Friday, January 8, 2010

Dispatches from Djibouti 2010...#1

Well the 2010 Djibouti expedition started with a bang this year, well literally many bangs as the team assembled at the Djibouti Sheraton hotel on New Year ’s Eve and were treated to a super firework display to greet the New Year.

Everyone was up early the next day and eager to get aboard the M/V Deli and start the trip. We had met up with Jeanette Tsang who was joining us having done the week before aboard Deli exploring the area, and also finding lots of whale sharks so everyone’s expectations were high...

And so it was that on our arrival in the Arta area we were welcomed by eleven whale shark encounters in a short 45 minute period before sunset.... looks like the sharks were going to cooperate once again!

The next day dawned and everyone was eager to find more sharks and by the end of the day we had notched up a total of 73 encounters with a total of 22 individual sharks as identified by I3S photo ID, 12 were ‘new’ sharks while 10 had been sighted in previous years. A notable visitor on this day was a shark first identified in 2004 (Dji2004.020) who seemed un-phased by all the attention he got.
Our 2004 shark(dji.2004.020) photographed by Hussain while David gets the ID shots from the right hand side

Evenings aboard Deli became a flurry of activity with everyone pitching in to help with writing up the day’s encounter sheets while cameras were downloaded, photos sorted and organised into their correct encounters for photo ID matching..... whenever anyone had a free minute! Oh yes and there were the occasional visits of large spotty fish to the side of the boat to investigate the plankton that was accumulating there.

We did make a day trip up into the Devils Goblet (the Ghoubet al Kharab) and the team had a few minutes to relax and the ‘girls’ got to do their Kate Winslet impersonations on the prow of the Deli...

Hussain, Abi & Ciara on the prow of the Deli entering the Ghoubet.
We were keen to see if there were any sharks in there as crew on a passing live-aboard said they had seen lots the day before... it was also an opportunity for people to chill out a little with a dive onto the famous ‘Djibouti Crack’ a geological fault that runs from 35 metres to around 8 meters from the surface and is purported to be the start of the East African rift valley which runs from this point down across Africa; of course the divers were escorted to the site by a curious young whale shark (who was duly photo ID’d).

Results in Ghoubet were mixed with one boat finding only one shark while the other notched up 14 encounters with some 5 individual sharks. Coming out of the Ghoubet through the narrow pass was quite an experience as the seas were getting quite rough but it was no problem for Deli and we were soon safely on our overnight anchorage again.
In what seems like no time at all the first week was coming to a close and so it was back to Djibouti for an overnight at the Sheraton and to meet the team for week two... as we were in port in good time we also took the opportunity to visit the DECAN sanctuary for Djiboutian wildlife where Ciara and Abi made friends with the Cheetahs and a rather daft Hyena who also liked being stroked.

Ciara and Abi meet their first Cheetah up close and personal!

And so week two starts in just under an hour’s time.... just enough time to do some hectic shopping for more stationary supplies and get another 200 encounter sheets printed and then it’s back to the sharks for another week..... there no end to these Djiboutian sharks?

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