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Helena Daniels

When thinking about choosing a volunteering trip I weighed up my options before deciding on GVI. Once I had the trip sorted and was planning what I thought I would be doing, I had no idea what would await me. All of my family and friends were asking and I really couldn’t have imagined some of the things I would get up to.

The first time I saw Obama (the giant tortoise who likes our camp) he was hanging out on the beach, right in the middle of the BBQ area on Anse Jose – the prime location for food and attention, his two favourite things. At the time I was amazed as I had never seen a giant tortoise before. Now, seeing him has become almost normalised and I feed him regularly out of the compost bin or when he has parked himself on the compost pile (see photo). My favourite time was when I gave him half an old papaya and he made so many noises and dribbled half of it down his face! It still makes me smile to feed him.

I was lucky enough to be able to see one of the tortoises being PIT tagged as she was new to the island. She was much smaller and younger than the others but still was strong enough to almost make her escape during tagging – she had to be moved away from the tree roots. She will now be surveyed with the other tortoises and her growth tracked over the years.

One of the moments where I had to think to myself “Am I really here?” was when we were in the Turtle Pond in the dark at 7PM on a Thursday. We had caught a juvenile Hammerhead earlier on the week – a massive discovery for Curieuse. On the Thursday we caught two juvenile Lemon sharks – one of which I got to scoop up in a dip net (I actually got to do that?!) I also got the chance to be involved in the new project for shark acoustic tracking. The first part I got to help with was learning how to splice rope for the moorings to be deployed – something I made is in the sea helping with research, which is incredible to me. I also got to help with the acoustic transmitter and receiver range testing by putting them in the sea attached to iron rebar (see photo).

As I’m thinking back on the shark acoustics today and looking at Obama lying asleep on the volleyball court I feel incredibly lucky to be here and would encourage anybody to join GVI Curieuse as you will have an unforgettable time.

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