My time on Union Island is coming to an end and although I am excited to get back to my bed and shower, I will truly miss this island and the wonderful people who live here. We have been diving every day, twice a day and the Grenadine Dive shop and their crew have been amazing. They have taken us to all the best locations to survey coral reefs and educated us about the surrounding islands. They are careful on site to ensure they do not damage any coral and are always helping to put all our gear together. Not the easiest task on a moving boat while switching air tanks and people all around you. Our sites for diving have been carefully planned but come with pretty strong currents and long surface swims. We have all trained for this but getting to finally experience it in the field with all the sweat and blisters is a different story but I wouldn’t have it any other way. We have been lucky to mostly see healthy reefs with very few bleaching or diseased coral. We are excited to share our data and compare to previous years.
One day we took a break from scuba diving and woke up early for a hike to the tallest point in all the grenadine islands. Five wardens or park rangers took us on a four-hour trek through a protected forest where they educated us on the plants and animals in the forest as well as the history of what made union island the way it is today. We were able to safely capture a white snake and got the opportunity of a lifetime by seeing a Union Island Gecko. This gecko can only be found on this island and nowhere else. It is very highly protected as many people try to steal to sell at a high value. The gecko is tiny at an average length of 3 cm and has jewel like markings. Spending the morning with the wardens really showed how much they love their island and will go through great lengths to protect it.
In the afternoon we took a trip to visit the Imani Culture Group. They focus on cultural dancing and drumbeats. The instructor Masani started this group in 1995 and wants to continue to pass on the traditions into the next generation. The group put on a performance for us and taught us how to dance to a specific beat from the main drummer. We all took turns practicing and really enjoyed getting to fully experience and embrace the culture of the island.
The following evening, the adventure continued with another amazing opportunity. We took a night hike down to Bloody Bay where we waited and watched for a leatherback sea turtle come to shore to lay her eggs. Unfortunately, we were not stealthy enough to see a sea turtle. However, our warden was able to give us an enormous amount of knowledge about the different species. Also, getting to spend a night on the beach starring at the stars isn’t bad either.
This trip has been filled with so many adventures, amazing people, and memories. Everyone we have met throughout the island will forever be remembered. The locals have made sure to welcome us to their island with open arms, always sharing history and love. I am truly grateful to be a part of the Tropical Marine Ecology and Conservation course and the skills and memories I have made.