After months of preparation and delays, the team set off for the camping trip to survey reefs just north of Al Qunfudhah. Along with Rupert and Mauvis, Dr. Sofyani with his post doc Dr. Gerald, doctoral student Jaffar Omar, along with the two Ahmeds, Dr. Moissan and skipper Abdul Rahman. We towed a boat and piled our gear into it and three range rover type vehicles. After 4 hours, we turned off the main road onto a dirt track to Ras Mohassan. The only establishment is the coast guard station, where we checked in. On to the headland to camp with the sea on 3 sides, but an horrendous amount of plastic rubbish, mainly bottles, littered the area from the main road to this remote site. We had passed a tip with a hole dug out, the rubbish piled on the rim rather than in.
Camp went up pretty quickly but then had to wait on the tide to launch the boat. So out the next day and off to explore the islands and their surrounding reefs. Some amazing reefs with high biodiversity, including two adjacent sites we called Tables Galore and Colourful. On Tables Galore, there was wall-to-wall coral cover, something Mauvis had never seen before. Wonderful terrestrial and marine life, but sadly lacking any shark species. This is a serious loss for a healthy reef.
Rain stopped play in the middle, and what rain it was! The tents were almost horizontal in the winds and were designed for desert conditions and water poured in during the storm at about midnight. A great time to try and sort yourself and gear out! Next day, the coast guards would not let us out as they expected further storms, so we spent the day emptying tents of water and drying gear.
The team got on very well together, always a plus in working on a project and it was great fun as well. We surveyed 6 sites underwater focusing on corals and fish, and 6 sites on land including the mangrove stands. It was wonderful, though a shower and clean clothes were a pleasure when we returned home! There is a short gallery of images below to give you an idea of the field trip.