Last year my life kicked off with a bang. One day I was in South Africa, my home country, and the next moment I found myself flying to Hungary to start my life afresh.
Hi, my name is Tawani Naudé and this is the story of my time aboard the SY Independence with Project Manaia, sailing over the Adriatic Sea to learn more about the rate of the disappearing seagrass, the invasive species and the plastic litter found around the Croatian coastline.
In 2018, at the still-ripe age of 26 I realized that if I were to stay in the sales industry, I was destined to become a very sad and angry old woman one day. I was adamant to not let that happen. I knew three things:
1) I wanted to work with animals, preferably ocean related,
2) I wanted to travel the world,
3) I wanted a life for myself that I could be proud of, something that makes me feel like I am contributing to the better tomorrow I hope to see in the near future.
Although I had my sights set high, I somehow knew it would all work out. See, I read somewhere once that if your dreams do not scare you, you are not dreaming big enough. And so, thanks to the support of my friends and family, my search for a solution commenced and thus began my journey to finding my place in this world. Now, I will not make you believe that I have found my place yet, but I have found many places where my heart has been happy and where my thoughts run to during tougher times. This is how I know I’m on the right track.
I, now, am 28 years old and I will be starting my second year of Wildlife Management and Conservation in the small town called Gödöllõ. In our previous semester, we were informed that we will need to do a summer practice course for our Individual Case studies. We had the option to either work with a contracted university partner in Hungary or we could apply to an organization of our choosing. Being the millennial that I am, I set out on social media to see if I could find a more aquatic option. I barely even began my search when a post with a hashtag that I follow, popped up on my cellphone screen. The hashtag: Marine Biology, the Page: Project Manaia. I started following them immediately and loved their informative posts and watery pictures. I began my application to join them on board and could hardly contain my excitement. If all works out well, I will be spending my summer on a sailboat in the salty waters surrounding Croatia and all of its little islands.
When I received the packing list and the information about what we can expect when joining the team, my mind created a picture of what my time will be like on the SY Independence. I was imagining a set list of things we will be doing every day, places we will be visiting and tasks we will need to fulfil before the end of our time onboard. I pictured morning meetings with various tasks being handed out each day. I thought I would only be helping and learning about the projects they are currently running and how to correctly collect the data they have already decided they would need.
In some ways the picture in my head was not far off, in other ways, it was completely incorrect. Not only did Project Manaia teach me about the projects they were running at the time I joined, but they encouraged me to find my own project. Manuel asked us trick questions whenever he saw the opportunity and we learned about a wide variety of aspects, such as wind, sailing, currents, bacteria, rock, all the different species we saw and even about ones we didn’t see (for instance, there is a species of dolphins that have been labelled rapists – so to speak). Pinar kept us on our toes with interesting (and scary) story-games, species Pictionary and live Instagram videos of our personal projects. We were given the power to make our own schedules and compile the information we gathered in a manner that we saw fit.
I learned to do beach and water transects, data capturing, species names in English, German and Latin (impossible to remember them all in a mere two weeks, but it was fun trying), picking anchoring spots, tying knots – like bowline – and so much more.
I have gained knowledge and wisdom beyond my expectations and beyond the limitations of a focused project and I hope to join them on their next adventure through the Adriatic region to continue their research and hopefully my own as well.
I have thanked you repeatedly, and I will continue to do so. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Writen by Tawani Naude