Experience shared by Vamsi Krishnan, age 12 years

We were taken to Kochi by the Mango Education team for a two-day Aquatic Adventures Expedition in December 2019. It was an amazing trip which allowed me to gain a lot of knowledge about aquatic life. They took us to various areas where we could observe and understand both captive and wild fish. It also gave me hands-on experience with various aquatic animals.

On the first day, we went to the mangrove forests. Before visiting the mangroves, we had a session on the types of mangroves and how they benefit the environment. We then went boating in the mangroves and saw a myriad of animals including fiddler crabs, mud crabs and kingfishers.

We then saw how a fisherman uses cast nets to catch fish, and the different species that the fisherman caught, including scats, tilapias, prawns, a mullet and even a pufferfish. In fact, the fisherman did not allow us to release the pufferfish into that area since it would eat the fish being raised there, so we had to release it in the backwaters.

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This was followed by a visit to an aquarium where we saw a variety of saltwater fish like clownfish, tangs and a moray eel.

Towards dusk, we went fishing in the backwaters. In this session, we learnt how to make a fishing rod and fished for nocturnal gobies and catfish. We also watched the local fishermen catch prawns with baskets on their heads. After an hour or two, we returned to our rooms and went to sleep in preparation for the next day.

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On the second day, we rose early and went to the Thopumpaddy fish harbour where we saw piles of fish that had been offloaded from the deep sea fishing boats. I was amazed by the sheer diversity of fish in our oceans. We saw a massive variety of marine animals including sharks, tuna, swordfish, cuttlefish, pufferfish and sardines. Our facilitators shared loads of information about these fish, and the effects of by-catch on the marine ecosystem. Frankly, I felt sad seeing so many dead fish, but I understood that it was all part of understanding these fish.

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After this we went to Fort Kochi, the remains of a Portuguese coastal fort where some of us were fortunate to spot a Flame backed woodpecker. I also saw a plover and a sandpiper. We enjoyed at the beach for some time and also learnt about the different nets—Chinese nets, Gillnets, and Dip nets – which are used to catch fish. We even saved a small pufferfish which was stranded on the beach.

We then returned to the room and set out again to KUFOS. We first visited the KUFOS aquarium where we saw Red tilapias, the newly discovered Gollum snakehead, a red-eared slider, Koi and Kerala barbs. We then saw a diverse collection of specimens ranging from a massive conch to octopi and even a shark or two. We also saw an aquaponics system. We then moved on to the hatchery where we saw various fish breeding including tilapias, chromites and koi. We also saw freshwater pufferfish which I have always wanted to keep and had never had an opportunity to see before. I was amazed, not only by them but also by the techniques used to breed them.  Actually, I am in the process of convincing my parents to allow me to set up a freshwater pufferfish environment at home too!!

Next, we collected some plankton from the open tanks and went to the KUFOS Labs. We also had an opportunity to interact with a scientist who was studying sea anemones and their biology.  We learnt how to measure the salinity of water using a spectroscope and got to use a compound microscope to observe the tiny plankton moving around. They were strange, almost round little creatures, and had many swimmerets using which they moved around. We also saw a jellyfish that the university students had captured for research. We finally had a wrap-up session and then went our separate ways.

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I am an avid aquarium lover, trying to observe and understand fish and their behaviour for the past 3 years at my home by procuring fish from the local aquarium shops. My interest in Pisces spiked up last year because of my habit of reading books and watching videos related to these organisms.  I was looking forward to this trip to offer a great practical learning experience!!

This expedition was an amazing opportunity for me to gain hands-on experience and understand the sheer diversity of aquatic life existing in south-western coastal India. This trip also gave me an opportunity to interact with field experts and scientists, eventually serving as an eye-opener to the field experience of understanding animals.

Thanks to the Mango Education Team and the KUFOS Scientists Team for arranging such an awesome expedition. I am looking forward to more nature and wildlife expeditions with Mango Education team!!

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