Tag Archives: environment

Weekly Photo Challenge: Between

A supertiny lizard caught between a man’s fingers.
Photo taken in Vietnam during an environmental education evening trek.

Featuring in the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge.

Hoi An and “Earth Hour 2014”

“Hello, you want to buy candle?”.

I had already got used to the question, soundtrack of my evenings along the riverfront in Hoi An. Children and old ladies sell you candles for 20,000 dong (Happy Hour: two-for-one): you buy one, make a wish, then place the candle on the  river and let it float.

Tonight, though, it all became more meaningful.

29 March 2014,  8:30pm: Earth Hour.

This is when millions of people across the world switch off lights for one hour – to celebrate their committment to the planet. 

Given the key role of lights and lanterns in Hoi An by night, the effect of switching them all off was very dramatic. At 8:30pm everything became suddenly very dark, pitch black. I was walking along the riverfront and there must have been thousands of people there, mainly youngsters. The area around the bridge to An Hoi island was completely jam-packed.

Painting for a greener Earth
Painting for a greener Earth

There were groups running around holding hands, groups playing guitar and singing songs, groups creating environmental-related paintings on large sheets of paper. The atmosphere was happy and lots of cheering was going on.

"Hello, you want to buy candle?"
“Hello, you want to buy candle?”

And then there were the kids and the old ladies selling candles.

Most of us bought one: some people just used them to create light as they walked, while others (me included) placed them on the river.

In the complete darkness the effect of hundreds of flickering candles on the Thu Bon river was amazing!

Candles on the Thu Bon river
Floating candles on the Thu Bon river

At 9:30pm the sound of a siren announced the end of Earth Hour and all lights and lanterns were switched on again.

This was such a different way of experiencing Hoi An compared to the previous nights (click here for my blog post) and I am very lucky to have been able to live Earth Hour here :-).

A “PEEK” evening

“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.

I am on the left :-)
I am on the left :-)

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.

Local wildlife
Local wildlife

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.

Something has been spotted!
Something has been spotted!

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.

Uploading the photographs
Uploading the photographs

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!