Curieuse is an unusual and interesting island and so deserves to get its Biosphere status. Although my time was outside the main turtle and shark monitoring season it was great to get a taste of a diverse range of projects, all helping to contribute to the datasets that will hopefully go on to allow the island to get extra protection. Yes the base camp is most definitely basic, a ‘refurbished’ ex- leper colony, but you quickly adjust to that and the routine – and if you want field camp experience you will gain it here. The staff were brilliant, welcoming and caring and have some great group games in their arsenal and along with ‘Exploding Kittens’, Morgan makes a wicked chocolate brownie – so evenings are never dull.
Mornings began with chores, in themselves team building, and then a welcome breakfast cooked by the duty duo. Before trekking off to one of the beautiful beaches to look for turtle nesting activity, beach profile, or clean (sadly plastic is washed up daily here too) – or you could be heading into the interior to measure Coco de Mer. Then of course there are the Giant Tortoise and the programme to measure their growth, which includes all - from hatchlings to ancients - and they are a joy. Loving nothing more than a neck scratch, and seem to extend them as far as possible to let you do this . We also went out into the lagoon just beyond the mangrove swamps every week to continue the juvenile Lemon Shark monitoring programme – standing thigh (waist if you are shorty like me) deep in warm water watching the dusk fall and the stars come out with fruit bats circling to find a good roost was interesting – and to actually catch a shark amazing.
I was lucky enough to be on a project with people from all over the world, Columbia to Germany, America to Australian, Ireland to UK and it was fabulous to learn about others journeys and motivations. Despite a range of ages and backgrounds everyone gelled, and the way tasks were scheduled allowed a good team spirit to form between us all, with impromptu exercise routines and a yoga class thrown into the mix. However, it was also easy to have ‘me’ time if you wanted. The nearest beach, Anse St Jose, was lovely, and once the daily tourists are gone you can wonder along its shore and truly breathe. As the island is uninhabited you know you are safe to go there after dark too, and you can walk in the surf with the bioluminescent making the water sparkle around your feet.
Weekly snorkelling trips added another dimension and I was fortunate to see Hawksbill Turtles, Lion Fish, Black Tip Sharks, and shoals of Squid amongst a myriad of other species. One group even got to see a Whale Shark – oh so lucky!
I went on the programme to fulfil a long held wish to do volunteer conservation work and because it fits with my Coastal Zone Management Masters. However, I was nervous as most of the programmes seem to be aimed at university gap yearers or graduates – GVI programmes are great because they welcomed mature people, like myself, and whilst the majority were 19-25 on my project, there were a good mix of other ages and that did really help the group success. Everyone, staff and volunteers, supported each other and shared knowledge and experience so that everything from base jobs to scientific study worked well for all.
My top tip – good footwear the treks are rugged. Be open minded and prepared to muck in – and make the most of every opportunity. My thanks go to the staff for their dedication and passion to the project and to the volunteers I shared it with – I think I was blessed to have been there with such an amazing group of people.
Curieuse – Seychelles Island Conservation Project.