Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Djibouti Post Script

Well the 2015 whale shark expedition to Djibouti is now over and as in previous years before we head back we try to get the team to see some of the highlights of Djibouti before they leave and this year was no exception.

The team trip to Lac Assal which according to Wikipedia is “a saline lake which lies 155 m (509 ft) below sea level in the Afar Triangle, making it the lowest point on land in Africa and the third-lowest land depression on Earth after the Dead Sea and Sea of Galilee”. 
One of the hot springs feeding the lake (complete with thermally tolerant fish and algae!)

The lake is fed by several geothermally heated salt water springs and as there is no outflow from the lake, and evaporation is high, it is pretty salty… in fact its salinity is 10 times that of normal sea-water making it the second most salty body of water on the planet! So as you can guess Savi and Freya just had to experience this for themselves resulting in some hilarious arm and leg raised floating stunts.
Freya and Savi lying on top of Lac Assal

Following the trip we continued on to the DECAN Cheetah Refuge for a little bit of Djiboutian terrestrial wildlife with Dan and Erica where Freya became personally acquainted with several large cats and a chatty little monkey… we did check her bags in case she had smuggled him out!
 Freya and friendly monkey, not sure who she was calling for him!
Freya petting the oldest Cheetah in the refuge, with a very loud purrr....

Sunday our day of departure, was pretty unusual as it included a fast speed-boat ride back to Arta to try and deploy the satellite tag which we had been unable to do on the last day of the expedition due to lack of sharks. This time we were successful and the tag was firmly attached to a four metre male shark leaving us in a very happy mood for the return flights from Djibouti.
Tagged at last, a four metre shark wearing the latest designer accessory!

As a nice post-script to the trip, we heard from Dan the manager at Dolphin Tours that Barny our rescued hawksbill turtle had shed all of his main barnacles, with a little help from Erica and five days of fresh-water immersion. 
 Barny's barnacles before treatment
Barny's top shell after treatment
And his tummy is also now largely barnacle free!
As his buoyancy was also back to normal and he could now swim and dive easily, he was declared fit for release by David Robinson (Dubai Turtle Rehab Project) and so on Tuesday he was released off Turtle Point at Ras Korali where he joined his fellow turtles.
Erica carefully releasing Barny at Ras Korali
Barny exhibiting his newly found freedom from barnacles and buoyancy control
So now it’s down to the desk-work of running all of the 311 encounters through I3S to see which sharks we had this year while we wait for news from our satellite tagged shark!

Our thanks as always to Dolphin Excursions for their kind sponsorship of our places aboard the MV Deli and to the crew of the vessel, for their hard work and positive approach to protecting whale sharks in the area. Our best wishes also to Captain / Cruise Director / resident Ornithologist  Vincente who retires after this season after many years of adventure in Djibouti aboard the Deli, and to Manager Dan and Divemaster Erica, who will be leaving Djibouti to start a married life together in Colorado….

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