Flying over the islands as I reached the Seychelles I couldn’t help but smile, I was about to spend the next month living in paradise. The Seychelles are known for their stunning beaches, and beautiful tropical climate (in other words, my perfect place), and I was embarking on an adventure to help at the Wildlife Conservation Expedition.
As a marine biology student (and self confessed turtle nerd) I was coming to spend time with the Hawksbills, one of the seven marine turtles that I hope to work with someday. I had volunteered at the Sea Turtle Conservation project in Costa Rica and had loved my time living on an isolated beach so I was excited to spend a month on our own private island.
Arriving at Curieuse Island was everything I hoped it would be. The island is a former leper colony and the base camp is built on and around these ruins. It was amazing to have the ocean on one side and lush greenery on the other. I was excited to start learning about the surveys we would be doing and couldn’t wait to get out in the field.
We were assigned daily surveys to participate in and in my first week I was lucky enough to be on the search party for Bob. Bob is a giant tortoise who was found on Mount Curiuse on a Coco de Mer survey a few weeks before I arrived. He wasn’t tagged because the team didn’t have any tagging equipment on them so Bob needed to be found again and tagged so his data could be recorded. We left while it was still dark and reached a peak to watch the sunrise and have breakfast. The view was spectacular.
We then started the hunt for Bob near the top of the mountain. The giant tortoises on the island look so prehistoric. They definitely remind me of dinosaurs… or E.T. When we heard “Found him” we all followed the call to Bob. And after tagging, measuring, and GPSing Bob’s home on the grassy knoll on the mountain, we returned to base with photographic evidence to prove our mission was a success.
Having volunteered with Olive Ridleys in Costa Rica, and Flatbacks, Greens, and Loggerheads in Australia, you may think that Hawksbills may have been more of the same. But the amazing thing about Curieuse is that the turtles nest during the day. Seeing this incredible act of nature in full daylight (not at night with a red-light torch) is something I’ll always remember. Laying behind a turtle, watching the hundred or so eggs cascading into the egg chamber is such a phenomenal experience. Their back flippers are surprisingly dexterous.
Nothing will put a smile on your face like when you see baby turtles. We were so fortunate that we got to see hatchlings during our last week. It was such a wonderful way to end our time on Curieuse. Seeing the little guys make their way down the beach to the sea amazes me every time. They are so small and surprisingly fast for such tiny creatures. I’m sure the “Aaaawwwww”s of all the volunteers were most likely heard on the other side of the island.
Leaving Curieuse was hard to do. The memories and friends I made will stay with me forever. I hope to return there someday to visit the paradise I called home for a month, and to see how much bigger Bob has gotten. Volunteering in Seychelles was an experience I’ll never forget.