Sudan expedition 2013: Observation of a COUSTEAU DIVER by Burçak Öztekin

I come from Ankara, an inland capital city located in the heart of a country surrounded by water on three sides, the city well known to have trained majority of the divers n

In November 2012, I met the initiative I had been looking for: Cousteau Divers; an action that embraces all Oceanlovers, making each of them an agent of the study and conservation of the aquatic realm. I don't need to be a marine biologist, I don't need to go too far to help: Whenever and whereever possible, either diving or snorkeling, with very simple methods I can observe the marine life and record my observations –which demonstrate valuable information for scientists-, thus participate actively in the study and preservation of the ocean’s health. I instantly became a member, took the Mediterranean Course, made several Cousteau Dives in Turkey; completed surveys and uploaded data.

In January, once-in-a-lifetime experience came my way. As a Cousteau Divers member, I had the unique opportunity to join an incredible scientific expedition in the Sudanese Red Sea under the “Red Sea Shark and Ray Conservation and Management Project” focusing on grey reef and scalloped hammerhead sharks. Diving, shark tagging, learning about a unique marine ecosystem, studying one of the most preserved shark populations in the world together with experienced marine biologists to ensure that the species observed today will also be seen by our future generations…

Throughout our one-week live-aboard journey, we’ve been to Sha’ab Rumi and Sanganeb. I participated in both recreational and scientific dives held by the Expedition Team which consisted of three working groups: shark tagging, deployment of underwater fixed camera to conduct video surveys and fish sampling for food web work. I took part in the daily activities of the last two: Science and fun; dive and learn all in the same pot!

We deployed BRUV (baited remote underwater camera) at several spots and around five hours later we went back to recover and see what we got on the record, crossing fingers to see some sharks. Meanwhile we had fabulous dives: Makro life and sharks altogether, amazing! Yet more, on our way to and back to these sites, a group of dolphins came along and escorted our zodiac a couple of times. So, once we decided to jump in and join them with snorkels and cameras. We all enjoyed the sunshine and Sudanese sea. It was amazing to watch these social creatures as they move simultaneously and witness their joyful freedom.

The team working on the food web carried on many activities. It was quite entertaining and productive; I definitely learned a lot. We dived to conduct fish survey, recording all fish observed on a definite distance. As they surveyed with a transect protocol, I did Cousteau Dives testing the Cousteau Divers’ Red Sea dive log and manual that were launched recently. Our work continued on the boat with the fish sampling during which I had first-hand information and training from these marine scientists. Furthermore, I believe –and am thankful that- they also did the best thing to do: They planted new question marks on my mind, helped me gain brand new perspectives. These fantastic talks made me even more curious, to such an extent that upon my return I felt the need to read and learn further. I would never imagine myself buying and reading a marine biology book, still having fun!

This expedition has definitely been one of the biggest adventures of my life, a true life-changing experience. I have now my great story, too. Many many thanks to the Expedition Team and Cousteau Divers, it was great to be with you on board.