Embarking on a volunteering project half way around the world by myself was a bit daunting but the second I saw Curieuse, the paradise island I will be spending the next 4 weeks, and meeting the amazingly welcoming and friendly staff my nerves disappeared. Our first couple of days were spent settling in and listening to presentations about the activities and research that will fill our days for the next month (ranging from how to use a GPS & how to recognise turtle tracks to how to husk a coconut and bake bread!)
On our third day we went on our first ‘wurtle’ (turtle walk) to see if any sea turtles had nested, or if any baby turtles had hatched on some of the islands beaches. It was a hot and tiring walk but we were rewarded at the end by digging up a baby hawksbill turtle who hadn’t managed to make it out of his nest. He didn’t have much life left in him but he managed to make it down the majority of the beach (with a little help for the last stretch!) We all waited with our fingers crossed as he floundered around in the shallows, but had to get back to camp so we aren’t sure if he made it.
Day four began with a visit to the mangroves on a bird watching ‘tweet’, us newbies are beginning to learn how to spot all of the birds on the island, the volunteers that have been here for the last month now love the birds so much they are self confessed ‘twitchers’. Our day ends with movie night – The Hangover – but most of us are so tyred we struggle to keep our eyes open to the end….. at 9pm!
We have an early start on our fifth day ….. 5am! But it’s worth it so that we can trek up Mount Curieuse before it gets too hot. We eat breakfast whilst watching the sun rise over the Indian Ocean before battling through the chest high vegetation to get to the impressive Coco de mer palm trees. After recording some data on these palms, which will help protect these valuable trees, we scramble & slide down the valley before sprinting into the sea for a much needed cool off.
Today is day five and the majority of us went on a snurtle (monitoring sea turtles whilst snorkelling) and were so lucky to see 4 critically endangered hawksbill turtles and a green turtle. Seeing them whilst snorkelling is just incredible, and along with my other experiences over the past few days makes me feel so lucky to be on this island and a part of this amazing volunteering experience – One month just isn’t long enough!!.