What a change it was to come from the icy Spitsbergen at 79 degrees north of equator to Cousin Island under the tropical sun. The threat was no longer polar bears, but rather giant tortoises fallen asleep and blocking the path at night. Who would believe that I would end up freezing when the north western winds blow strongly at a temperature close to 30, above zero!
The change will be great again when I soon return home for Christmas after staying 2.5 months as a visiting warden on the newly started exchange program.
Live gutting fish for diner © Glenn Jackway
Live with Cousin team © Glenn Jackway
Live reading to giant tortoise © Glenn Jackway
Live monitoring tropic birds © Glenn Jackway
Hawksbill turtle nesting © Live Danielsen
I will not only return with elephant skin under my feet and in my palms from pushing hundreds of tonnes of tourists on and off the beach (as there is no jetty), tasty recipes for cooking octopus in coconut and the overseen delicious suckerfish. I have improved on my guiding skills, learned more about tropical birds and the challenges of conservation on a relatively isolated island. I was also lucky to work on a crazy ant project and contribute with multimedia information, and honoured by being the first visiting warden to be the weekly boat operator. One of the most impressive nature experiences was sneaking up onto an emerging hawksbill turtle making it pass me by 2 meters without disturbing it, and seeing how gentle they are when they nest.
The island of the caring hawksbill turtles.
I did not know delicate they move their back flippers when they dig a hole for their eggs. It is like they have full control of every movement, shaping their flippers into a teaspoon being able to decide the exact shape of their nest. After laying all the up to 250 eggs, they start to fill small amounts of sand being careful not to destroy the eggs, following up with carefully squeezing the sand to tighten just sufficiently. The main season for the turtles end in January, but I hope the visiting wardens coming after me will have to opportunity to experience the turtles as well. It is a unique island in terms of coming close to wildlife. You come so close to them, or they can come so close to you, that I must admit I have wanted to get rid of at least one of the endemic species.
Biological diversity to the level of frustration.
What do you do when you have the option of closing your house and sweat to death, or sharing your breakfast with the Seychelles Fody and the Seychelles skink? The skink is not that bad, as I have not had more than 6 in my kitchen at one time. It is worse with the fody or “Poody” as it has been as numerous as 21, and will leave a dropping on your plate as thanks for the meal. I will most likely miss them when I go home, because they will remind me of an unforgettable stay here in the Seychelles. Isn’t it always like this? Strong experiences will be kept, but somehow we tend to forget the frustrations. And, there have been some frustrations.
An nou ale!
However, it did not take me that long time to understand that shouting “An nou ale!” means pull-and-push-for-life-to-get-the-boat-through-the-huge-breaking-waves-as-quick-as-possible! I think the selection of Creole words I have learned is quite special. It has been a unique experience to live so close to the Seychellois represented by the staff on the island. I want to thank everyone on the island for understanding that it is not always easy to come as a foreigner and left on a remote island with 7 locals! Thanks for teachings in making bracelets, how to make Creole grilled fish and make use of local fruits and spices, how to dehusk coconuts and thanks for sharing laughs and frustrations.
I wish you all the best for the future with the coming changes to the island.
Live S. Danielsen, visiting warden from Norway.
23 December 2005