Published: May 5th 2012May 5th 2012
The first blog of my African adventure is taking place at London Heathrow. I flew from Dallas to Chicago (flight was late, of course) and barely made my connection to London. I am carrying a god-awful backpack that must weigh 300 lbs, at least it feels like it! I am also pulling a small suitcase behind me. It seems crazy I know, but the main issue is my camera equipment. I am travelling across the planet to Mozambique where I will research, watch, and cavort with whale sharks and manta rays...I must have my camera equipment! Checking my cameras, strobes, chargers, mounts, and computer seems risky to me, from Dallas to Chicago to London to Johannesburg to Inhambane, Mozambique. A lot could go wrong in that distance, and there will be no camera stores in Tofo, Mozambique, where I will be staying for the next 3 1/2 weeks, therefore...most of the equipment is with me. One thing I do know: when I am done with the volunteer work, I will be leaving all kinds of items at the volunteer house, among them my sleeping bag, mosquito net, bug sprays, first aid kit and towels. All of the items I needed to bring for my time in Tofo, plus camera equipment and computer, plus the clothes and shoes I will need for the safari Randy and I will be going on June 3 to Tanzania. I am exhausted just thinking about all of the bags I had to bring.
So, where am I going? And why? I am going to Tofo, Mozambique, home of the Foundation for the Protection of Marine Megafauna
, (it is on Facebook), headed by Dr. Andrea Marshall (manta rays) and Dr Simon Pierce (whale sharks). For anyone who doesn't know me well, I am an animal lover, an ocean lover, a scuba diver and an enthusiastic amateur underwater photographer. I heard about the project in Tofo through NatGeo (or Discovery). Andrea Marshall is known as the Queen of Mantas. She is in Mozambique where she researches the manta populations, and she discovered the existence of two species of manta. To say I admire what she has done and what she is doing is a vast understatement. We can all argue about what causes climate change, but one thing we do know and can agree on: humans are harming the balance of life everywhere on our planet. The ocean is at the heart of all life, we depend on its food sources, its plant life, its currents, and its temperatures. The ocean, and it's animals, are at risk. I decided I needed to do my part. I've been doing fish species surveys for REEF for a year now, and this trip is, I hope, the first of many such ventures. I grew up on Jacques Cousteau specials, the famous boat Calypso on its voyages of exploration, and how I wanted to be a part of it! Of course, I think every kid of my generation wanted to be Jacques Cousteau. In the days before world of warcraft, home computers, the internet and Facebook, we had to find our own fun and we didn't live our adventures on our Xboxes, we lived them through our imaginations and individuals like Jacques Cousteau, who generally had two television specials a year. No, we didn't have cable, so we had to find out when it would be on, and be sure we tuned in. No, there would be no rerun or repeat of the show. The first look at SCUBA (Jacques Cousteau invented the Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus), watching dolphins play, seeing sharks and incredible creatures from the deep for the first time fired my curiousity and wonder. I have never lost it. I have been diving with all kinds of animals, including Great White Sharks, manatees, dolphins, sharks, eels, all manner of fish, etc etc, but this is a dream come true, to participate in research designed to assist in the protection of our seas. I am excited to be on my way.
So, trying to stay awake as I hang out in the Admirals Club Lounge, waiting until 5p when I have to take a bus to another terminal to catch a British Airways flight to Johannesburg. Conserving my energy! I'll sleep like a baby on the flight tonight. I will check in tomorrow, from Johannesburg!