Mangrove Shenanigans, By Mike

During my first couple weeks at Honko, we went out into the mangroves to monitor them. We take various measurements from plots that have been randomly selected throughout the mangrove to determine the overall health of that specific area, and thus the mangrove as a whole. Recently, we have switched to fishpond monitoring. We have only gone three days so far but I find it to be more enjoyable. We are working directly with people from the village who fish the ponds, allowing us to get to know some of them better. It’s pretty funny attempting to catch these small fish – you have to kind of bob around while sifting your hands through this dense, mushy mud at the bottom where the fish hide. I didn’t catch a single fish until half way through the third day. I tried to play it off cool like it was no big deal but I was pretty excited. (Just for reference: there were about 6 people in the two small ponds today and we caught 187 fish all about 3-5 inches).

A couple Sundays ago, Dmitra, another volunteer and I went kayaking through the mangrove channels. It was absolutely beautiful. For the beginning of our journey we were in a very narrow area, constantly crashing into trees and getting stuck on the roots of the mangroves that grow down off the trunk of the trees. After about 20 minutes of narrow shenanigans, we finally made it to the big channel. There was a nice breeze at our backs as we floated along with the tide. I barely paddled from this moment on, letting the current take me at will (except for one time when I almost crashed). We drifted about 3km down the channel to the next village, Ambotsibotsike, where we could have either kept floating to where the channel discharges in to the Strait of Mozambique, or get out and walk to the beach. We chose to get out and walk. From this point, it looked like it would take about 10-15 minutes walking to the beach, dragging the kayaks behind us – 45 minutes later and I’m about 2/3 of the way there. At this point, three boys from the village came up to me and actually helped me haul the kayak just over the berm, giving me my first close up view of the ocean in weeks. I just stood there for about 10 minutes staring at the horizon. The boys thought I was crazy. They ended up leaving after a short time and helped Dmitra with her kayak cause I had gone ahead of her. I frolicked in the water for about 30 minutes while Dmitra made friends with the boys. After I got out the boys started doing gymnastics, using the beach as their runway. Unfortunately, we had to head back to the center cause I was assigned to make lunch. We trekked back across the dunes (it felt like it took much less time for some reason), and started to kayak again, only against the current and wind this time. I made it to the first sand bar after about 500m and got off to walk. I planned on walking only for a little but ended up walking the entire way back to Honko – all 3km in waist-chest deep water against the current… only took about 1.5 hours actually.

At night, we usually play some sort of game, whether it is cards or some sort of board game. We typically do not last too long as everyone is tired from the day and it gets quite dark shortly after the sunset. We all retire to our respective to bunks to write or read until we pass out, looking forward to the adventure that the following day will bring.

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