By Mary Luna, Reef Check's Program Manager, Mexico
The band plays, walking through the streets of beautiful Sayulita, Mexico and residents follow singing in celebration of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Punta Sayulita and Reef Check (RC) contribute to the holiday spirit by holding the first EcoDiver training. The training is part of the Adopt a Reef Program and the main goal is to annually survey the condition of the reefs surrounding Sayulita. Dr. Gregor Hodgson, Executive Director of RC, led the group through three days of boot-camp style training. The result is 14 newly certified EcoDivers and one full survey of the Marietas Islands.
Sayulita is located at the southern limit of the state of Nayarit, about a half hour north of Puerto Vallarta. The town is popular among tourists who come to enjoy the warm beaches and fun waves. But on Friday December 3rd, the first day of class, we're glad the waves are small. Enjoying hot coffee and muffins we listen as Dr. Hodgson begins his presentation on reef ecology. The audience includes academics from the Banderas Bay Technological Institute (Instituto Tecnológico de Bahía de Banderas), the University of Guadalajara, and the Costa Verde International School; and recreational divers from Sayulita and surrounding communities. We learn about fishes, invertebrates, and substrate (fancy word for sand, rock, coral, etc.).
The sky is clear and the ocean flat on Saturday; perfect conditions to dive the Marietas Islands, located just a 15 minute ride from Punta Mita. Once at the site Greg gets in the water and lays out the 100 meter transect in a shallow area, teams of two follow, datasheets in hand and ready to practice the skills learned in class. The water is colder than expected and the visibility about six meters; the krill is abundant and so are the surface sightings of humpback whales and turtles. Back on the boats people smile and ask each other questions: Was that an angel fish, or a butterfly fish? Did you see the giant trumpet fish? What's the sign for rock, how about sponge? After a delicious burrito lunch we review the morning dives and remaining materials in Mi Otra Casa, the beautiful house Punta Sayulita has provided for the meetings.
Sunday is the last day of the training. We head back to the Marietas where divers get to practice once again and collect their first set of data! Back in Mi Otra Casa Kevin Roberts from Punta Sayulita thanks the new EcoDivers for their participation, and Greg hands each of them a certificate. Enjoying a cold beer and food, the new EcoDivers start to plan the next monitoring; the goal is to conduct at least two per year. The second goal is to transplant some coral fragments to dead reef near Punta Mita where coral cover was destroyed by bleaching and storms.
Kevin Roberts and Punta Sayulita associates organized the 1st Punta Sayulita Long Board and SUP Classic last April. The event was a tremendous international success; proceeds were split 50/50 and went to finance this training and the Sayulita Foundation that works with low-income kids. The 2nd Classic is scheduled for March 12 & 13, 2011; mark your calendars and join the fun!
This training was sponsored by Punta Sayulita and we are grateful for all the help from Kevin Roberts and Jose Luis Caselin - and the participation of Rosi Campos, Alejandra Flores, Veronica Garcia Ramiro Gallardo, Karla Gonzalez, Sheila Gonzalez, Nora Hernandez, Alejandro Ledezma, Adrian Maldonado, Alfredo Mercado, Mar Moller, Gerardo Noriega, Teresita Pallares, and Minerva Zamora. Click here for more photos.