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Amazon Adventure - Video Blog Three

Posted on September 29, 2012 at 9:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Number three is here! Not only have I run out of space on my website, but also on Vimeo, so it is back to good old reliable Youtube I go. Click here to enjoy number three, more coming soon!

Jen ~ x

Amazon Adventure - Video Blog Two

Posted on September 28, 2012 at 1:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Hello world,

It took me a while to sort out this video blog, other than moving to university it was recorded in many different videos and was very long, so it took time to edit. I hope it's still not too long! I just could not cut it any more. I love how you can hear all the sounds of the forest and people speaking Portuguese. I'm glad I decided to do it. It is basically 'A Day In The Life Of A Volunteer At Project Boto', but it turned out to be a particularly interesting day... please enjoy and let me know what you think. Many thanks! Jen ~ x

Amazon Video Blog Two from Jennifer Austin on Vimeo.

Amazon Adventure - Video Blog One

Posted on August 25, 2012 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Hello again world!

So, I am back from the Amazon, unfortunatly. My original plan was to write a journal and then type it up as blogs, however I wrote a lot more than I expected - basically filled a whole notebook - and therefore cannot possibly type it all up. I will pick certain days to type up, which in itself is very hard to do. I also took over 2000 photos and many videos. I did take a few video blogs out there, so while I sort out which days to type up and organise my photos and videos, here is number one, a video tour of the houseboat I lived on for a month, July - August 2012. Below that is my review of the trip I wrote for GVI (Global Visions International) and future volunteers to read.

Thank you, blog soon. Jen ~x (If you cannot see the video, please click on the link.)

Tour of Amazon House Boat from Jennifer Austin on Vimeo.


An experience of a lifetime and the best month of my life.

I left nervous, but buzzing with excitement, thinking of the dolphins. When I arrived I was completely blown away. I saw dolphins almost every single day, but even without the dolphins, it would have still been incredible. The monkeys, birds, caiman, fish and even the insects were so brilliant to see. A different world. The rain was like being under a waterfall and the sun was immense. I fell in love with the place and its people.

Twice a week I met travellers at the lodge, for our Project Boto talk, from around the world and chatted for ages about where they have been or where they were going. The locals were so welcoming and friendly, I played football with the children and had conversations with the community members, even though we didn’t share the same language. The children plaited my hair while I watched a man carve a boto into a fruit I picked from a tree, then I would show them my photos on my camera and they would show me photo albums of their family and birthdays. It was extremely touching and I didn’t think it was possible to bond so much with people who do not speak your language. I learnt a lot about how different lifestyles can be. The other volunteers and interns were very friendly and I made new close friends who I am still in contact with.The hours always passed quickly, whether working or fishing, talking or playing cards.

The sunrise, day, sunset and night were all too beautiful to describe. I saw a new animal every day and could not go two minutes without seeing a bird – I saw over thirty different bird species. I would wake up at 6am every day and watch the sunrise, then every other day I went observing for seven hours, watching the dolphins in their stunning habitat and recording their behaviour. I never got tired of viewing them and time went too quickly. When we returned home I ate rice and fish, that I had caught, cleaned and gutted myself the day before.

It was like living in a different world, a better world, andI cannot express enough the colourful wildlife there. The air was always full of the forest sounds and you could quickly pick up on which monkey or bird species it was you could hear. I recommend this experience to everyone. Yes, you will be out of contact from the world (you won’t want it there anyway), you will have cold showers and wash clothes in river water, you will smell and eat mainly rice and fish, sit on a boat for over seven hours a day and have to drink rainwater… However, this was all part of the experience and I would not change anything about it.


Seal Sanctuary Volunteering - End

Posted on July 16, 2012 at 1:05 PM Comments comments (0)

So the end of volunteering at Gweek Seal Sanctuary was sad, although as I kept volunteering on weekends and could not go the last weekend due to a end of college camping trip, I never had a real 'last day', which was good as I am not sure Logsie would have dealt with me saying goodbye.

It was a brilliant experience. The weighing of countless fish and defrosting reminded me a lot of Monkey Mia and talking to the public too. I still enjoyed both of these jobs. The training of the seals was something I did not think I would get to do. The first time I did it, coping what the staff member did after her, I don't think I stopped grinning once. Then as I got use to it, I began to focus more on improving, such as getting the 'beeps' or 'whistles' in the correct place, mixing up the actions I was asking the seal to do, and being more clear in my gestures or tone of voice.

(Please go to my 'Videos' page to see a clip from a training session.)

By the end of the second week they were giving Jess and I the keys to enclosures, such as the penguins or common seals, to just go in and feed ourselves. This was really great as it showed how much they trusted us and how we were helpful for them. There was lots of laughs - like staff member Amy falling in the common seal pool - and some tears - like Barney the penguin passing away - but through everything I learnt so much! Even the paperwork and data taking was handy to learn.

It did also make me realise that, although it was brilliant, I do want to be a researcher, not a trainer. I know all the seals there could not be released, but part of me still did not like to see a seal barking on command and the audience laughing.

One of the best moments there was doing the Otter Talk. They normally never have volunteers wanting to do talks, but I certainly wanted to. Using the mic in front of the crowd and with out any sort of script was extremely worrying at first, then when I started I enjoyed it. Asking the crowd to guess what the otters had in their lunch box and telling them where they came from, why they were here and about their personalities. It was confidence building and enjoyable.

After my placement I got a lovely letter of recommendation from the staff to use at interviews for the future which will hopefully stand out. I hope to gain more experience like this in the years to come.

Jennifer xx

Seal Sanctuary Volunteering - Daily Timetable

Posted on July 16, 2012 at 11:10 AM Comments comments (0)

Saturday 2nd June

I thought it might be of interest to see my usual day at Gweek, set out clearly and easy to read without loads of rambling about each job or the animals. So here was my day on the 2nd June when I was kept on as a weekend volunteer until I moved home when college finished. The timetable was pretty much the same each day, just a different pool being cleaned and sometimes water testing or extra medication given.

8:00am – Paddocks. Field’s switch over, feed, clean and water.

8:45am – Fish prep. Pill fish, weighing, defrosting.

9:30am - Medication prep for next day and cleaning.

9:45am – Power hose and scrub of South African Fur Seal Bay (Pill fish given out.)

10:30am – Break till 11am. (Feed commons)

11am – Grey seal and pup talk and feed

11:15am – South African Fur Seal Bay training and feed

11:25am – Grey Seal training and feed

11:45am – Sea lion feed and talk (training)

12pm – Penguin talk and feed

Or cleaning of buckets and fish prep

12:30pm – Otter talk and feed (training)

Updating computer records, ice blocks or enrichment

1pm – 2pm Lunch

(Feed commons)

2pm – Grey seal and pup talk and feed

2:15pm – South Africa Fur Seal Bay training and feed

2:25pm – Grey seal training and feed

2:45pm - Sea Lion feed and train (training)

3:00pm – Penguin talk and feed

Or cleaning of buckets and fish room

3:30pm – Otter talk and feed

Walk goats/sheep. Medication, enrichment.

4:00pm Paddocks

Or Sea lion feed

4:30pm – Penguin feed

Close down - cleaning.

5:00pm Close.

Seal Sanctuary Volunteering - The Animals

Posted on July 16, 2012 at 10:35 AM Comments comments (0)

I thought I should post a blog about all the animals at the sanctuary, for anyone's interest and for me to look back on in the future and remember.

They have three ponies: Muffin, Tuppence and Bracken. Tuppence had sweet-itch when I was there so each meal we added a powder medication to her food. Muffin was really fat!

Two goats: Steve and Andrew. At first they look exactly the same, but Steve has a mark on his nose and Andrew has one near the top of his head and is slightly larger. He follows big Steve (big due to personality, not size) anywhere. These guys were always escaping into other fields!

Five sheep: Bluebell, Bella, Stanley, Patrick and Florence. Bella was old and had to be given medication every morning through a syringe in her mouth, she enjoyed taking it though which made it easy! Stanley, well. He was hand-reared and does not like to be treated like a sheep. He LOVES head butting people. Particularly me.

Grey seals: Yulelog, Flipper, Ray and Marlin. Yulelog, otherwise known as Logsie or Loggles, was my favourite seal and I trained him the most. He is lazy and doesn't always want to be bothered with training, but is good at it really. He's really loud and huffs and groans at you. Flipper is very slobbery and partly blind, which means he can't see where the difference is between a hand or a fish. Marlin is almost completely blind and only the staff do proper training with him. Ray is a special boy, suffering from brain damage.

Common seals: Luna, Sija and Babyface. Luna was pregnant most of the I was there; however the staff came in one morning to find the baby out and dead. Horrible. Sjia loves training and enrichment and Babyface is a father to anyone he can be.

Patagonia sea lions: Diego and Noito

California sea lion: Andre. A big noisy character, very good as training as he use to perform.

Fur seals: Chaff and Andy. Andy is Chaff's dad and is good at training, but slower. Chaff can do a lot more and is always lively.

Otters: Starsky and Hutch. Fun to watch they love to juggle pebbles.

Humbolt (Donkey) penguins: Ivy, Ruby, Gilbert, Piran, Lola and Barney. Barney sadly passed away when I was there. I took him to the vets with a member of staff and picked him up. They could not find what was wrong and we had to give him medication and tube feed him, stressing him more. In the end they had to put him down. It turned out he had a small twig stuck, which he must have swallowed.

It was surprising how quickly you learnt the difference between all the animals, physically, but also their personalities. After watching them almost every day for three weeks, it was hard not to feel as though they are friends!

Seal Sanctuary Volunteering - Day 15

Posted on July 16, 2012 at 10:25 AM Comments comments (0)

10th May 2012

Today Jess got taken with Claire to deep clean the rockpools, so I got Reef’s food and went to the paddocks, not really looking forward to doing them all alone. I need not have worried, Emma came with me and we had just fed the horses when Jenny arrived. She was really kind and said how I had done a lot on the paddocks so I could spend the morning with her. As it’s our last week I think they are really trying to make the most of it for us. I cut up squid for the rockpools – taking out the spine which was weird, like a sort of plastic thin sheet – and the yolk out of the chickens for the otters. Then we drove down to the penguins. Jenny asked me whether I knew who was who, thanks to the coloured tags, and I was glad I asked Dan that question a few days ago.

Gilbert – Green

Ivy – Black

Ruby – Red

Piran – White

Lola – White and blue

I took the bowl of sprets and went in the enclosure, hand feeding the penguins and calling out their names to Jenny to do the tally. It was difficult at first, to quickly say their name while feeding the next one, plus only saying their name when they actually ate it – if they drop one on the floor they don’t eat it and sometimes another penguin will snatch it. I quickly got the hang of it and it was good fun, I hope I get to do it again.

Once feeding was over I scrubbed penguin poo, washed rocks and raked the sand. It might not sound great, but I had not done much with the penguins so just to be in the enclosure with them was brilliant, however it was sad without Barney, who had a yellow tag.

Next we gave the sea lions their breakfast and went to the otters. Once we cleaned the inside we shut them in their house and Jenny collected sawdust that they had kicked out and tidied up, as I hid food all around their enclosure. I gave them a monkey nut each and we headed back to clean the sea lions. I couldn’t do much, not being allowed in with them, so I chatted and kept Jenny company while she scrubbed their poo away. She cleaned the massive filter and back-washed it, which was interesting to watch although I wish she had talked me through what she was doing a little more.

We drove back to the top to collect the buckets and had a tea break before the morning feeds. I watched Jess do Andy for a change as Claire took Chaff, then trained Logsy. He was really loud today and a little lazy, but did well. He has basically moulted completely now and is a very pretty big boy!

Afternoon fish prep went fast, then I just washed up and cleaned around a bit. Then updated the paperwork onto the computer for all of the seals, sea lions, otters, horses, sheep and goats. Oh, and Reef of course. Everyone except the penguins. This was just taking notes of the individual’s paperwork, such as ‘Babyface very hungry, increased feed to 2kg per day’, ‘Luna squinting only in left eye, monitor and update PR when phones’ or simply ‘wormed’, and putting it onto the computer. I finished this at 1pm, just in time for lunch.

At 2pm the afternoon feeds all went fine and after cleaning the buckets Jess, Emma and I went to the horses. I groomed a horse for the first time ever and learnt how to clean their hooves. Pretty simple as long as you are confident and firm with them, but a muddy job, particularly in the rain. I would prefer to cuddle a seal than a horse though, even when they twisted round or shook their body they made me jump! Just not a big horse fan I guess.

Then I helped the afternoon feeding, clean and close down. Great day as always!