Featured ‘Day in the life of’: Katia, cruise ship expedition guide.

Katia completed her PhD in Marine Biology and is currently working as a cruise ship expedition guide! This day in the life post shows off one of her days on a cruise ship from Myanmar to Bali. If you want to follow more of her adventures and see more of her amazing photographs follow her on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/katianicolet/


Sunrise on the Andaman Sea and its 800 islands

5:00am – Rising with the sun this morning in order for us, the expedition team, to go for an early scout in the mangroves of Lampi Island. It’s hard for me to wake up that early but the sight of the rising sun helps me find the energy I need to jump in a zodiac after a quick breakfast on the go.


The islet in the bay where the fishermen village stands

6:00am – All the expedition team, split in two zodiacs, head for a scouting mission through the mangroves of Lampi Island. The sea is calm and clouds are slowly dissipating, holding onto the vines of the jungle in some parts, giving it a quiet, peaceful and somewhat mysterious atmosphere. Hiding inside a bay within the island, we discover a tiny islet, surrounded by water, sand and jungle trees and inhabited by local fishermen and their families. The homes are simple bamboo houses, elevated from the ground by stilts, and with a couple dogs and pigs running in between the poles.


Expedition team loading passengers from the marina of L’Austral

7:30am – All ten expedition guides, including myself, have now jumped in their individual zodiacs and start loading passengers from the marina deck. On the ship, we have close to 200 passengers, and this morning we take them for a zodiac cruise around the bay of Lampi island to show them how local populations live, and to give them some information on the different ecosystem they can find in this region of the world.

We cruise alongside mangroves, above coral reefs and under jungle trees and are lucky enough to spot some long-tailed macaques, black-capped kingfishers and even a green sea turtle. Few of the local fishing boats we approach have long poles sticking out on either side, with lots of large light bulbs dangling from them. These are used to hunt for squids at night, since marine cephalopods tend to be attracted by light.


Expedition team going for a scout of a nearby beach

8:30am – Since we are only ten expedition guides for 200 passengers, we have to run the zodiac cruise twice, with ten passengers on board our zodiac each time. The second cruise started around 8:30 and lasted an hour, after which we change our fuel tanks, load some gear for the upcoming beach activity and head for a quick scout in a nearby beach.


Expedition team going for a scout of a nearby beach

10:00am – The beach we discover is absolutely beautiful and the tide allows us to land without problems on the beach. We contact the captain of the ship and decide to reposition L’Austral to avoid long transfers between ship and shore. During this time, the expedition team unload the gear (umbrellas, towels, safety gear) onto the beach and go for a quick swim before starting the transfer of passengers.


Perfect day on a perfect beach

11am to 1pm – With over a hundred passengers in the water, the expedition team is dispatched between the transfer of passengers and the watch over the swimmer from the beach, the water and the safety zodiac. After about one hour in the water with the swimmers, I switch with a colleague and take over the transfer between the beach and the marina. The last zodiac leaves the beach at 1pm and, with all passengers safely back on board L’Austral, we recover all the zodiacs back up to the top deck of the ship.


Quick lunch with the team

1:30pm – A quick lunch with the team at the restaurant before getting ready for this afternoon’s activities. With the frugal breakfast we had at 5:30, lunch never tasted so good. But no time to slake, the ship is already approaching Bo Cho Island where we will be visiting the Sakyonge Galet village.


Teenagers playing chinlone, a sort of footvolley, with the traditional rattan ball

2:30pm – Back in the zodiacs again to head to the village on Bo Cho Island. This time we have local guides with us to help with translations between Burmese and English and to ensure we are not disturbing or offending the villagers in any way. It is very inappropriate, for example, to touch kids on the head or to hold hands between men and women. We are also coming with boxes full of Burmese exercise books and pencils for the local school that teaches 250 students, age 6 to 14.


Local kids helping our expedition leader to greet the passengers

3:30pm – Once the first contact is established and green light received from the village chief, we start the transfer of passengers. After a briefing on the local Dos and Don’ts, the passengers are allowed to walk around the village and visit the school where local children are very proud to sing their favourite songs. While the contact is limited due to the language barrier, the visitors quickly realise that we all smile in the same language.


The Moken village on the beach

With the passengers freely roaming in the village and on the beach, I have a bit of time to visit the place myself and to meet the two different ethnicities that share this village. On one side of the school, the Moken people, that are traditionally nomads, have settled and constructed very simple bamboo houses right on the beach.


Kids playing between Moken boats

Each family has a few boats of different sizes anchored in front of their home. These Moken have obviously opted for a more sedentary lifestyle, but remain predominantly fishermen and spend a large portion of their time on their boat. On the other side of the school, a Burmese village has developed, with concrete houses, a paved street and even a small Buddhist temple at the end of the street. In this village, a few shops have opened and fishing is no longer the only job available, while it remains the main source of revenue.


As the afternoon progresses, the fishermen start to ready their boats for night fishing. They carry handmade traps that they load onto their boat and fix some nets that need mending. Children and teenagers gather at the end of the wooden pier and jump in the water trying to make as much splash as possible. I have returned to my zodiac to transfer passengers back to the ship and each time I drive slowly around the pier, the kids laugh, scream, wave their hands and aim their splashes at my zodiac.

5:45pm – The sun is now low on the horizon and we must leave the village before the darkness renders navigation too difficult. The sunset and the calm sea make for a beautiful drive back to L’Austral.


The sun setting behind L’Austral

6:30pm – As soon as we get back to the ship, we jump in the shower to rinse off the sand and seawater and run to the theatre to give a briefing about the activities we will be offering tomorrow. In this case, the day of tomorrow will be split between a snorkelling activity in the morning on Frost Island and a technical call in the afternoon at Kawthaung for the clearance of the ship out of Myanmar.

7:30pm – It’s dinner time and I’m absolutely starving. We haven’t stopped for a minute since 5:30 this morning and all I can think about is food. After dinner with the team and a quick debrief of the day, I get back to my cabin and crash on my bed. I’ll be up again tomorrow at 5am to scout a couple beaches to find the best snorkelling area, but right now I can finally get some rest. Needless to say, I have no trouble falling asleep.


I hope you enjoyed the stunning photos & interesting day-in-the life post

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