We went back to the park to check out our traps and the mangroves. This time, we came at 8:00 am. The sun was shining through the trees and the birds were chirping beautifully. We arrived at our trap site.
Did we catch any?
From afar we could see the trap was touched by something. The trap was deactivated, but by what? We walked down the muddy stairs and to the traps. One was under a bridge and the other was near the oldest tree. We got both the traps and checked them. We were able to peek through a small hole which was created for inserting the paddle. We saw a claw and an antenna. It was possible that it was just a crab, but I guess we’ll find out soon.
We slowly lifted the opening for the creature to get out. On the other end of the trap, we put a container to catch it. We didn’t know exactly how the attitude of this animal was. We prepared to catch it as a mix of excitement and curiosity took over. We surrounded our trap and waited patiently. Silence filled the air. You could probably hear a leaf fall from a mile away.
But, fortunately for us, slowly it came out. It meaning the mud – lobster. We closed the lid of the cylindrical container. The mud – lobster pushed the cover and was trying to claw its way up. Very intelligent animals, indeed. It stopped moving when I ventured toward the container it was in. I put a small stick in front of its face to see what it would do. It didn’t move but after a few seconds, it loudly tried to clamp it with both its claws.
After capturing the mud – lobsters we went back to our second plot. We measured the starting of the plot and went further inland. We noticed there were a lot of Nypas on one of the mounds. We studied how the other mounds were surrounded by other kinds of plants. We were trying to measure the other mounds on the other side but it was covered with Acanthuses and Nypa Fruticans. After measuring all the mounds visible, we went back to the old tree.
Since we found some interesting things happening on this small piece of an island with the tree, we decided to make a plot there. The circumference of the whole island was 18 M 77. We wanted to look at the mud – lobster better so we decided to let it go for awhile. Scared it would run, we tied a small piece of string to its body creating a leash. It looked pretty funny, leashing a lobster. After realizing they are actually very, very slow we just unleashed them. We barricaded their surroundings with small logs and pieces of stick we found lying around, even an old boot. The biggest mud – lobster kept escaping and trying to get into one of the holes. They both stopped moving so we put them back into their containers.
We decided the best idea was to set up the traps in the same mound to check if more than one lobster lived in it. After setting up the traps, and nearly catching some mudskippers, we rested on top of one of the open bridges. This bridge wasn’t completely finished so the sides had no railings yet. We spotted a medium-sized jellyfish that got itself tangled up in the vines. It was beautiful and after few minutes untangled. The cool breeze was passing as I stared through the binoculars. I could barely make out the sweet songs of the birds anymore. The sun started to fall and the night was filled with partying crickets.
It’s been two hours since we left the trap and made a decision to check them out. We steadily made out our way with some flashlights. The ants started to appear everywhere, we could barely touch the railings for support. There was this one time when we found five ants all tearing up one ant. It was crazy. We did our nocturnal prospection for maybe 45 minutes. We went back and forth quietly trying to spot some mud – lobsters burrowing away. On our way out we closed all our lights and stared into the sky. All the stars were out, and the moon was like a shimmering diamond. We told each other stories and left back to go home.
We’ve finished freshening up and we were just laying around studying. We could see the flashes of lightning through our window. There was no after sound with the lightning in a long time. The silence in the air was occupied by the sound of the aircon. All of a sudden a loud boom came screaming through my ears. I jumped, accidentally pulling off my earphones with it. We all looked at each other, surprised. The ground shook for me, it felt so close by. It was past 9:00 pm so we decided to sleep already.
Okay, to be honest, it was really hot in the cabana. You would think that when you got to higher grounds (like in the cabana) it would be cooler, nope. Just prepare yourself for the heat. One of my roommates actually brought a small hand fan which kept breaking down. But anyways, we were able to laugh through it and keep ourselves distracted from the heat. Also, don’t move too much, it helps.
The time I woke up was around 3 am, to the sound of my roommates talking about something. Something. I sat up still half asleep as I look around…….. still so dark.
“What’s happening?”, I asked. Apparently, there was a big forest rat that came into our cabana. The reason you may have guessed already. The chips we left overnight.
By the time I head about the situation I was fully awake I couldn’t go back to sleep after knowing what just happened. It was only me and my 3 other roommates. We kept each other company with singing and deciding what should we do with the plastic bag (full of chips). We all made the choice to deal with the bag when it got brighter outside.
It was a good thing time quickly passed as we had fun. The sun came up eventually. We were the first ones awake and we decided to go down. It was beautiful. Even though the sun wasn’t in our view, orange and pink were blended and reflected on the ocean. We all sat on the rocks, taking some photos and just talking.
By 6:00 am we went back to the cabana changed into something more suitable for the day and poked the bag. DUN DUN DUN. Unfortunately, the rat actually ripped open a bag of chips (Cheetos) and ate some. Do you want to know the cycle of food to snakes? Here it goes:
Food in the Cabana summons the cockroaches.
Forest Rats come in and eat the cockroaches or the food
Snakes come in to eat the rats
We were lucky we didn’t encounter any snakes. But, last year, a snake did come into the cabana because of food. So, remember, NO FOOD IN THE CABANA. Unless you have a container to store it properly.
Anyways that all happened in the morning, it was such a rollercoaster.
Now here goes our schedule of the day…..
6:30 – 7:00 am
We made our way, team by team to the bat cave. We passed the same route as last time except we made a different turn. When we arrived, the bats were loud and flying around the cave looking for a place to sleep.
In case you were wondering, the type of forest that we were in is called a Limestone Forest which harbor caves. It was amazing was we learned as we stood in front of the thousands of bats.
Do you know what echolocation is? This is what bats use to see, especially in total darkness. Echolocation works when a bat shouts and that sound that they produce bounces of the objects ahead of them which gives them information about what they will be getting into. Also, another cool thing is that unlike most birds which make nests which just twigs and straws and others, bats use their saliva!
7:30 – 9:30 am
We all headed back to the camp where we went straight to the dining area. As we filled our plates, we looked down at the mangrove roots where we saw moray eels! There were about 5 of them just slowly swimming around in circles. They looked so calm. I sat down at the table with a group of friends as we talked about the bats we saw.
After we finished our breakfast and cleaning up our plates, we sat back down at the dining area and listened for further details about what our plan for the day was. We all headed outside for a bit while we did some community building. We did a few games and had so much fun!
After awhile, we were handed these manual/workbooks. As I peered inside the book, I noticed, aside from the quizzes, there was loads information about the island, different ecosystems, birds, fishes, coral and way more. Very interesting. I took my seat as well as my other campers and we started a lecture on basic biology and the identification of corals and their cousins. We were taught by Julia Herbolsheimer, a german scientist, who was very enthusiastic about what she taught.
Before we started, we were all told that we would be given a group test at the end. I grabbed my pen and went to the back of the booklet that they handed me where I started to jot down notes.
Maybe after 30 minutes everyone slowly started feeling sleepy. The lecture, on the other hand, was very interesting to all of us but I guess just us sitting there and the breeze coming in every now and then sent this sleepy vibe. When the AL’s and camp directors started to notice this, they didn’t hesitate to snap us out of the current (sleepy) mood. The AL (not the AL of my group but another group) teaching us about corals and fish paused the lecture for awhile. We all stood up as we did this kind of pass around dance which jolted everyone to wake up. We were still laughing as we sat down to continue. Our mind was ready to learn more and the laziness was gone.
When the lecture finished, each group, including mine, grabbed a table and four chairs. Me and my group all huddled around while we answered some of the questions on coral reefs together. I have a question for you… What are corals? An animal? A rock? A plant? Think for awhile. Here goes the answer….. it’s all! Amazing, isn’t it?! Also, did you know that corals are cousins with jellyfish? Yeah, pretty cool. Here’s the explanation: There is tiny, soft – bodied organism related to jellyfish and sea anemone called coral polyps. Millions of polyp colonies come together and form coral reefs. And maybe (just maybe) you are wondering “how are some corals hard if what they are made of are soft – bodied?” well I have your answer. It is because once these polyps form together, they secrete calcium carbonate which helps to form their hard skeleton. We also learned about the 7 major life forms of a coral such as:
Massive (brain coral)
10:00 – 12:30
After cleaning up our tables, we were told to prepare to snorkel. I went to my Cabana and changed into swimming clothes. I slipped on a rash guard before heading back down to get my snorkel. We didn’t walk this time but we took the boat to this snorkeling area. We looked down as the boat drove to our destination. The water was so clear and blue. You could see the sea floor filled with corals and fish.
Here’s a trick that I learned from the camp, if you want to prevent your scuba mask from fogging, you should spit it in, rub it around a little and wash it out. At first, I might have refused to try it because I thought that we weren’t going to wash out the spit (and I was a little disgusted just a little because I didn’t want to smell the food I recently ate while swimming) but when I found out what to do, I made the decision to test it. It works! I tried it :D. If ever you want to research more on this, you could check Leisure Pros. But you could also use toothpaste. There are also various solutions sold that you could apply on the mask to stop it from fogging but they don’t suggest using this because it might spread chemicals into the ocean and it might affect life underwater unless it’s like all natural or something. Also, why not use spit? Try it some time.
Anyways, when we went off the boat, our assignment was to draw 4 different types of coral life forms that we learned earlier. Our group (as I mentioned earlier each group has 4 people) was split into twos as we swam around and looked for corals to draw. Oh! I forgot to mention…. earlier we were given a dive slate and one pencil for two to share, this is where we are supposed to draw our corals. I swam around with my partner as we looked for some corals. We put our face underwater as we started to draw. All the other groups also started the activity. I was able to draw a branching, foliose and mushroom coral. When I labeled it, I dropped the slate and my life vest back on the boat and just started swimming around admiring the fish and other sea life. BTW, don’t leave your partner. It’s always better to stick together (heh, that rhymes).
We headed back to the camp to eat lunch. When we finished eating, we were given a 30 – minute break of free time. It was so fun. We talked, played cards and relaxed in the dining area.
1:00 – 3:00 pm
When our break ended, one of the ALs told us to do a hand roll on how active we still felt. 5 meaning we were so active that we felt we could swim the whole island and 1 meaning I can’t move anymore. 3…. 2… 1.. All of our hands released. Some were 5, 4 and 2. This hand roll was used a lot of times a day to just check up on ourselves and our fellow campers. Sometimes we used it on how hungry or happy we were.
We then started our next lessons on reef fishes. Sometimes before we learned about a new thing on the reef fishes, we would be asked a question about it. In the camp, we were given the power of choice. We chose whether or not answer. I found the power of choice to be excellent. Normally, I would try to sit at the back of the class (trying to camouflage myself with the crowd) when we were doing lessons or something like that because I was shy for the teacher or someone to point to me and ask me to answer. But because the camp implemented power of choice, I was able to sit at the front and eventually I wanted to raise my hand and (make a choice to) try to answer even if I got it wrong because the community and the camp made me feel comfortable to actually speak out.
Anyways, onto the reef fishes. We learned about many different fishes that we could find if we looked properly. We also learned about the 3 classes of fish including:
Chondrichthyes (A.K.A Elasmobranchs)
Largest fish group
Found in marine/freshwater
Aside from this, we did a bit of fish anatomy. It was very interesting because there are many (very) similar fishes that you could mistakenly take as the same because you might have missed a small detail (even the difference of how they swim counts). Also, we learned the dangerous fishes, like rockfishes, that blend into their surroundings which can poison someone if provoked or stepped on. Also, I found how fish can be really sneaky when they mimic other fishes. For example, there are these small black and blue stripped fish called cleaner wrasse, other fishes allow these wrasses to venture into their mouth and actually let them clean it but another fish called the Fang Blenny looks nearly the same but instead of cleaning eats the skin and flesh of other fishes. Because the Fang Blenny has some of the same characteristics as the cleaner wrasse like the shape and color, other unknowing fish victims allow the Blenny to go close to them only to be bitten and lose a bit of flesh. That’s how the Fang Blenny takes advantage of mimicry. Evil.
Before we took another test, we were learning about the different signs to do when we are underwater to let other snorkelers know what fish they see. We wouldn’t want to be screaming “grouper!!!” to let others know, we might scare the fish away! Actually, we made some signs up, it was really fun. For example, when you see a barracuda, you could signal a fellow snorkeler and cover your ears. Because if you are wearing earrings underwater, barracudas get attracted to shiny things (because they mistake it for small fish shimmering from the sun while swimming). Or, if you see a grouper you could use you could pout because groupers look like they are frowning.
Next!! We did another test. This time, all we had to do was list down the name of the fish that we saw on the screen. About 15 different fishes flashed to the screen (not all at once) and everyone tried thinking about what fish it was. We looked at the details and I really enjoyed how we were doing teamwork with my group as each fish showed. One of the questions that we were able to ask was “how did it swim?”. That one clue helped most to answer a lot of questions.
I found the surgeon fish to be really scary because they have a sharp tip at the bottom of their body near their tail which is as sharp as a surgeon’s knife (that’s where they got the name). My favorite fish was the unicorn fish because UNICORNS but they also are related to surgeonfishes and when they fight (even though they aren’t normally aggresive) they don’t use their horns (even though that would look really cool) but their scalpel located near their tail.
After our test, we headed to another snorkeling area. Our next task was to draw 3 different fish each. The groups spread around while we looked for some fishes. There were pretty much fish everywhere. I got really excited when I saw a lionfish (even though they could be really dangerous) because honestly, I’ve only seen them in movies. It was still a baby and it seemed to just stay in its place which made it easy for me to draw it. When I finished (my masterpiece), I silently thanked the fish and resurfaced near the boat. As I swam beside the other campers, we saw various sizes and colors of fish. I didn’t want to leave, it was paradise.
4:00 pm onwards
We all left on the boat when we finished drawing our fishes and swimming around a bit. I thought we were going back to the camp but we seemed to take a different turn. The sun was still up and as we headed towards our next destination, I saw it. It was a small sandy island. We jumped off the boat and swam around. We took pictures and splashed around in the water. All the campers (around 25), ALs and the camp directors were there too! We even played a game! This is what happened…. we were put in a situation where, for example, someone was far away and drowning. Our setting was at a beach full of people. What the lifeguard would sometimes ask was for people around the beach to form a line and wrap their arms together. You’ll understand it better with the picture. Anyways, the other had to be the taller people at the land side while the smaller people on the water side. Now, the last person had to be a “good swimmer”. I was at the end (not that I was the smallest, I wasn’t) and I was given the assignment to grab the person drowning.
After taking a few sunset pictures, we headed back.
6:00 pm onwards
After filling up our bucket, we took a shower, still in our bathing suit. We found it easier to share one bucket then get another if needed. Everyone was so happy to finally take a shower. After me and the rest of the girls in my cabana finished changing, we all headed out to the dining area.
We finished dinner and we learned the introduction to birds and the basic identification of the birds on the island. There are so many birds!!! Did you know that just in the Philippines there are 576 species of birds? 35% of these are endemic the others are migratory. We’ll be learning and studying more about the birds on the Danjugan tomorrow! Yay, another adventure. After doing a game on birds and trees, we all headed to our cabanas around 9 pm.
As we lay in bed, we heard singing coming from the boy’s cabana which we eventually fell asleep to.
Before I end this, I just want to mention that you will really learn well from this camp because after you learn your lesson, you actually go out and see the real thing. And, personally, I found it awesome how applied knowledge from books and experience. It’s very interactive and funnn.
We reached our destination! Yay. We were assigned to drop our bags over at one of the tables before anything. I remember one of the first things that we were all told was about the eco toilet (which the place where you do the number 2). Btw, it was already lunch. Time to eatttt. The other kids went into the dining area already while I took a quick glimpse of the place. When I decided to join the rest I went up the small bamboo steps up to the dining area which was hovering over (with the aid of some concrete) the Moray Lagoon. The water was so clear and blue. Also, the reason to why the Lagoon had a Moray in it was because if you looked at the water you could see Moray Eels. They can look scary sometimes but also they made the water look lively if that makes sense.
As I stared at the dining area, I had no idea where to sit. Most of the tables were taken and I didn’t know where to sit. Also, I didn’t plan on sitting alone. And as I’ve mentioned before, most who came were with a relative or friend so they had a person to eat with.
I gathered my strength and decided to take a seat with a table that had 3 occupied seats. I said “hi” and we started to have a good conversation. In just a few minutes we all became friends.
While everyone finished their remaining lunch, one of the camp directors started introducing all the other camp members which we call ALs. Apparently, we were gonna be split up into four teams. Each team would be lead by one adult leader (or AL). All the AL’s each took turns in introducing themselves and their background about where they came from and why they’re in the camp. There was one scientist who came from Germany and who was going to teach us about fish and corals.
Also, we were told that for the answers that we got correct or for the behavior or actions that we did right we would get points for our teams. And of course, with being late or others our points could go down. Once we finished acquainting with our teams and AL’s, we all went out of the dining cabana and made a circle. Apparently, we were going to say our name and a dance. It went one way around the circle. When it reached my turn like everyone else, I shouted “LIBI!” and did this awkward dance move which everyone then shouted “LIBI!” and the same move. This was just a fun way to acquaint ourselves with everyone.
There are actually four cabanas for all the campers. Two are for the girls and two are for the boys. One of the main rules is that no boys allowed in the girl’s cabana and vise versa. There were about 5 girls in my cabana while there was about 7 in the other girl’s cabana.
When we finished preparing ourselves for swimming and trekking, we heard our call (KUUUUUWEEEEE (which is a bird call which came from one of the ALs)).
Most of the things you would hear (from the Camp Director) when all the campers gathered are “look at me if you could hear me” or “clap twice if you could hear me“. These were some of the ways to gather the attention when everyone was being loud.
Anyways, back to the learning center. We were briefed about the island and the different beaches and lagoons. At this point, there were a few questions in which you could earn a few points from. We were also briefed about first aid and other things to be aware of while we do our trek. We were ready. We were instructed to bring our snorkel, other gear (if you have any), waterproof bag (if you need for things you want to bring which you don’t want to get wet), water bottle, sunscreen and insect repellent. If you forgot to bring your snorkel gear (just like me ;D) don’t worry! You could rent a snorkel or any other gear at one of the gear stall area on the island. All you have to do is sign your name and Tadaaa!
Because each team had its separate color (in my case, color white), we had to wrap a different color per team on the snorkel. We then headed out team by team. While passing one of the bridges, we saw big sea urchins at the bottom. Wanna know why they were hanging out there? Well, above the bridge is a bat cave. And, the bat cave goes all the way down. The urchins liked the bat poop. Mmmm.
We passed by turtle beach and typhoon beach. And, after waiting for the other teams at some sort of bar (rehydrating ourselves with some water), we swam to the beach reaching one of the far rafts with the ALs and our teams.
Good thing for the tapes wrapped our snorkels when the others were still snorkeling you could still identify which ones were part of your team. We were shown the different corals and fishes. It seemed to explode with colors! It was beautiful.
We made our way back with a sunset trek. The sky was orange and the light slowly made its way down. Our night ended with some dinner and finally a bath! Even though it’s only one bucket per person, I agree that it’s a good amount to use. Here’s the tip, use the tabo twice to wash away the sand and wet your hair, then shampoo and soap, then another wash. Done! You’ll probably have some leftovers.
Just before sleeping, we all sat around in a circle at the dining area after pushing away the chairs and tables to the side. One of the ALs told us that this was our community building and that it will be one of the only times we’ll be doing it. As we sat down in a circle, we shared what we enjoyed throughout the day and something we liked to build in our community. On a sheet of Manila Paper, a circle was drawn. Inside the circle, we would throw out ideas we would like to have in our community, an example, trust or respect for others.
The picture above is the paper that we all made. In our community, we had the power of choice, the power of two feet, and the power of experts. Inside our community, we wrote down words we wanted for our Danjugan community. As you may see above, we wanted positivity, trust, support, friendship respect, understanding for each other in our Danjugan family.
After this, we went to our cabanas and slept. Well, the truth is I talked to my roommates (cabana mates) before sleeping. We were having a small debate whether or not we should leave the chips in the cabana. Laziness kinda went around and we decided to leave the food in the room.
We put our mosquito nets properly around our mattresses and finally slept. 😉