Ron Pettit's Diary


Friday, May 26, 2006 Friday, June 23, 2006
Friday, August 18, 2006 Saturday, August 19, 2006
Sunday, August 20, 2006 Monday, August 21, 2006
Tuesday, August 22, 2006 Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Thursday, August 24, 2006 Friday, August 25, 2006
Saturday, August 26, 2006 Sunday, August 27, 2006
Monday, August 28, 2006 Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Wednesday, August 30, 2006  

Friday, May 26, 2006 With three months to go before my trip to Kenya, I have been doing some research on the Internet about the location and its environment. The mangrove ecology is critical along the Kenyan coast to a range of ecosystems. The depletion of mangrove trees due to local communities cutting them for wood is affecting the coastline and the other flora and fauna that rely on them. I am now really quite interested in the problem and these efforts to help resolve it. I am also beginning to think about what is possible with some effort and coordination. Here is a group of people from all over the world getting together to help solve a very local environmental issue.
 
One of the emails I received briefing me on the project has a list of the volunteers who will be attending. Apart from me, there are a couple from the United Kingdom, someone from Mexico, another from India, someone from Brazil, and my fellow Alcoan from Suriname. We are the veritable United Nations of volunteers! The expedition will be interesting from the point of view of the volunteer group alone.
 
I am finding the reaction of friends and relatives to my expedition fascinating. Typical of the responses are: You are going where? You’re going to do what? And why? Inevitably, though, once I have explained the Alcoa Earthwatch program and how I got involved, there is some envy, and many (especially my 16-year-old daughter) wish they could come, too.

Friday, June 23, 2006 It is now less than two months before I set off for Kenya on my expedition. Over the last few weeks, I have finalized travel arrangements and accommodations. My travel will take me from Perth in Western Australia to Dubai, then to Nairobi, and finally on to Mombasa. I will meet the expedition crew in Mombasa, and we will travel by road to Gaze Bay. There was some uncertainty in booking accommodation at the rendezvous hotel in Mombasa, as it does not take bookings until two weeks before arrival.
 
I have been in email contact with one of my fellow Alcoa Earthwatch fellows, Brigitte Kasanpawiro from Suriname. Brigitte and I have shared notes on travel arrangements and are both looking forward to meeting up on the expedition.
 
It really is the logistics of the expedition that are starting to grow the realization of what I am actually doing. The opportunity to visit a place I might never have even thought about is just fantastic. This will be something I will talk about and share with other for years to come. I must remember to make sure my camera has plenty of memory.

Friday, August 18, 2006 After rushing around madly trying to make sure everything is taken care of at work and at home, my wife and daughters drop me at Perth International Airport for the three-leg flight to Mombasa.
 
I have a mixture of feelings, ranging from excitement about the trip to a sense of trepidation about the unknown. I have never been to Africa and have rarely traveled on my own. I will miss my family, too.
 
The process of baggage, immigration, and flight checks takes time, but it seems to go quickly. I am soon settled on the plane waiting for takeoff. I seriously start to ponder what lies ahead of me for the next 10 days or so.

Saturday, August 19, 2006 I arrive at Mombasa airport at about 8 p.m. Outside, it is very busy, with a throng of taxi drivers and tour operators vying for the chance to offer their services. I ask a young taxi driver how much it will be to take me to my hotel, and he shows me a printed schedule of costs for all the hotels. The fee is 900 Kenyan shillings. I am so tired from the long flights and anxious to get to the hotel that haggling about price seems too hard, and I accept the offer. Another man carries my bags to the taxi, and I have to tip him for the service.

As it is dark, there is not much to see, but it is certainly busy with vehicles and people along the way. The taxi driver points out the harbor as we pass and some other hotels. Finally, we pull up at my hotel. Although I actually have no booking, a room is available. After dumping my stuff in the room, which is simple but clean and comfortable, I visit the “Rooftop Restaurant” for a meal. The food and service is great.

Sunday, August 20, 2006 I arrive at the rendezvous point early and sit at a table by myself. No sign of other Earthwatch fellows just yet. Have I got the right place and time? The waitress and I have some initial difficulties communicating, but we eventually sort out that I would like a drink and something to eat.
 
Shortly after my meal arrives, three other volunteers walk in—Anil from India, Emily from Mexico, and my Alcoa counterpart from Suriname, Brigitte. The three are having a look around town and have called in to make sure they have the right place. I now feel better knowing I am not lost or out of sync with the group.
 
Closer to the agreed time, others arrive, and we introduce ourselves. Deividas is from Lithuania, Belinda from Taiwan, Laura and Tina from the U.S., and Matthew and Lucy from the U.K. Everybody seems really nice, and we are soon chatting about the trip and everyone’s travel experiences in getting this far.
 
Next to arrive is our team leader, Dr. Mark Huxham, and the bus into which we will all squeeze with our luggage. Mark is from Napier University in Scotland and has been involved in the mangroves project for some time.
 
The trip to Gazi takes just over an hour on what is quite a good road. Mombasa is essentially an island, so we first cross the river on a ferry with a range of other vehicles and plenty of locals on foot. Along the way, we pass many communities, some big, some small.
 
Gazi is a small village of about 1,000 people on the southern coast of Kenya, only some 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the border of Tanzania. When we arrive, there are plenty of children waving and greeting us with “jambo,” which is Swahili for hello. My initial impression is that it appears as though life in Gazi is simple and happy.
 
We are introduced to our host, Dr. James Cairo, his staff, and our accommodation and facilities. A couple of local young men then take us on a tour of the village to help us get orientated. Most of the houses and buildings are mud and thatch with mangrove poles as support. This is the first sign of the importance of the mangrove forest to the people that I notice.
 
The village is interesting and the people friendly. It feels safe and welcoming. There is also some interesting history, as one of the buildings is said to have links with the slave trade from many years ago.
 
After dinner, we discuss the expedition, how and when things will be organized, and our individual hopes and fears. The group is from such a range of cultures that working and living together will require careful consideration.

Monday, August 21, 2006 The day starts with breakfast up in the canopy, a free-standing, balcony-type structure where we have all our meals and meetings. It is cool and gives a sense of great importance sitting among the roof and treetops.
 
Breakfast consists of local bread, triangular in shape with a hollow middle that we fill with a coconut bean mix. It is delicious.
 
Later, we meet at the lab building and prepare for the mangrove marathon—a trek through the nearby mangrove forest looking at the variety of species and getting a feel for the working conditions.
 
Dr. Kairo has explained to us the value of the mangrove forest to the local environment and community. There are some 70 species of mangrove trees throughout the world, occurring largely between latitudes 25 degrees north and 25 degrees south. Of these 70 species, nine can be found on the Kenyan coast and six within the forest here at Gazi. The mangrove forests are highly productive ecosystems critical to the sustainability of a range of other plants and animals. The mangrove trees also provide the local community with building material and firewood. It is not hard to see the dilemma being faced and the need for a better understanding of how the mangroves grow. The local people need to cut them down but also need them to grow to support the coastal ecosystems, especially in relation to fishing.
 
Our trek starts at the most landward end of a tract of mangroves, and the first species we encounter is Sonneratia, recognizable by the snorkel-type roots poking up around the tree itself. This is the first of many adaptations we learn about that the clever mangroves have developed to cope with living by or in the sea.
 
The ground here is fairly solid, and there are what seem to be a million tiny crabs scuttling about. Mark tells us these are mostly species of Ukas.
 
As we progress toward the sea, the going gets much tougher. The mangroves are now of a variety that has large prop roots, making it hard to get around or over. These mangrove trees are the Rhizophora species. The mud is also much deeper and more slippery; I start to see why the use of strong shoes was recommended. There are also a number of small oysters attached to the roots and trunks of these trees, and the shells are sharp. A number of us sustain cuts despite the warnings of our guides; it starts to feel like a marathon indeed.
 
Finally, we emerge at the sea side of the tract and proceed along the bank toward the “Mangrove Boardwalk.” Along the way, I notice a strange little fish. It looks like a floating dead leaf, but closer inspection reveals it to be a tropical-looking fish with long fins. No one in the group has seen it before, so we cannot identify it.
 
The tide has come in a little faster than predicted, and the water depth is too high to continue along the bank, so we venture back into the mangroves. We come across a creek that must be crossed; the water level is a bit higher than wading depth. Much discussion about how to get across takes place. Should we look for a shallower place? Can we swing across on a tree branch? Tina proves to be a woman of action, plunging in and swimming across. The rest of us follow with varying degrees of success!
 
Eventually, we arrive at the boardwalk, a terrific initiative run by the women of Gazi. The construction of the boardwalk has given rise to a small ecotourism business. Tourists come and pay a small fee to use the boardwalk, and local people are being trained to conduct the tours. Information is provided about the mangrove species and their ecological importance. The couple of village ladies who tell us about the boardwalk have brought along cool drinks—I am very impressed.
 
We get back to the village by walking along a beautiful white sand beach, which is much easier to traverse than mangrove mud. Some of the villagers watch us trudge in. I think they are too polite to laugh, but they are probably thinking that we westerners are a pretty soft lot—especially the gray-headed bloke from Australia who looks like he may collapse at any moment.
 
What a day. I have learned a great deal but am physically spent.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006 Last night, Dr. Mark Huxham gave us a better understanding of the work being undertaken on mangroves here in Kenya. There is not a great deal known about how mangroves grow, and much of the work here in Gazi is conducting experiments to determine which species grow best in which environments and what affects the growth rates. There is also much to learn about the role of mangrove forests in relation to global warming and the take-up and storage of carbon.
 
Armed with this knowledge, we head off this morning to the nearby village of Kinondo, where a large number of experimental plots have been established. It is a long walk from where our bus stops to the work site, but we pass many village homes along the way and are always greeted with a “jambo” from the children.
 
Our first task is to mark out some plots for planting. The plots are six meters by six meters (20 feet by 20 feet), and the plants are 60 centimeters (24 inches) apart. There are a few ideas about the best way to do this, but eventually the plots are marked out and sticks are put in to show where the plants will go.
 
The seedlings are carried to the site on a makeshift stretcher of a canvas bag tied between two mangrove poles. The digging is not too difficult, as the ground is soft and we do not need to go too deep. We are planting two species today, Ceriops and Avicennia. They are easy to tell apart, as the Ceriops have round fat leaves, and the Avicennia are long and thin.
 
As well as planting, we are also taking soil samples from existing plots to determine oxygen and salinity levels at various depths.
 
A highlight of the work at Kinondo is the “Coconut Café.” At about 11 a.m., we take a break under a nearby grove of coconut palms, and one of local villagers provides a coconut with the top off ready to drink. It is very refreshing.
 
After more planting and sampling, we finish at about 1 p.m. and head back to Gazi for lunch. There is some lab work to attend to in the afternoon, but as only a few volunteers were needed, I take the opportunity to slip into recovery mode and have a nap under the fan in my room.
 
Later in the evening, I am sitting in the canopy writing some notes when a monkey leaps across the roof. I think he has his eye on some fruit trees in a neighboring yard. It is a vivid reminder that I am in Africa.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006 After breakfast at 7 a.m., we prepare for another day at Kinondo and are soon off in the bus. Swali is our driver again, and though his English is not the best, he communicates magnificently with what must be the widest grin in Kenya.
 
The walk down to the plots seems to be longer than normal due to my sore knee. On the way, we come across an enormous spider with striking yellow markings in a web between two mangrove trees. Many photos are taken.
 
The day’s work is mostly planting seedlings in various plots. The plots are a mixture of species, Avecinnia and Bruguiera, with the same treatments to enable the research team to identify which species grow best in the conditions. The plots are about 100 meters (328 feet) from the oceanfront, and you can see how the ground has been covered by water during high tide the night before. The seedlings we planted previously are surviving well despite being inundated by seawater.
 
I am initially assigned to digging holes for the plants. It is not that hard, as the ground is soft mud. But the temperature is warm, and I am soon feeling weary. The shovels we are using are not the best, but they are the only ones that can be purchased locally. The cost of bringing in better ones is prohibitive for the project.
 
I think about how such work would be conducted back home in my workplace. We would have the best available equipment and all the latest technology. I reflect on the value of the work being done here and the funds available to do it. Those involved work under difficult circumstances with the barest of essentials in an effort to solve one of the world’s biggest issues. I have a growing admiration for the passion and commitment of the project group.
 
My digging job is soon handed to someone else and, after a short rest and drink, I help with the planting. Again, it’s not that difficult; just hot and dirty.
 
During the day, each of the volunteers tries to learn a new Swahili word to share with the group. This was Laura’s great idea from the previous night’s discussion. While waiting for the group, I ask one of the locals how to say “hurry up.” He tells me it is “haraka.” I then yell to the group “haraka, haraka,” but they don’t know what I am saying! Perhaps they are all well and truly in the swing of the local culture, which is much more laid back than at home. Maybe I should learn the Swahili word for “relax.” I remember the famous words from a movie: “hakuna matata”—no worries.
 
In the afternoon back at Gazi, I help in the lab preparing soil samples. The soil has to be put through a stainless steel sieve using water and a brush, which eliminates all the very fine particles, and then put in labeled receptacles ready for drying.
 
After dinner, we have a visitor talk to us about the village. Hamasi is a local fisherman, and he tells us about the people of the village and how things operate. The village is almost entirely Muslim, and villagers are called to prayer four times a day to one of two mosques. There are a number of village elders who make decisions that affect the whole village. He tells us that schooling is very important. The government has just made primary schooling free, and this has had a big impact in the village. Everybody helps each other in the village, doing what is needed.
 
We question Hamasi about his fishing, and he tells us that the good season is only about eight months long. Most of his fish are sold to brokers, who sell the fish to restaurants in town. Interestingly, he tells us that fishermen from Tanzania come to Gazi to fish during the good season, and they have better boats and gear. Hamasi also tells us of a very unusual incident in which a local fisherman was bitten by a barracuda while diving for fish.
 
The link between the survival of the mangroves and the local fishing industry is now more obvious.

Thursday, August 24, 2006 Another hearty breakfast, and we are off to Kinondo again. There is more planting and sampling to be done. Today, I help with the soil sampling along with fellow volunteers Laura and Deividas. Also helping with the sampling is Swali and Bernard. Bernard is a Kenyan Ph.D. student working on the project, and he supervises us on this work.
 
A probe is used to take four core samples from each of 10 plots. Sometimes the probe is hard to push in, but mostly it is not too difficult. In any case, Deividas has become an expert at it.
 
After turning the probe to capture the soil, the probe is removed and laid on the ground. A redox meter is then place in the soil core at the 10 centimeter (four inch) and 40 centimeter (16 inch) points, and a reading is taken. The redox meter is measuring the amount of oxygen in the soil, and the results are recorded and later entered into the database back at the lab. After the redox measures, a small amount of soil is removed from both points, put in bags, and labeled. These samples will be taken back to the lab and tested for salinity levels.
 
Again, we take a break at the Coconut Café, where Litani has prepared a batch of fresh coconuts for us at about 11 a.m. It is good to take a break under the trees. Today, the usual coconut throwing contest turns into an impromptu game of “Coconut Cricket.” A large palm frond is used as a bat, and a small coconut seed as a ball. Cairo tries to tell us that the Kenyans are world champion cricketers! He does not convince us with his prowess at batting. My roommate, Anil, from India, has clearly played a bit of cricket, as have Mathew and Lucy from the UK.
 
Enough of the frivolity. We are soon back to work planting and sampling until about 1 p.m., when it is starting to get very warm. We make the trek back through Kinondo, and there a number of local kids who greet us back at the bus. They are a lively bunch, and we exchange high fives and hand slaps. One of the cheekier kids tries to score a ride by hanging onto the rear bumper of the bus. Swali is not impressed and tells him off. Just as well, as it is not a safe thing to do.
 
On the main road back, we see a tribe of baboons cross the road.

Friday, August 25, 2006 Most of the group are off to Kinondo again today. As there is some lab work to be done, a few of us stay back.
 
It makes for a pleasant change to do some different work. We are preparing packets of mangrove root material to be buried across a transect of coast near Gazi. The roots are from a range of species and have been subject to a number of treatments. Some of the roots come from seedlings that have been fertilized and some from plants dug up from the crab exclusion plots.
 
The work involves breaking off roots, sorting them into size lots, weighing them, and putting them into mesh bags with labels. Tina and I spend some time washing the mud from some seedlings brought in from the nursery. We sit at a large tub of water and carefully rinse out the mud and then put the roots in the sun to dry. It is quite good fun mucking in the mud, and Tina and I discuss the U.S. and Australia as we work.
 
Later in the day when the Kinondo workers arrive back at Gazi, we get cleaned up and head off to a large plot of reforested mangroves. Dr. Cairo is obviously quite proud of the reforestation. The planting took place some 10 years ago, and the trees are now huge and healthy. It is clear proof that mangroves can be managed as a renewable resource. The experimental work we are helping with will ensure future reforestation efforts are even more successful.
 
As we are looking at the area, the tide begins to come in, and we are all quite fascinated at the speed in which this happens. Luckily, we are not caught on low ground. On the return journey, Cairo takes us to a “sundowner.” In the middle of what seems like nowhere, we arrive at a huge open hut with a massive thatched roof and bar. We sit and enjoy a cool drink as the sun goes down. What a magical place.

Saturday, August 26, 2006 Today is our day off. No work in the field, and no lab work. Just a trip to Wasini for a tourist-type experience.
 
We all load into a “mutate,” the local version of hired transport. It is a brightly painted minibus complete with driver and conductor. The trip south takes an hour or so before we arrive in Shimoni. The mutata takes us to the marine park offices, where our guides purchase the necessary permits for our visit to the Kisite Marine Park and we look at a static display of the habitats we are likely to see. Next we are off to the jetty, where we get snorkeling gear and board our dhow for the trip. A dhow is an old wooden vessel powered by a smallish outboard motor. Traditional dhows have sails, and I think we may have gone quicker with sail. Still, we are not in any hurry, and it is a beautiful day.
 
The boat takes us to a spot where other boats have congregated to look at a pod of dolphins. We get pretty close, and lots of photos are taken. The dolphins are beautiful creatures. At home in Mandurah, Australia, we have dolphins in our many waterways, so the experience was not new for me. However, there is something about dolphins in the wild that gives you a sense of place in the world.
 
Next we chug off to the marine park, where we go snorkeling. The water is clear and warm. The reef is home to numerous fish and coral. It is fantastic to see. I have some trouble getting a good seal on my face mask and take in a bit of salt water through the nostrils, but it is worth it. Everybody clearly enjoys the experience, and there are some in the group who have not been snorkeling before. As with all aspects of the trip, we look out for each other and help where needed.
 
We get back on the boat and move to a nearby sandbar of pristine white. The dhow is moored, and we swim the 50 meters (55 yards) or so to shore. There are some pools of water where the sand meets the exposed reef and the water is even warmer, and a few of us lay in them soaking up the sun. Another magical place.
 
On the way back, we stop at Wasini Island just off the coast in the bay at Shimoni. Here, there are a number of interesting spots, including a “coral garden” of exposed coral outcrops surrounded by vegetation and a boardwalk.
 
Back on the mainland, we have a lunch of fish and rice at a local café. After lunch, we visit the Shimoni slave caves. It is said that this underground cave system was used to keep in slaves before they were traded. There is evidence of shackles in the walls. It is quite a chilling thought that people were sold from this point, and it represents a terrible part of our world history.
 
We head home to Gazi for a shower and supper. So much for this being a day off! An absolutely wonderful day, but I am more exhausted than I have been all trip. I sleep like a log.

Sunday, August 27, 2006 An easy day today from a work point of view, though we do some work at the marathon transect in connection to the root decomposition experiment. The day, though, turns out to be one of a cultural experience that is most enjoyable.
 
For lunch, we are taken to an old building with a great deal of history in the village. The “slave house” has many stories to tell, and two of the village women tell us about the history. They have also prepared a massive lunch of traditional fare, which we eat sitting on the floor. They have clearly gone to a great deal of trouble to prepare for this, and we are all humbled by the effort made for us.
 
The story goes that the house was once used for keeping slaves, and some even believe that the walls may contain the remains of some unfortunates that met the ire of the king.
 
In the evening, we are taken in small groups to the home of a village family and share a meal with them in their home. This is a wonderful experience, and Matthew, Lucy, Tina, and I enjoy discussing life in the village with Salim and his cousin. We learn about how hard it is to get a secondary education, as the cost puts it out of the reach of most. We learn how difficult it is to get paid work, as there is little business or industry, and how some young men must stay and look after the family as the eldest male.
 
What strikes me most is that despite these difficulties, the people are so positive and happy. They are keen to learn about us, and we laugh at some of our customs compared to theirs. Salim shows us, with great pride, how he has taught himself to mend footballs (soccer balls) using only materials he has found within the village. I reflect on what many at home would do with a busted football—discard it and buy a new one!

Monday, August 28, 2006 Today, we head out to the “Marathon Transect” to bury the root samples that have been prepared over the last several days. The experiment is about determining how mangrove roots decompose. The samples are labeled and contain roots from one of two species, and some have been treated with fertilizer. The samples will be dug up in six and 12 months time and analyzed.
 
After a suitable site is chosen for our first plot, we break into teams and begin the burying. The digging here is not too bad, as we are some way from the coast. We bury the samples in rows and then mark the site with PVC pipe. Brigitte has the task of painting the tops of the pipe with bright yellow paint so that the plots can be found in six months time.
 
At one point, we come across a crab in a mangrove tree. Mark tells us that there are several species of crab that climb trees. I find this most amazing.
 
After completing the plots at this first site, we trek farther into the mangrove forest and closer to the coast and find another suitable site. The same sample types are buried in similar type plots. This will allow for comparison of the root decomposition in differing locations—closer to the sea and in saltier mud.
 
The digging here is harder, as the mud is thick. Some of us must also describe the area. This is done by nominally marking a 10 meter by 10 meter (33 foot by 33 foot) area and counting the number of mangrove trees in that area. We also note the species and the average height. Samples are taken to determine salinity and oxygen levels. All these data will be logged back at Gazi and used to make assessments on the experiment.
 
The work is progressing well, and we are soon off to the next plot, closer again to the coast. The mud is even deeper, and the mangroves thicker. By now, however, we are more skilled at traversing the forest, and it is not as difficult as it was on day one. We come though to a section very close to the coast where the mud is very, very deep. Some are having trouble getting across a flat open area, as feet are sinking deep into the mud. I see what I think might be some better going a little farther along and decide to go a different route. Alas, my mud judging is poor. The mud is so deep I get stuck right up to my thighs. It is almost impossible to pull one foot out and move forward. Some of the group find this quite amusing and are busy taking photos of me. Mark, however, comes to my rescue and helps me out of the mire. My heart rate is up, and I am puffed out from the effort. I eventually see the humor myself once on solid ground!
 
Later in the day, we play a football (soccer) match against some of the local boys. Perhaps it is the effort from earlier (or maybe my level of fitness), but I am not much good at keeping up with the locals. They are small, fast, and very skilled. Luckily, we have some substitutes, and I can have a rest under a tree.
 
The boys score first, and it looks like we will be thrashed early. With some clever substitution and a fine halftime pep talk from Matthew, we start to match the boys, and the game gets closer. In the end, we are not sure who won, but it is a lot of fun, and no one seems to care about the result. There were lots of spectators who enjoyed the game, including what must have been the entire population of kids. A new football is presented to the boy’s captain from the group, and he is clearly delighted. What a great event.
 
At night, we go into Akunda for a few drinks and some dancing. I am even worse at dancing than I am at soccer, but a few beers and a couple of games of pool are really enjoyable. Late in the night, I am persuaded to get on the dance floor, and this leads to some interesting moments with some of the locals.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006 After our late night in Akunda, we have a bit of a sleep-in and don’t venture out to breakfast until 8 a.m. instead of the normal 7 a.m. There are a few who seem less chirpy than they have been on other mornings. Still, the work must continue, and we are soon heading off to Kinondo to complete some work on the crab exclusion experiments.
 
Several small plots of mangroves have been planted either bare or protected from any crab activity to compare the impact the tiny creatures may have on growth. The plots must be dug up and any root material collected. This entails sifting through the mud, pulling out any root material, and bagging it for later analysis. The plants themselves are cut off at ground level, and the leaves are counted, categorized, and weighed. The stems and branches are also weighed. Again, all the data are recorded for later logging on the computer back at the lab in Gazi. Anil and I are counting leaves. It is pretty boring but not very strenuous.
 
The coconut café is open again, and we have a refreshing break under the trees at about 11 a.m. When the work is complete, we head back to Gazi a little earlier than usual and spend some time cleaning and tidying the lab. Lunch is interesting today, as we have samosas, potato, and octopus. I am sure this is the octopus I saw Cairo with the day before.
 
There is a touch of sadness in the evening as we finalize monies we owe and start to prepare for our departure tomorrow. Later, most of us take a walk down to the beach and light a small bonfire, though this takes some doing in the wind and with material not quite dry. We stand around the fire and discuss the past nine days. We laugh a lot at many of the happenings and reflect on our impressions of Gazi. Everyone is taken by the people and, in particular, the children of the village who are just so happy and friendly.
 
The beach close to the water is covered in ghost crabs, and we spend some time chasing them around. Eventually, Mark catches one for us to have a good look at it before releasing it to one of the many crab holes in the sand. As we walk back to the rooms, it begins to rain. This is the first rain since we arrived, and the dampness mirrors our feelings about the ending of the trip.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006 The time to leave has come all too quickly, though I will be glad to see my family, whom I have missed. Our bags are packed and loaded on the minibus. Several of the friends we have made drop by to say farewell. Anil leaves earlier than the rest of the group, as he is off on safari before leaving for home in India. We tease him about staying clear of lions.
 
We head into Mombasa, leaving the tranquility of Gazi behind. I hope I can hang onto the feeling when I get home. It has certainly put some of my so-called problems into perspective for me.
 
In Mombasa, we are the guests of Dr. Cairo at the Kenyan Fisheries and Marine Research Institute (KFMRI), which employs him. The minister is attending the official launch of some documents and resources put together in relation to managing the environment. It is clearly a big deal, and the Earthwatch work and our presence is noted by speakers and the minister himself. We are also privileged to have lunch at a nearby hotel as part of the launch, which is just fantastic.
 
After lunch, though, the trip is truly at an end, as we are each dropped off at various points. Each drop-off is another farewell to the friends made over the last 10 days, until finally I am at the hotel checking in for one last night in Kenya before the trip home to Australia tomorrow.

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