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Today we were heading back to Hilton Waterfalls for our first day of diving on the course, and to conduct a scientific survey or two! Our aim for the next two days was to carry out a transect survey to compare coral cover on the reef in front of the Hilton Waterfalls, and the reef in front of its neighbour, a development that has been halted due to illegal sediment dumping (among other things). This new hotel, which we have named the Nino Hotel, after our dive guide, has been left in its partially completed stage, after the National Park Authorities halted construction and imposed a hefty fine on the contractors. We wanted to see how much damage had already been done to the reef in front of it by comparing it to the relatively healthy reef in front of the Hilton.
We were using the same lead line transect method as we used in Marsa Bareika, but now that we were using it diving, things obviously had to get a bit more technical! We were going to lay a lead line at the reef surface, another at 7m and another at 15m and this was done in the morning by 2 groups of divers and a snorkelling group. In the afternoon the second groups of divers and snorkelers were to get in and take photographs along the line at 0.5m intervals so that the coral cover could be analysed on land.
I was buddied with my friend Katie, who had a camera and we were to dive in the afternoon to take photos of the 7m transect line, and snorkel in the morning taking photos of the surface transect line. However, when we got down to the wobbly jetty things didn't go entirely according to plan. The two diving groups got in and descended fine, but our line-laying snorkelers jumped in and had a bit of a nightmare. There was a huge amount of swell, making it almost impossible to lay the line properly and pushing the guys onto the reef. After watching for about 5 minutes, and as the only shore-cover, Katie and I decided there was no point in risking damaging the corals and our friends any further, so called them in.
By the afternoon the conditions had improved so we jumped in to do our 7m transect photographs. We managed to get this done in about 25 minutes, so we had a bit of a fun dive before coming up. It was much easier to gather the line and work underwater with scuba gear, and I think today was the first day I didn't have a lungful of seawater - hooray!
After the efforts made today, we had managed to get all the transects of the HIlton reef done - tomorrow Nino Hotel!
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