When I first got to Union Island all I could say was, wow! This island is so beautiful and I’m so grateful for this opportunity to spend two weeks here to research coral. Getting here is no joke, Union Island is a very remote island. Our class had to fly into Grenada and ride a ferry to Carriacou where we spent one night. In the morning, we had to catch a second ferry into Union Island and go through customs a second time. There were a few bumps along the way, closed marinas, and a few people seasick but we made it!
Our first day on Union Island was spent settling into our rooms and exploring the nearby market to buy fresh fruit. The mangos are so ripe and delicious you don’t even need a knife to peel them. The smoothies and fresh coconut water are much needed after long days in the sun. Our hotel offers a pool, spotty internet and an AC system that needs to be turned off when not in the hotel. The island is low on resources since it is their off season, and all goods need to come from the mainland, so we have started to boil our drinking water. Luckily, we have a nice kitchen in our room and have access to a stove and an electric kettle. We have plenty of stray dogs that protect the property that we have all named and befriended.
Now comes the time we all came here for, scuba diving! Our first day diving was spent on buoyancy control and ensuring everyone was able to explore without hitting the corals. I had a 360 view of reef, and I must say it was magical. The reef was busy with a whole city of marine life, fish, sea slugs, worms and so much more. You can hear the reef snap, crackle, and pop with all the activity. We followed our guide to a shipwreck where we saw a nurse shark lounging below. We all observed until the shark finally swam out of our eyesight. We turned around and followed the reef back to our boat making sure to snap pictures of everything we could. The next few days involved diving at different reef sights and laying down transect tape for us to survey and collect data about the reef life. Our underwater duties include laying 5, 30 meter long transect tapes. We dive below with data sheets and mark certain marine life and corals we see along the transect tape. The first survey attempts were practice, ensuring we knew how to identify the different corals, fish, and invertebrates. We scuba in different groups, each with a different task on what to survey. Our data collected will be shared with local nonprofits so they can analyze and implement ways to protect the reefs.
Our afternoons are spent submitting our data and taking a few short quizzes. After our schoolwork is complete, we get to explore the island. We have gone snorkeling in some shallow water where we’ve seen many urchins and even an octopus. We are truly living that island lifestyle and I am loving every minute of it. Our next week will have more diving as well as a hike with the island rangers and a ritual dance experience. Stay tuned for more!