In Danjugan Day 2: Chips to Snakes

Pardon my grammar…

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:

  1. Food in the Cabana summons the cockroaches.
  2. Forest Rats come in and eat the cockroaches or the food
  3. 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

B…. A….T…..S

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:

  1. Massive (brain coral)
  2. Branching
  3. Mushroom
  4. Encrusting
  5. Table
  6. Foliose
  7. Submassive

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:

  1. Chondrichthyes (A.K.A Elasmobranchs)
    1. Cartilaginous fish
      1. sharks
      2. rays
      3. skates
  2. Agnatha
    1. Jawless fishes
      1. lampreys
      2. hagfishes
  3. Osteichthyes
    1. Largest fish group
    2. Bony Fish
    3. 20,000 species
    4. 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.

Here’s an example of a grouper.

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.

It looked like this…..

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.

(to be continued)

~ L.O.A.S.H

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