Saturday March 18th:
Before this trip, I had never been on an airplane before. And I was about to get on a delta flight across the ocean and then on a small 6 seater propeller plane to a remote island in the Bahamas. One could say I was fairly nervous but all turned out more than well.
We arrived at CSU at 5 o’clock in the morning to get on a bus to the Atlanta airport. Due to the early start, the majority of the 26 of us going on this trip slept the entire ride.
When we got to the airport of course, it was raining, which only added to my overall anxiety of the impending plane ride but I did my best to try to remain calm. We got our bags checked and made our way to our gate and then to the plane that would take us to the Bahamas. Unfortunately, we ran into a slight bump in the road. One of the students on the trip was not allowed to board the plane due to an issue involving a missing visa. However, the professors were able to sort out the problem and she was able to board and we were on our way.
The flight was gorgeous, the layers of clouds that we flew through along with being able to gaze across the clear blue waters of the ocean. The landing and take off felt more like a roller coaster than anything else, and it was not nearly as bad as I had previously imagined.
The flight was only about 2 hours long and then we landed in the Nassau Airport in the Bahamas. Immediately we were greeted by signs of beach life and Bahamian culture. Walking into one of the main arrival rooms there was even a live band playing music (including the iconic steel drums). We had no issue collecting our things but we were running a little late on catching out small flights out to Andros.
When we got to the smaller airport we were informed that instead of taking 3 flights to get all of us to the island, we were going to have to split up into even smaller groups on even more flights due to the overbooking/backup of people trying to fly. Eventually, after many hours of waiting around we all got over to the island of Andros and took a bus to Forfar Field station where we would be staying for the week.
We were split off into different cabins, I myself was in cabin 5 with 4 other girls. There was no air conditioning but they did have hot water (which had to be used scarcely due to the size of the heater, otherwise some would be taking cold showers) and electricity. The cabins were kept cool for the most part by the breeze that came off from the beach (which we were only about 20 feet off of, the picture featured for this post is the view from the porch of the cabin), which then came through shutters in the window which could be opened or closed.
After we all got settled in we had dinner, which the quality and yummy-ness of the food surprised me. It was very good. and then we had a 1-hour lecture about the geography of Andros island and it was quite interesting.
Then it was time to rest up for our next day was a busy one.
Sunday, March 19th:
Sunday was an entire day devoted to a pop-up spay and neuter clinic, mainly dedicated to serving the ‘potcakes’ of Andros island (which is the breed of island dog that is found throughout the Bahamas).
The clinic was set up in a small clearing and consisted of a small trailer (where the volunteer vet did all of the operations), and two tents. One for pre-op and one for post recovery.
(The dates are wrong on all of these pictures so please excuse that)
The vet that did the operations was completely volunteer and flew over from Nassau (one of the larger Bahamian cities, not on Andros) to help us out with this clinic. He was a very kind person who did not mind in the slightest our observations of his work in the tiny trailer and the many questions he had. The man who orchestrated the whole event was a man named Rick (who is in the white shirt on the right of the image shown above), who has devoted his life to trying to help the lives of the potcakes that live on the island of Andros.
We as students were not allowed to help with the operations themselves but we did get to mix and give the animals their vaccines, de-worming medication, flea and ticks prevention, as well as help watch the animals recover and make sure all of the paperwork involved was in order.
The entire event was very tedious for we were out in the sun the entire day and had to do our best to work with both friendly and some not so compliant animals. However, I am happy to say that we really didn’t run into any issues throughout the entire process. This was actually one of my favorite parts of the trip for I would like to be a veterinarian one day, so it was incredibly fascinating to get to experience this. and all in all I have to say, it was kind of fun.
We had 9 dogs and 2 cats come in on Sunday and all were successfully operated on and recovered.
Tuesday was our all day boat day. We loaded up all of the things we would need for the day (including lunch) and took off on our boat to visit Rat Cay, Saddleback, Turtle Reef and Calabash!
While snorkeling the reefs and cays the appearance of so many different organisms baffled me! We saw: Sharks, Parrotfish, Lobster, Jellyfish, Urchins, Sea Cucumbers and many more creatures! While we did have wetsuits on the water was still pretty cold, however after snorkeling for a little while your body adjusts and it isn’t quite as bad. Plus with all of the amazing things to see around you, how cold the water is wasn’t the main focus.
At Rat Cay and Saddleback, there were a few oceanic blue holes and they were probably some of the coolest things ever! What was amazing was that, depending on the tide, water would actually be blowing out or sucking into these holes! One of the interns said that if you were to swim too far down into one of the holes when the water was being sucked in, that you could actually get pulled under one of the overhangs and be stuck there! (yikes) Now while they also said that this was not a common occurrence, I still stayed well above the holes.
We must have visited the blue holes at different tides because at one, you could actually see seaweed and other debris getting pulled down into the hole, and at the other, the current being produced by the water coming out was so strong it was incredibly difficult to swim up to. At the blue hole pictured above, something about the movement of the tides caused pockets of freezing cold water and bathtub temperature water to appear. and when these pockets of air mixed, it made the water have a hazy, almost oily look to it (for lack of a better way to describe it). Which was very strange to experience while snorkeling. By the time we got back to ForFar we were all freezing from the boat ride (still being stuck in our wet suits). It was around dinner time and we were all beyond exhausted and incredibly in need of showers. But it was an incredibly amazing day that I will not soon forget.
Today, opposed to the normal windy mornings. There is no wind. And due to the many wildfires dispersed throughout the island, the smoke as settled over the water and the field station. While the smell is not quite pleasant, I find that there is a beauty to it.
Today we are going to travel about the island some, we plan to visit Fresh Creek Clinic, Androsia, and Captain Bills Blue hole. Personally I am very excited for today. For a few reasons
one: we are not going to be on the boat. I have a nasty sunburn from the boat day before.
two: I find the native culture incredibly fascinating and today will allow us to experience that some.
three: Captain Bills Blue Hole is an inland blue hole opposed to the oceanic ones that we visited yesterday, and the only way to get down to it is to jump off a platform down into the water. That should be a lot of fun.
We departed on a bus for out first stop, Androsia, which was about a 45-minute drive from the field station. Androsia is a clothing factory and store which produces cloth and clothing that is 100% made on the Island of Andros. They use wax to make prints on the fabric and then dye the fabric a color of their choosing. The result is a colorful piece of clothing often sporting an island design.
After we explored the Androsia factory, it was off to the Fresh Creek Clinic. Unfortunately, I did not get any pictures of the Fresh Creek Clinic but compared to other establishments in the area it was quite well kept and technologically advanced (for the most part). At the clinic is was ‘Healthy Babies Day’ so we were allowed the opportunity to see some infants recieve their shots and it was quite interesting. We were also given a tour of the facilities and shown the technology that they have at the clinic.
Unfortunately, while the clinic is far more advanced than most anything else on the island, we learned that any cases involving serious health issues or injuries have to be flown out to one of the larger cities on other islands for treatment.
After the clinic we got to go to one of my favorite places that we visited, Captain Bill’s Blue Hole.
While the above picture is not one that I took, this is the blue hole that we went to, and it was absolutely amazing! They are such cool geographical features. Although I was a little hesitant jumping off of the platform, I eventually just went for it and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was (or as far). A kind of scary thought for me though was how far down it goes right underneath you when you are in the water. While not many creatures live in these blue holes (due to the lack of oxygen further down in the water), it’s still kind of creepy.
Overall exploring the island was a total success and we learned and experienced so many things!
Day seven of our Andros trip we got to do some more island exploring!
We were going to Red Bays which was a small community of people that sell baskets, sponges, and wood carvings among other things. Here we would be able to experience some of the true culture of the island and learn more about the natives that live there.
It took about 45 minutes to drive to red bays and I wasn’t quite sure what I expected. I thought they meant that we were going to a small town where there may be a quaint little gift shop of some sort for tourists. But I was wrong. The community was a small cluster of houses and the families that lived there. They sold their products right out of their own houses and I have to say that it was incredibly fascinating to experience.
Pictured here is a wood carver and all of the carvings that she and her husband had done by hand. While most of the carvings ranged from around 30-70$ there were some that were over $200! But the carvings were truly beautiful and crafted by people of raw talent. And were definitely eager to sell 🙂 While some people did purchase some of the carvings a big concern was getting them back home on the plane with our 40-pound weight limit.
We met quite a few people (as mentioned earlier) who were selling sponges and weaving baskets. I myself ended up buying a basket from one of the weavers to give as a gift to someone back in the states.
While we were there we also learned about how the natives acquired the sponges that they sell.
They go out into the water and cut the sponges off above the base. That way the sponges actually will grow back, giving them a continuous supply. They then put them on sticks or poles on the ground and allow the invertebrates to eat the remaining tissue still in the sponge until it is just the squishy substance that we are used to seeing in sponges. And it is basically that easy.
This ‘basketball goal’ is something that we stumbled upon in Red Bays and I found it incredibly interesting. Not only does it illustrate the poverty that is often found on the island but also the struggles of getting resources over to the island.
However, I think it also shows the innovativeness of the people who reside here on Andros and their ability to adapt and work with that is presented to them. It was also just pretty neat 🙂
Also, while we were in Red Bays, some students on the trip were doing a project on bush medicine so we got some information on that as well. One of the natives was very kind and showed/ explained some of the medicinal plants that were commonly used on the island. That was quite interesting as well.
We only stayed about half a day in Red Bays and then we returned to the field station, but the trip was definitely a highlight of our stay.