A few times of year, the Conservation Team at New Heaven gets much bigger for a few days as we host school and group trips in our program for some fun and rewarding environmental projects. This last week we had the great pleasure of being host to a group of high school students from the International School of Bangkok (ISB) who came on a trip to Koh Tao with the Love Wildlife Organization. The students spent 4 days with the NHRCP learning about marine ecology and protection and joining on some of our reef restoration projects.
On the first day we treated the students to a sea turtle release, following a talk about the basics of marine ecology. Three of our baby turtles were put into the sea that day, and as a bonus for all of us, 2 of them hung out around the snorkelers in the water before swimming of to start their new life in the big ocean. Sea turtle releases are always an amazing time, as it is so great to be a part of the life of such a magnificent and peaceful animal for several months and then to see them swimming away- free, strong, and healthy.
For the second day of the trip the students got their hand dirty working on building some artificial reef structures. The first part of the morning was spent going through some of the theory behind the use of Artificial Reefs, then we allowed them to come up with a design for their project. The students choose to do the initials for their school, along with a panther paw, the school logo. After some brief training in metal work, the students worked hard in the sun all day to complete some amazing structures. After all that hard work we received a special desert from P’Kaen, homemade brownies and ice cream.
The next day was then dedicated to talking about the use of coral nurseries, and then heading out to Chalok Ban Kao to deploy the new structures and get the students to help transplant corals from our nursery onto the ISB logo. Of the 16 students, only 4 are divers, but the other 11 are all strong swimmers and did a great job helping out. By the end of the day all of the work we had planned to finish was completed, and we finished off by talking about sea turtles and then taking a round of data at the turtle ponds.
The next day we gave a lecture about shark ecology and monitoring and then took a small tour of the island, staying away from the waves and finding some nice places to snorkel and dive. The shark survey was done in Tao Tong, and although we have seen sharks in that area, we did not see sharks on during that survey. Next we visited Twins and Buoyancy World, and, to the delight of all the divers, spotted a sea snake while securing some broken corals at the New Heaven Forest structures. For the last site we headed back towards Sai Nuan, and to our surprise, found a school of fusiliers big enough to clearly see from the boat. After a long day on the boat the team was knackered, but enjoyed a buffet dinner at New Heaven Resort and then headed to Babaloo Bar to watch some great fire dancing, Koh Tao style.
From the perspective of the NHRCP and our students, it was really great to have this fun and enthusiastic group of international high school students here. It was really great to see our students joining with them, and showing them their knowledge of the projects and activities. It was also quite rewarding to be able to pass on some of our knowledge and beliefs to this younger generation of potential future policy and decision makers.
The comments we got back from the high school students where resoundingly positive, they loved every activity (and meal) that they got involved in along the way. We hope that in the future we will be able to host additional groups with Love Wildlife and ISB, and look forward to seeing these students back here again soon.