During their trip to Caribbean island of Nevis for the Topical Coral Reef Ecology course, the participating MCC students and faculty will be periodically filing reports and sharing images that provide a glimpse into their experiences.
Check back here to get a closer look into this unique course which runs from June 3 – June 17, 2017.
Saturday June 3, 2017 – Day 1
It was an early morning for the 7 students and faculty advisor. We arrived at the Gerald R. Ford International airport at 4:45am for a 6am flight to Atlanta Despite the early hour everyone was chipper and excited for the trip.
After and uneventful flight to Atlanta we met up with our traveling and research companions from Finger Lakes Community College (Canandaigua, NY), led by faculty advisor Jim Hewlett.
We arrived at the Robert L. Bradshaw international airport on St. Kitts. It was hot and sunny. Despite the early morning and travel, everyone was excited to be in paradise. Upon exiting the airport we were treated with VIP treatment by Sea Moss taxi service. All 14 students and faculty piled into two taxis to make our way to Reggae Beach to catch the boat the to Nevis.
Captain Ellis Chaderton arrived on the “Sea Monkey” to transport us to Oaulie Beach Resort on the island of Nevis. The excitement was palpable as the ocean breeze blew across the boat; everyone was grinning ear to ear when island and Nevis peak was in view.
After settling into our rooms we all gathered on the beach to swim and snorkel and bask in the sunshine and 83 degree water. We were treated to a wonderful dinner prepared by Chef Gary. A few of us stayed up and played cards. Most everyone was in bed by 10pm.
Overall, a wonderful first day. We were on the island less than 4 hours and students are already talking about coming back next year.
We start our Reef Check training on Sunday.
by Darren Mattone
Sunday June 4, 2017 – Day 2
I think everyone on this trip can already attest to just how gorgeous this island is. Waking up to a warm breeze the second you open your door and spotting the ocean right outside is something I’m not used to yet! Ashly and I woke up earlier than expected when the 5:30am sunlight was shining through our windows. Luckily, we slept a little longer. But by 7am, we knew breakfast was ready. And let me just say…it was good! French toast with eggs and fresh fruit. We eat out on a little open patio.
While this is still our first day with the group from New York, we’re already making friends. Breakfast was followed by the island tour. Nevis is so unique, with bright colors, historical buildings (the island is home to the first church ever built in the entire Caribbean) and scenic drives. I climbed in the front seat right away to get a good view! We stopped at different resorts, saw so many goats and sheep. I spotted the first monkey of the trip! We came back just in time for BBQ ribs and chicken.
Now the time we’ve all been waiting for: we got to dive!! Half the group was getting open water certified, and the rest of us were starting to practice our Reef Check surveys (substrates today), as well as getting used to the site and our buoyancy. I was one of the first in, and I was so excited. We all jumped in one after one. Once we all were good to go, we started to sink to the bottom. Not five minutes later, a stingray swam by to say hello. The variety of marine life was amazing. Porcupine fish are so far, my favorite. Ashly was my dive buddy, and her and I followed Professor Darren Mattone around while pointing out as many identifiable things that we could. We could get in two dives, and by the second one, everyone felt better about getting in the water.
Once everyone was on the boat, we took off back to the island, and enjoyed the sun and blue sky. Dinner was ready an hour after we were back, giving us time to shower and clean up. We had more options tonight, and I can say my blackened chicken and jasmine rice was amazing. We played cards and Bryce showed us some impressive tricks. Some of us went on a short walk to find crabs before we decided it was time for bed. I can only hope for the rest of our days to be as fun as this one!
by Kaitlyn Metcalf
Monday June 5, 2017 – Day 3
We’ve been here for 3 days now. Everyone seems to be adjusting to the heat. Today it was in the 80’s and there was a consistent breeze all day which made the heat extremely bearable. We started the day with a breakfast consisting of Omelets, ham, potatoes and fruit. The food here is all so delicious and fresh. After breakfast, most the MCC group gathered up and laid out on the beach together. We swam in the Caribbean Sea with the local island dogs. We found a very old and friendly dog named Bleu. Bleu loved swimming in the water with us, he would prance into the water until most of his body was underwater and then he would swim around all of us, occasionally stopping to place his head in our hands.
Shortly after swimming a few of us attempted to go to the grocery store. After a very bumpy car ride we arrived at the grocery store to find out it was closed. Today was a holiday in Nevis; the locals told us it is like America’s Easter. All the shops downtown were closed, including the large grocery store. We turned around to head back to our hotel when I spotted an “OPEN” sign in the window of a small looking store. This was the most interesting grocery store I have ever been in. There were at least 10 freezer coolers and only 4 had food in them, the food was scattered out. One shelf would have 12 blocks of cheese and then you’d walk by 3 empty freezers. There were 3 cartons of eggs in the store and they were all open. We all got a few snacks and learned about the exchange rate of American money to the Eastern Caribbean dollar.
Once we were back at the hotel we did a bit of Reef Check review and then ate lunch. We had Pasta, chicken, fish and salad: another excellent meal! After eating we all prepared to go out for our first of two daily dives. It was very windy today causing the water to be quite choppy. Ellis, our dive master drove the boat out to Bugs Hole for us.
Six of the students need to complete their open water dives to finish their scuba certification. After completing our first 2 dives on Sunday, we competed our final two dives today. I saw three sea turtles and a sting ray today. Ellis knows where everything likes to hide; diving with him is the best because he shows you so many amazing things. After our two dives, we were certified!! The other part of the group took their substrate tests today, everyone passed!!
We headed back to the resort with music blasting and sharing our underwater experiences from the day. The wind was strong and caused the ride to be very choppy. I was crouching down on the boat when I decided to sit up. I felt my hat loosening on my head. As I lifted up my arm to pull my hat down lower, I felt it blow off my head into the water. I screamed (on accident). My heart began to sink in my chest a bit, thinking how I would never see my favorite hat again. All the sudden I see Ellis start to turn the boat around, everyone in the class ran to the side of the boat to begin searching for my hat. When I heard someone yell “there” I felt relieved that I would get my hat back. “Is this really happening??,” I thought to myself. We approached my hat, floating in the sea. “No you went over it,” I heard someone yell. I thought to myself “I won’t be getting it back now” but didn’t feel as upset after the effort my class had just put into trying to find it. All the sudden I heard a girl yell “No there it is!!” followed by a splash. One of the dive assistants (Kadim) dove into the water. I was so happy; I just had met this boy yesterday and today he jumped off a moving boat with no hesitation to retrieve my hat.
Everyone here is so kind. When we got back to the beach we all went and rinsed off our gear and went back to our rooms to get ready for dinner. I wish I had a super exciting story for after dinner but diving is exhausting and I went to bed at 8:30. The sun sets at 7 here and it’s very hard to stay awake super late after the long days we have.
by Arielle Fenlon
Tuesday June 6, 2017 – Day 4
Wednesday June 7, 2017 – Day 5
Thursday June 8, 2017 – Day 6
Friday June 9, 2017 – Day 7
Saturday June 10, 2017 – Day 8