Washing dishes isn’t so bad with a view like this! We had an unexpectedly sunny afternoon for day one of collecting data for our project on mangroves. Heading over to the mangroves at Page Creek where we’d done the drone work, we strapped on our snorkel gear and headed in. The original plan had been to count individual fish, but after seeing how many were in the water, we unanimously decided against that! Instead, we hunted for as many species as possible to get a measure of diversity.
Seeing all creatures hiding amongst the mangrove roots was amazing! We’ve had many days wading through various creeks, but this was my first time seeing what was happening below the surface. Many juvenile reef fish flitted around, emphasising the mangrove’s role in protecting them before they venture out onto the reefs. My favourites were the purple-and-yellow Beaugregories, who dashed away when they sensed our presence but then returned to peer at us from a safe distance.
Our second snorkel spot was a mangrove patch near Fourth Hole, inland from my favourite coral reef. Perhaps due to its proximity to such a diverse reef, this spot had a huge array of creatures. From shoals of tiny fish to giant anemones, we were kept busy recording everything on our dive slates. Most exciting for me was seeing a Caribbean reef squid blending in with the roots – I’d never seen a live one before!
Project days allowed us to work to our own timetable – we had an hour or two spare so decided to cycle to the Saddle for a snorkel. It didn’t disappoint, with a loggerhead turtle and a suspected bull shark in the deeper water. One member of our group was hunting in crevices for octopods – no luck there, but he did find an enormous spiny lobster.
Day two of project work took us to some very shallow and muddy mangroves! We didn’t so much swim as slither through them, but still found a decent variety of species. I was lucky enough to see a juvenile lemon shark cruise by. The shallow water meant we were at eye-level with the fish, so it wasn’t all bad! Still, we were happy to complete our data collection and wash off the mangrove mud.
To spread the word about our work, we were also shooting bits of film for a video explaining the project. We wrote our script while sitting on a beach, but reciting it to camera took several takes and many bloopers!
It was hard to believe, but this was our last full day in the Bahamas! Back on campus, we had a brief lecture outlining the skills we’d learnt, from working in challenging tropical conditions, to capturing and handling wildlife. There was also a photo competition which got a lot of laughs, and the entries were stunning!
Once we’d packed up and cleaned the dorms, we gathered for burgers and a marine-themed pub quiz. This included an inspired “make a stingray out of tinfoil” round. We ate, drank and were merry – a satisfying round-off to our time here!