Marine Educator Blog February 2023 Amrita, Club Med Seychelles
With a special relaunch in 2023, each month, WiseOceans Discovery brings you a glimpse into the life of our resident Marine Biologists and Educators, on location in Seychelles, Mauritius or French Polynesia. This month, Amrita, resident WiseOceans Marine Biologist and Educator for Four Seasons Resort Seychelles and Club Med Seychelles describes a special kids snorkel at Club Med Seychelles – ‘How to fall in love with the ocean’.
Kindling passion in Seychelles
Every once in a while, we have a special interaction with a guest and my recent interaction with eight-year-old Ann from Cape Town will stay with me for a long time!
Ann and her parents joined our guided snorkelling session at Club Med Seychelles one afternoon – her mother mentioned that it was Ann’s first time snorkelling and that she was very excited. As soon as Ann dipped her head in she saw a fish in the shallow water. She looked up at once, crying out in delight, “I saw a fish! I saw a fish!”. I knew then that she would really enjoy seeing all the fish and other marine life out on the reef.
Not long after the snorkel commenced, I noticed that Ann wasn’t comfortable – her snorkel was slipping down. It was also low tide and she explained that being close to the seabed with the algae and sea urchins also frightened her a bit. Her parents were struggling to help her get comfortable so I swam over to assist them.
Ann soon got over her fear and became quite comfortable in the water, although she didn’t want to leave my hand at all throughout the snorkel. I smiled as I listened to her joyful exclamations through her snorkel. Every few seconds she stuck her head out of the water to ask me questions about the marine life we spotted. Much to my amusement, every time I named a fish, her next questions were always the same; “Is it poisonous? Is it dangerous? Does it bite?” And to her surprise, my answer didn’t change either. “No it’s not. And anyway, no creature will hurt you unless you try to touch or harm it. They’re far more afraid of us than we are of them!”
There was another young boy, about Ann’s age, who was like a fish in the water and kept freediving down to get a closer look at the marine life. When Ann saw him swimming underwater she asked if she could learn to do the same. She said that she knew how to swim underwater in a pool, so I told her it was the same here.
I explained that her snorkel would fill up with water and demonstrated how to blow it out. She tried and was surprisingly good at it considering it was her first time freediving! Before even attempting it, however, she sweetly asked if she could still hold my hand once she got back to the surface. She continued practising duck diving throughout the snorkel. By the end, she was more confident, although she still insisted on holding my hand every time she came back up.
Later I was surprised to learn that Ann was only eight. “I couldn’t freedive when I was your age,” I said. “Are you sure you’re only eight?” “Well I am tall for my age. I take after my mum,” she explained matter-of-factly.
An Introduction to Reef Restoration
Ann wanted to spend more time with me and was particularly interested in learning about corals. SoI invited her for an informal coral gardening demonstration the following week. We met after breakfast, yet before we could begin, we were in for a surprise! We heard that there was a hawksbill turtle laying eggs on a nearby beach and went to have a look. It was indeed a special experience watching the turtle cover up her nest by flicking sand in with her back flippers, but we didn’t go too close or stay too long in order to avoid drawing a large crowd who might disturb her.
When we returned to Ann’s parents, they helped me get the rope ready for the coral fragments, which I then quickly swam out to find. I found a few naturally broken bits of Acropora, Porites, and Pocillopora corals before heading back to shore.
Ann was eager to help, so I got her to swim down and pull the rope and cable tie endsI provided an overview of our coral reef restoration project to the family and also spoke about corals. Details included what they are, how they grow and what sort of conditions they need to thrive. I then demonstrated how we chisel the dead bits off the coral fragments and carefully secure them in the rope. They took photos of the tiny, exquisite coral crabs which I pointed out to them. Ann helped twist the rope and fix the corals in it. Her mother helped me photograph the corals, after which Ann and her dad swam out to the nursery with me. I tied the rope to the nursery table over a few duck dives.
A budding biologist
I would be happy if I have helped kindle a passion for the marine world in little Ann. As I was walking away after her first snorkel I heard her exclaim to her mother, “I love it! I love it! I love the ocean!”. Those heart-warming words will always remain with me and I hope her love for the ocean will only grow in time.
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