08/07/2013 - Living Curieusely

By 5 years ago
Categories Mahe and Curieuse

Greetings from tiny Curieuse Island, home to more Giant Tortoises than human beings. Us new volunteers have settled in nicely over this past week, and as the token American among them, let me wish any fellow Yanks out there a happy and BBQ-filled Fourth of July.

There are three lessons I have quickly learnt in my short time so far at my new home away from home that I wish to impart on those who have never been to this particular island paradise. The first is that no matter what you try…Citronella, DEET, nets, long clothing, coconut oil, voodoo…nothing will keep the mosquitoes at bay. They seem to especially favour the ones who hate getting bit the most. Secondly, no matter how excited you may be to meet the Giant Tortoises, they will exceed your expectations. I cannot stress this enough. They each have their own unique personalities, and never fail to brighten your mood, even when you’re exhausted and sunburned after a 6 hour Coco De Mer survey. I dare you to tickle a Giant Tortoise’s back legs and not smile when he perks up. The local favourite of the GVI camp, Mr. A1 himself, number 107 (pictured in one of his shameless poses), is always willing to greet each survey team at the entrance to the mangrove swamps. His shameless ploys for attention get him fed liberally by everyone. If you don’t happen to have any orange slices on you, look for the mangrove trees with the red bark…he likes those leaves the best. Just a word of caution: if your camera is a bright colour like mine, don’t put it too close to him, because he will try to eat that as well. The third and final lesson (and perhaps the most important): keep the beer cold. Nothing quite eases you down from that long day of surveying like a nice, cold, local Lager in the evening with your new friends and teammates, and nothing disappoints like looking forward to that and coming back to find a box of warm bottles.

This week was a banner week for the Coco De Mer surveys. We tagged and logged the 3000th juvenile palm on the island. Yes, we had to endure climbs, scrapes, cuts, falls, and hanging over cliffs to get it done, but the milestone’s significance was not lost on us, and we saw some amazing scenery in the process. Previous reports claimed there were only about 3000 of these majestic trees total on the island, but the GVI surveying teams have already logged over 4000.

Whether testing soil salinity in the mangrove swamps, logging the Coco De Mers, measuring tortoise shell lengths, snorkelling to spot sea turtles, or tracking the movements of the local bird population, our group has been busy from the get-go. There is so much conservation work to be done on this island, and everyone is happy to be involved. The rangers on the island appreciate our presence, and have even inquired about commissioning some of our more artistically inclined team members to complete a mural on the walls of the building that houses the new baby tortoises. It will be exciting to be able to leave our own special mark on this place (once we decide exactly what our epic masterpiece will look like).

During the “down-time” of base life, we are all thoroughly enjoying the perks of the Curieuse life. I just hope after a month of living a stone’s throw from the ocean, I don’t get spoiled by the beach life. At times there can be a fight over who gets that hammock spot overhanging the beach for a little light reading in the shade on a warm afternoon, but there is always a group up for a little beach volleyball to pass the time. I’ll admit, we aren’t the best diggers and spikers, but with a little (or quite a bit) of practise, we’ll be ready to take on the staff in a no-holds-barred volleyball battle for the ages. Occasionally, Digby, the overgrown-puppy of a guard dog who lives with us, will come out in the middle of our games and sprawl out in the sand. I think Reggie, the camp manager, sends him out on purpose to disrupt our practises. Be ready, staff members, we’re coming to take that volleyball title away from you…


-Nate Grady, USA