Bugs Bugs Bugs!
SEYCHELLES MARINE EXPEDITION JUNE 2014
Day 1: 28th June
21 brand new and shiny volunteers arrived on GVI base camp at Cape Ternay, Mahe Island, around noon .. It’s idyllic… a beautifully basic haven of old dilapidated buildings!….surrounded by a thick and luscious rain forest, full of tall tasty looking trees which at various time of the year generously offer you coconuts..green and yellow!.., guavas, mangoes, baby-bananas and Seychelles apples. Beyond the forest on one side of the camp are equally luscious hills and mountains, calling out to be climbed for those that are more adventurous and have strong thighs! On other side beyond the trees lies the stunning and secluded bay and the infamous Indian Ocean.
The camp itself is nestled on the edge of a National Trust and Marine conservation region in a cosy compound made up of old and dilapidated buildings (3 dormitories, 8 single beds in each, two bathrooms, office, class room, kitchen/dining area, rec room, dive kit room, compressor room, laundry room, and a few other rooms for storage). All in various stages of very charming disrepair. Remnants of days gone by when it was a much loved local school of the Seychoise inhabitants, many of whom, now all grown up, remember and still talk about it with fondness and smiles when we mention to them in passing that it is our GVI home. Even the children of the locals schools excitedly share with us that their mum or dad ‘used to be a pupil here, when they were young!’.
A mere 3 minute stroll away is our stunning and secluded pure white sand bay (made primarily from parrot fish poop.. no kidding!), and the warm turquoise blue waters of the fabulous Indian Ocean where the Seychelles marine life thrive in a vibrant (and thankfully increasing) harmonious ecosystem; due, in no insignificant part, to the dedication and passion of the experienced and dedicated GVI leaders and scholars that run the camp and the continuous footfall of excited and motivated volunteers who come and go throughout the year, eager to learn as much as possible, as fast as possible and even more determined to play their part as individuals and as a team, to ensure a strong future for the marine ecosystem. It doesn’t take long to see first-hand, the regeneration (after El Niño in 1998) and increasing abundance of vibrant corals, playful turtles, graceful rays and over a 1,000 different species of the most beautiful, enthralling, colourful and a few pretty ugly (LOL!), but no less coveted fish, you will ever see and never ever forget.
Each year from July to October everyone eagerly anticipates the arrival of the Lemon Sharks that swim into the bay to give birth to their “baby lemons” as well as the very hungry and very large, up to 18 meter, Whale Sharks that visit the surrounding seas to feed on the large amounts of nourishing plankton that the very warm waters (30+ degrees) create in the previous months.
So here we all are, the June 2014 expedition. Well into our second week of our 4, 8, or 12 weeks at the camp, everyone’s, firmly bedded in, settled into camp duties (boats, tanks, kitchen, grounds), attended an array of lectures, and with a big sigh of relief.. passed the advanced diving certification and fish group 1 exams, been on daily dives, snorkelled to Secret Beach and frolicked in the freshwater lagoon and even managed to visit Victoria over our first free weekend to call and home and email our loved ones, and of course shop for luxuries.
Our general life on camp:
The days are pretty long both mentally and physically, starting a 6am with dinner at 6.30pm. Bed is not long after that, trust me!!!
There are 24 volunteers and 6 staff so we need to be organised and a daily schedule is mandatory to the running of each day. We begin with camp duties (kitchen & meals, grounds cleaning, boats and kit room prep or tanks-compressor filling). Breakfast is porridge as the staple delicacy…although granola and pancakes are no unheard of, hence the Nutella frenzy! This is followed by lectures and/or dives throughout the day depending on the schedule always provided the evening before. It’s a long day filled with focus, fun, frolics, oodles of fish/coral and some free time (if you’re lucky.. so savour it!).
When we’re not deeply and passionately engrossed on a fish or coral related activity we spend time with the local school (International School Seychelles) and children’s orphanage (Presidents Village Children’s Home). Finding creative and enjoyable ways to teach them about the marine life and the importance of the ecology and preservation is crucial to our work here. There’s no question that seeing their smiling eyes, elated excitement and overjoyed expression as we take them our camp-home-made cookies, give us more joy and contentment in return than we could ever hope to give them.
Bedtime is anytime from 7.30, some sit outside and chat but very soon everyone meanders back to the dorms to have showers and get ready for bed… although the lights are kept on for a while. TIP: if you’re an early sleeper and value sleep, earplugs and a mask are the way to go!
OUR FURRY FRIENDS.. a charming Bedtime Story:
If you have a bed by the window note, they don’t close due to years of rust and crusted bugs, so expect regular little guests to meander in and out at their leisure! On the first evening.. about to get into bed, I decided I really should hang about and watch the very ‘cute’ very LARGE Mr C Roach scurry from under my suitcase up the wall and back out the window from whence he came no doubt. Think we’ll be very good friends over the coming weeks! TIP: Thank god for the heavenly person who advised me many times to keep all my cases closed at all times… You’re my hero! My fellow dorm buddies who weren’t aware of this vital information were not so lucky and a number of screams ensued from those who found their very own Mrs R and some of her siblings had taken up residence in amongst their clothes… It was a little chilly that night after all so you can’t blame them!!!
… I am rather partial to a bit of ME-time and decided after much deliberation (2 seconds), not to invite company of the 4 or more legged variety into my bedchamber (dodgy single bed under mosquito net). So after bidding a ‘fond’ adieu to my charming new aforementioned friend, Mr C, I spent 20 minutes checking my bed was clear of other guests and ensuring the netting was tucked singly all the way round my bed with no possible route of re-entry… FABULOUS!!! …then realising that I wasn’t actually in the bed and had left no gap so created the smallest entrance possible and wriggled in only to spend a further 20 minutes rechecking and re tucking. TIP: always leave ample time for bed routine and get into bed before tucking in all the net!
Week one brought with it a fair amount of rain (we are in the tropics after all) which is always of short duration and brings with it a refreshing breeze. Nights of stormy winds and rain blast down like a herd of elephants running the 100m Olympic hurdles, on our musical calypso tin roof above our beds. The showers however are refreshing and character building (aka COLD) and will definitely wake you up in the morning if you’re in any way sleep deprived or just feeling plain lazy!
NUTELLA is the current favourite foody treat and there are hidden jars everywhere!!! AHHH…but most importantly …the Lemon and the Whale Sharks have already been sighted so they are coming …and we can’t wait…WEY HEY !!!
Gotta go make PINK and BLUE cookies for the Presidents Village orphanage and then late afternoon DIVING.. It’s a beautiful day at Cap Ternay..☀
FINAL TIP: If you’re thinking of coming .. COME .. Don’t hesitate.
Happy thoughts wherever you are from all of us here at Cap T!
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