5.30am. I can hear the sound of a bell ringing some distance away. I open one eye and look at my watch. The sun is rising and it's time to wake up and get kitted up for the first dive of the day. While the men from the neighbouring village are preparing their pirogues and nets, I meet up with some of the members of the expedition to set up our scuba diving equipment.
6am. Time for a dive briefing. Now that we have passed all tests on the benthic stuff (coral, sponges, etc), the field scientists brief us on the fish point-out dive. There are lots of fish to learn and we're aiming to pass the fish tests by the end of this week so there's no time to lose! Fortunately the weather is perfect - no rain and light wind make for good visibility underwater.
6.30am. Off we go with the boat on a flat and peaceful sea towards "near shore half moon" - a dive spot opposite our beach-front bungalows. We all get geared, carry out a buddy check and after counting to telo (three), we all fall backwards into the water with a temperature of around 29 degrees. We go down to the sea floor for a 45-minute dive looking for all sorts of colourful fish that we need to learn. This morning we have seen the Schwenk's sweeper, a black spotted sweetlips, jewel damsels, orange-spined unicorn fish, Madagascan butterfly fish, three-spot dascyllus, peacock grouper, skunk anenomefish, big eye snappers, bicolour parrotfish, semi-circle angelfish and bloodspot squirrel fish amongst others!
8.45am. We're back at Coco Beach (our hotel-restaurant base), put our equipment away and have a quick shower before tucking into breakfast; freshly baked bread with scrambled eggs, and some tea or coffee. Back at my bungalow, I chill out a bit in the hammock, looking over a reef fish book to check out the species that I wasn't sure about this morning while underwater.
10.15. After a bit of a rest, I head down to Nosy Cao (our classroom) to see what people are up to, including the Malagasy staff writing their reports on their respective research projects. It's good to discuss with them about their work as it provides an instant insight into how valuable the data we gather during our surveys are for the locally managed marine protected area. This gives me even more motivation to practice the fish test on the computer with other members of the expedition.
13.15. Time to head up to the restaurant and fill up my bottle of water. Three litres of water is usually what I drink for a day because of the heat. On my way, I spot a Namaqua dove and also a dimorphic egret on the shoreline. Lunch and dinnertimes are always a good opportunity to catch up with other members of the expedition and BV's conservation staff, including a couple of independent researchers working on a seagrass study.
14.30. I go for a well-deserved nap in the shade of our bungalow, overlooking the sea.
15:00. We all gather in Nosy Cao to work on the organisation of an "open day" for the villagers of Andavadoaka. We're preparing various posters and animations, translated by the Malagasy staff, which explain BV's research here.
18:00. Time for our duties - tidying the classroom and diving room, survey data entry, and gathering weather data.
19:00. We all meet up at the restaurant for vaovao (news), when volunteers and staff tell everybody else what exciting things happened today and what the schedule is for tomorrow.
19:30. Dinner time! Rice, pasta, fish or meat, and vegetables, with fruit or something sweet for dessert! It's our rest day tomorrow (no diving) so I treat myself to a nice cold beer.
20:30. Chill out time, when everyone chats about how they are going to change the world and we debate about anything and everything. Others play cards or sing along to a guitar.
22:00 Bed time! It's been a long day full of interesting things. I wonder which fish I'm going to be dreaming of tonight!?