Creature encounters - my 1st week on Curieuse Island
I’m writing this blog from the front porch of a whitewashed small house with yellow shutters on Curieuse Island in the Seychelles, listening to the waves at high tide, my feet covered in sand. It’s hot and humid, but luckily today was a “shower day” (to conserve water we can shower every other day) so I’m feeling relaxed and fresh (despite the 7am start for a six-hour turtle survey!) This is quite a change from my desk in London, where I work as the Volunteer Program Manager of a large animal rescue and rehoming centre. After managing volunteers for five years, I was keen to be a volunteer myself again, and four weeks on a virtually uninhabited tropical island sounded just like the place to get involved in something worthwhile! At the rescue centre we have 1,200 volunteers, here at the GVI base on Curieuse there are just five of us supporting the four members of staff. We’re in our teens, twenties and thirties, from four different countries, but after only five days we’re already a close bunch. That’s pretty lucky, as we’re sharing a dorm room with bunk beds, cooking and cleaning for the whole base, and using toilets that are flushed with buckets of sea water! Simple living in one of the most beautiful and unique spots on earth.
It’s only halfway into week one, but I’ve already learned so much about the Seychelles and the plant and animal life here. Curieuse is home to the Coco de Mer palm (it only grows on two islands in the world!) which the GVI team here study, along with juvenile lemon sharks, sea turtles, giant Aldabran tortoises, and the beaches and mangroves of the island. I haven’t seen a Coco de Mer or Lemon Shark yet, but today on the turtle survey we were surprised and excited to see an adult female Hawksbill turtle looking for a nesting site on a nearby beach – It was an incredible moment, even though sadly she didn’t manage to find a good spot to lay her eggs. Then, only fifteen minutes later, we spotted a baby Hawksbill making his way to the sea (this sure beat London Underground at rush hour!) Staff member Becky knew just where to look for the nest, and she managed to dig out four other hatchlings left behind, stuck under some roots. It’s definitely been one of the best days of my wildlife-spotting life!
I came to Curieuse to support an important conservation project, to learn more about wildlife, to meet new people, and to get some sun – and in only five days I’ve done that and more! I’ve lost track of my “Curieuse Creature Count” – fruit bats, four species of crab (one under my bunk…), the Hawksbills, many giant tortoises, sting- and eagle- rays, palm spiders, Seychelles skinks – this wildlife lover is in heaven, and in no rush to return to the big city! We’re all looking forward to what the next three and a half weeks might hold!