I arrived at the Wild Otters base on the 15th of November 2018. I didn't really know what to expect as I walked into the base, but as soon as I arrived, everyone there made me feel very comfortable. The first day was all about learning how everything works at the base. Alex, Aditi, and Katrina gave me a low down on everything. There was also Jack, who surprisingly, was a Liverpool fan like me and it immediately gave us a topic to talk about. There was only one other intern at the base when I arrived and her name was Tamanna. She gave me a first-hand account on how things were at Wild Otters for an intern and had only positive things to say about the whole experience.
I also met the 2 dogs, Rei and Ladakh. Ladakh was kinda aggressive at first but later accepted me into the house without much fuss. Later that day, Tamanna, Alex and I went to collect the camera trap from Joe's camera. This way my first foray into the field and while it can't compare to a survey, it was still a tiring walk especially after a long day's travel. During camera trap collection, Alex explained the details on how to go about setting up a camera trap and how to get the best results out of it. After we got back to the base I prepared myself for my first night at the base. Since only Aditi and the interns stayed at the base it was just the 3 of us at night.
After everyone else had left, the base became eerily quiet and it kinda freaked me out at first. It didn't help that after I slept Ladakh jumped on my bed at 10:30 pm and woke me up. After a bit of an impasse, Ladakh finally decided to leave my bed and went into Aditi's room. After that, I got some much-needed shut-eye. My first survey was with Aditi and we left for it at 7 in the morning.The first survey was always going to be memorable, but in my case, it was especially so as I actually saw Otters! I didn't realize at that point how lucky I was, it was only after I returned to the base and received the envious looks from everyone else that it dawned on me. The surveys are long walks and it took me a while to get used to them. But after the first few they didn't feel as daunting as it did when I arrived.
In fact, most survey areas are so picturesque that you feel it's worth walking all along it just to see the sights. Weekends were the time when the interns did their weekly presentations. I was really tensed out about my first presentation, but it went really well and everyone had a good discussion on my topic which was on "How hunting traditions evolved over time". By the end of my first 10 days at Wild Otters, I had become really comfortable with everything. But, by then both Aditi and Tamanna had left. While a new intern did arrive, it was only for a short term and I was now in charge of the base at night and that brought with it a fair share of responsibilities like feeding the dogs, closing all the doors etc... In my second week, I was staying alone in the base at night. Kshitij did stay with me for a couple of days, but then I felt comfortable enough to stay alone. Of course, it was a bit scary being alone in such a big house with no neighbours within a 200-meter radius. But you get used to it real quick and by the 2nd day, I felt no fear at night.
As I approached my final week at Wild Otters, I felt like I had known everyone at the base for years. It also made me sad that I would be leaving it all behind in a week. With that in mind, I ventured into my penultimate survey. It was with Jack, and it was nothing special up to the halfway point. Just then Jack spotted Smooth Coated Otters in the water nearby. I quickly pulled out my camera and I was able to get a good recording of them hunting tiger prawns in the river. That day I felt like a celebrity at the base. Everyone wanted to see the video and they all complimented me on getting it recorded. It meant I was going to leave the base on a high. During my final few days, I welcomed three other interns into the base and gave them all the helpful info I could think of. On December 5th at 8:15 pm I left the Wild Otters base with a heavy heart and memories worth a lifetime.
( Athul interned with Wild Otters from 15 Nov, 2018 - 5 Dec, 2018 )