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News item submitted by Gap Year Blog
News item dated 4 Jan 2018

I’ve been on Mafia Island for almost three months now and I’m sad to say my time is almost up. I know it sounds cliché but this small island now holds a special place in my heart and it’s going to be difficult to say goodbye.

There are some things on camp I am happy to be seeing the back of; dodging falling coconuts on a daily basis, having insects cut out of my toe, going to the toilet in a modest hole - all things I suspect I’ll be doing less of once I’m back in Hertfordshire (except maybe the last point). However, despite these tribulations of camp life, its wonderful how quickly it starts to feel like home. From the hours of playing risk on a rainy day, our resident dogs, the movie nights and weekly quiz nights, camp is somewhere where you feel like you can truly relax.

Compared to life back home, I the thing I’ll definitely miss most about this place is living by the sea (a warm one at that!) Over my three months here, the luxury of being able to go in the sea on a daily basis is something I’ve grown accustomed to, and to be honest, it’s now a bit of a scary thought that I don’t know the next time I’m going to be in the ocean.

Not only has the ocean given me my moments of peace, it’s also given me my moments of wonder. I knew the marine life was going to be amazing before I got here but it’s a whole other level once you’re in the water. The sheer diversity and abundance of life below the surface takes your breath away.

Whilst I was here, the whale shark season started and I was lucky enough to see 12 in one day, and was even in the water with 3 at once. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I managed to hold back the tears (and pee). You can’t help but shut up and look in wonder when you see them swim past you.

Other than that, the general lifestyle and attitude here is something that I’ll miss. Everyone gets on with everyone and whilst things never happen on schedule, they always happen eventually and with lots of smiles.

Since being here, I’ve done a lot of community work, from teaching English at the daily adults class to organising community beach cleans, which is much more than I had expected, and it’s been incredible and I definitely think I have learnt more from them than they have for me! Which probably doesn’t say a lot about my skills as an “English teacher”. I think the main thing I’ve learnt, apart from how to swear in Swahili, of course, is how keen the community is about learning about the environment and how to conserve it. They’ve really gotten into reducing and recycling waste. A key memory that stands out is Thomas from men’s class bringing a homemade guitar (made out of an old kettle, some wood and string) and performing for us.

It’s amazed me how keen these people are to change their lifestyle in order to look after the environment surrounding them. The sad thing is that this harkens to the larger issue communities on small islands face. These communities are the first to be effected by issues such as climate change and plastic in the ocean. Despite this, watching the community work to overcome these issues has been a blessing.

For me, my trip highlights have to be the wildlife and the people. The local people make you feel at home and you truly feel part of the community. I’ve made so many friends here and I’ll particularly miss the guys from adult’s class. Oh and our dog James, he’s great.

By Daniel Altman - Tanzania Marine Research Officer

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