Who? Jochem van Herwaarden (24), MSc student of Aquaculture and Resource Management
What? Internship at the REEFolution Foundation
Text Monique van Schie Photo's Jochem van Herwaarden
‘My internship at the REEFolution Foundation consisted of diving, diving and more diving. You have to like that, and I loved it. It was exciting and special every time again. You see new things all the time, and every dive is unique. Kenya’s underwater paradise is gorgeous. There are so many colours to be seen and the turtles are great. I also saw octopuses guarding their eggs. They do that until the eggs hatch out and then the parents die. So amazing!
Destructive fishing methods
‘The REEFolution Foundation is a Kenyan foundation that works on coral reef restoration. Overfishing has caused numbers of herbivorous fish to fall, so that algae could smother coral reefs. And destructive fishing methods and coral bleaching don’t help either. So there is a real need for coral restoration. Local and international interns are helping to expand the project. Ultimately, it should become self-sufficient through collaboration with the local population.
‘Planting’ new reef
‘The project comes down to collecting bits of coral and tying them to structures called ‘trees’. Once the pieces of coral are big enough, they are ‘planted’ on different types of artificial reef. This creates a reef that is as diverse as possible, thus attracting other fish and animal species. Underwater we worked on filling the ‘trees’ with coral or on planting the coral on reefs. Onshore, we did computer work and made the ‘trees’ and reefs.
‘It wasn’t just underwater that the internship was interesting. I also learned a lot about Kenyan culture, partly thanks to the other interns. Kenyans are very amicable and can have a good time even when doing tough work, although they are not as punctual as the Dutch. Kenyan life is hard too, as I learned when I spent the night in a hotel that turned out to be in a Nairobi neighbourhood with a high crime rate. I heard shots at five in the morning and at breakfast time there were two bodies outside the door of the hotel. They were thieves who had been shot dead by the police. Passers-by glanced at them and walked on; apparently it was not an unusual sight for them.
‘Kenya has a totally different climate and flora and fauna than Europe. So before starting my internship, I went on a real safari. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done. We went to several different places: three lakes and the Masai Mara, a big nature reserve in the savannah. One of the lakes was covered in birds of all kinds and full of hippos. As for elephants, giraffes, lions, cheetahs, rhinos and crocodiles: I saw them all!’