“Pass me that torch, quick, there is something here!”.
It’s pitch black around, apart from our head torches flashing in the darkness. It’s 7pm and I am walking in the Con Dao National Park forest with a group of Vietnamese school kids, their teacher, a couple of parents, and the guys from Senses Diving Con Dao, a local diving school.
How did I get here?!
A few days ago I was chatting to Max, one of the owners of Senses Diving Con Dao, as I wanted to learn more about the island, and he told me about Biodiversity PEEK.
The Biodiversity PEEK (Photography Educating & Empowering Kids) educational program is run by the Biodiversity Group and it teaches children about their own environment. In Con Dao the program runs over two months at a time and it involves around six children from a local school per group. Weekly activities – usually run on a Sunday – range from trekking, to snorkeling, diving, clean up days, and are all aimed at teaching the kids about the wildlife on their own doorstep and what impact (good or bad) we have on the environment.
There was no need to ask me if I wanted to get involved in the night trek with the kids: I was already putting my hand up for that!
And so we went.
The trek led us into the forest and up the hill, and it was great to see the enthusiasm from the kids! No leaves were left unturned (in the real sense) and every finding was reported to the group with loud cheers. We mainly saw lizards, geckos, and spiders, and heard noises from bats and monkeys in the bush.
Kids had also been given digital cameras to document and report back what they had found.
The day after the trek they gathered at the bar run by Senses Diving for the second part of the activity: uploading the photos to a website that will assist them with identification of the species found.
This is all part of increasing the kids’ awareness about their environment, which is of crucial importance. Even more so on an island like Con Dao, which is deemed as globally significant because of its marine life, terrestrial habitat and location. Read more about Con Dao biodiversity here.
I feel very privileged to have taken part in one of the Biodiversity PEEK activities in Con Dao! All tourists are welcome to join in, so please pop by if you are in town and ask the guys at Senses Diving Con Dao how you can get involved!