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Day 18 - April 11, 2011 - At sea – en route to Freetown, Sierra Leone

By Robin Aiello, Marine Biologist

Co-ordinates: 4º14’04”N 6º55’45”W
Weather: sunny in the morning - overcast in the afternoon
Air Temperature: 29ºC


How wonderful to have a nice day of rest at sea today – especially after such a wonderful whirlwind tour of Benin, Togo and Ghana. The seas are absolutely flat and I have spent much of the day on the Bridge looking out for pods of dolphins and whales. We did spot a few small pods of short-finned pilot whales just lolling on the surface, a few small flocks of terns and a bunch of flying fish.

For many of the guests it has been a good day to relax, reflect back on the incredible experiences we had over the past 4 days, and read up on what we expect to see at our next stop. But, of course, there was plenty of activity onboard as well.

Will Wagstaff, our birder, started the day off with a wonderful lecture entitled “From the Garden to the Jungle – African Jewels”. During this lecture he reviewed the land birds of this region – covering the gaudy, glossy starlings to the bee-eaters and rollers. So many of these birds are brightly coloured and as Will says “they have to be seen to be believed!”

The next event was hilarious – it was a cook-off called “Ready, Steady, Cook. This was a cooking battle between Marcus (our Hotel Director) and Nadia (our Tour Agent), and narrated by Marcus, our Chef. We arrived to The Theatre to find that the Hotel Department had set up the stage with a long table with convection stoves and various other cooking tools. The challenge was for the two contenders to cook up 5 dishes in 25 minutes using the mystery ingredients given to them by the Chef. The ‘bonus’ ingredient was a fish head!!!

There was much bantering and teasing between the teams and we had some great laughs. I should mention that Nadia was given the assistance of two of the galley cooks – while Marcus, who used to be a pastry chef, had to go it alone.

Two guests were chosen as the taste-judges, and they did a wonderful job commentating on the end results. Although they didn’t much like the fish head dishes, they did like most of the other dishes. After careful consideration they finally chose Marcus as the winner!

After a leisurely lunch, David Conrad, our guest lecturer, introduced the documentary “The Voyage of La Amistad” in The Theatre. This movie tells the story of the events of the slave ship, La Amistad, which set sail carrying 53 African slaves in 1839. The slaves revolted, took over the ship and sailed it into the US, where they went to trial to secure their freedom. It was a captivating story and really shed light on the conditions, trials and tribulations that these slaves endured during this time.

For today’s Team Trivia, Will Wagstaff was doing one on the birds of Africa. It was tough!!! I think the highest score was 20 out of 25 – not too bad!

The final lecture of the day was at 5pm by Olga Stavrakis. Her talk, “Cities, Sand, Survival: The Economic Base of West African Kingdoms”. Olga’s interesting talk explained how some African urban centres, such as Timbuktu, grew based on trade.

After the lecture, we had one final show for the day – a pod of Pantropical Spotted Dolphins joined the ship and entertained us as they jumped 2 – 3 metres high out of the water. They stayed with us, bow-riding for about 10 minutes before heading off into the pink sunset. Hopefully there will be more coming to play with us during the day tomorrow.

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