The following cacique update was written by Arielle and Mackenzie describing their day as caciques, Saturday, July 2: New beginnings are a huge part of life at the Island School, and today was no exception. But, the day began just like any other, with vigorous exercise that students used as a way to escape the swarming flies. After an energizing breakfast, the lionfish, conch, sharks, bonefish, and aquaculture research groups headed out for their first day of field work.

The lionfish team went out on a boat to measure patch reefs. The current was too strong though, and the troop of exhausted snorkelers returned to the boathouse to practice identifying fish along transect lines while SCUBA diving.

Those in the conch research group headed out to their first site after a quick review on transects and juvenile conch. They paired up and began surveying conch.

Groups of students also had the opportunity to chat with a local conch fisherman, Niamiah. “At one time,” Niamiah said, “I could freedive over sixty feet.” No student doubted this impressive claim as our masked eyes ogled him from the surface as Niamiah easily retrieved several huge conch from the ocean floor.  He proceeded to awe students even more as he skillfully speared a couple of triggerfish. Back at the boathouse, Niamiah taught us the secrets of preparing conch. We were able to “enjoy” raw conch and watch him skin several conch and fish.

Island School students topped of the day with an awesome Saturday night. We waited for the sun to set while playing the Lizz game, which is similar to Charades. We then hit the road for our next activity. After walking down the road to the cut lit only by stars, we went on a nighttime snorkel. Quickly, before chickening out, pairs of students jumped off the low bridge into the water. The current and our adrenaline propelled us towards the next bridge and, for some lucky students, nurse sharks. After a few screams and mild hysteria, everyone climbed out of the water in one piece.

Dripping water and thrilled by the snorkel, we made our way back to campus for a late night treat. Everyone swore they had never eaten brownies with ice cream so fast in their lives! With the sweet, chocolaty taste lingering on our tongues, we drifted off to our beds in search of some much-needed sleep and a great week ahead.

Happy Snorkeling!