the finishing touches to the project. The paint is on the way!
ReefDoctor, and all who use the classroom would like to thank the many friends, family and supporters who gave so generously and made this project possible. It will provide a wonderful learning space for all the community based projects conducted at ReefDoctor.