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All seventeen of us piled onto the Ocean College bus at 9am this morning and headed out to the Ras Mohammed National Park with passports at the ready. I've never been into the park by car, I'm usually always on a dive boat, so I was really looking forward to the different perspective. I saw loads of vegetation and bird life that I'd never appreciated existed in the desert!
When we got to the gates, we were behind about three bus loads of tourists all traipsing up the mountain to get photos of the view. Naturally we joined in, having a team photo taken. Of course our excuse was that we were observing the tourist in its natural environment!
I was surprised to learn that many of the big mounds of rock that are so characteristic of this region are very probably fossilised corals from when the sea level was higher thousands of years ago. As a diver I started looking at them in a whole new light, and trying to imagine them covered with living coral and fish.
The visitor centre was our next stop, and anyone who has been diving here will have had it pointed out to them at one point or another. It's not far from Travco Marina on the shore and is usually closed to the public due to lack of funds and interest. I have to say, given the state of the displays it's not hard to see why. The highlight was a mangy stuffed desert fox and a baby porpoise preserved in vinegar. There is a lot of information on display on the walls, but it's mostly text and any colours have long ago faded to shades of beige. It's such a shame, because the building itself is nice, and has a great view out to sea. Even better, if you walk down the front, you can see fossilised corals embedded in the bare rock, every little detail is preserved - beautiful!
After seeing the visitor centre we headed in to the bay, Marsa Ghozlani, to do some more fish surveys. Today we were working using a 6-point abundance scale to estimate the range of biodiversity in the area. We did see quite a few fish from the different families, but the visibility was a bit rubbish and the scale is quite ambiguous so you can end up counting the same fish several times. However, as a fast assessment method for a site it is a useful tool. My dislike of my snorkel and having to try and think about several different things at once, kind of ruined being in the water for me - but it sure beats working inside, so I shouldn't complain!
The evening's lecture was continuing with coral ecology, and we were given our second ID card, this time for hard corals or scelectarians, ready for tomorrow.
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