Our first experience with LOC was in 2018; we spent two weeks on the premises helping wherever we were needed and could be most useful. We discovered many activities and we learned so many things. Joel and I have always worked in Automotive Engineering so working with LOC was a totally new experience for us. We learnt how to rescue turtles, spot nests on the beach, conduct beach patrols, find evidence of poaching, as well as, being involved in beach cleans and mangrove restoration.
During our weekends, we also had the opportunity to make the most of the beauty of the Indian Ocean, the preserved beach and discover Africa’s wildlife in Tsavo East National Park. We experienced so much in such a short time!
“We experienced so much in such a short time!”
We returned to LOC in June 2019 for another two weeks. As we already had a little experience, we went straight out on a turtle rescue the day we arrived. Which gave us a great feeling of confidence and trust! Whilst on this second visit, we managed to experience a nest hatching, thanks to Newton, Carlos and Samuel. We also participated in a special restoration day in the mangrove with 20 local fishermen where Sammy and Kahindi explained the importance of replanting the mangroves. The year before, the only participants were 6 people from LOC, so it was wonderful to see the change!
In addition to helping with the turtle rescues we really wanted to pursue our relationships with the staff at LOC. Everyone is so dedicated to their work and they are always ready to help each other when the need arises. They also know how to make volunteers feel comfortable, welcome and useful. Another new experience was when Joel went mangrove floating with some members of the team.
This second trip was more focused on discovering what life is like in Watamu. Thanks to LOC we went snorkeling to see the coral reef, we spent time in the lovely, small ecosystem that makes up Mida Creek and not forgetting a night out at the Crab Shack with Ruth! Sammy showed us the famous elephant shrew in Arabuko Sokoke forest and taught us about the benefits of some of the local flora. We learned about Kenyan traditions and their way of life, such as, their strong sense of community. Joel and I come from France which has a very different society; the Kenyan way of sharing and helping others, felt so good! On one occasion, we rescued a huge loggerhead turtle late in the day when most people had gone home. Mary, the cook, Sharlet, the housekeeper and Kalume, the gardener, happily came to help weigh, measure and clean the beautiful turtle, it was fabulous.
Back home we continue to help LOC.
As we were leaving and were uncertain about when we would be able to return, we proposed the services we could provide remotely. (The internet is a great invention for worldwide communication!)
Our first assignment was to update and modernize the Welcome Guide for the volunteers. It was a fun activity as we knew exactly what was mandatory, useful and enjoyable. Since February, we have been sorting the pictures of turtles that were rescued in the last two years. Charles transferred the pictures and we sorted them by tag number. In doing so, we discovered that many turtles get caught several times in a very short period, almost as if they enjoy the experience! It is often juvenile turtles who tend to float. For example, the hawksbill turtle, n° KES1161, has been caught 20 times in just 3 months.
Every time we look at a picture of a turtle, we realize how lucky we are to know this association and its members. We hope that our contribution will last as long as possible, whether it is in Watamu or from home. Thank you, LOC team for sharing your activities with us and giving us your trust!
Katie and Joel