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Katie Fitzwater

I wanted a new experience, something like I’ve never done before, to take me out of my comfort zone and teach me things I would have never known. I jumped at this opportunity with a very open mind as to what I was going to experience; I could not have picked a better place to become more independent person prior to attending university. I booked for only two weeks and within the first week of surveys and learning all the interesting facts about the organisms present on this remote island, I knew I should have booked to stay for longer. The camp is situated right on the beach, with the peaceful sound of the waves throughout the day and a warm breeze that is rather cooling after spending all day in the heat of the sun. This program has exceeded all my expectations, including the meals, location, and facilities, which are more than sufficient; nice showers, a well equipped kitchen, and lots of places to chill in the evening and in free time. I have been able to learn how to cook many different meals, which just over two weeks ago I would not have had a clue where to start when making a vegetable and coconut curry. I have overcome so many fears, including spiders and crabs which have now become the normality of everyday life. The hikes to all the exquisite beaches searching for turtle tracks have been exhilarating and refreshing. By far the best hike was to Anse Mandarin which consisted of mainly rock climbing through trees – but the views at the top were worth all of the sweat. Furthermore, the benefits of this course continue as it has allowed me to come up close with many creatures, my favourite being the giant tortoise. The GVI Curieuse base also has an occasional resident tortoise “Obama”, which is one of my many highlights of this trip – especially feeding him the compost! He is such a character.

This course with GVI stood out to me the most out of all the different opportunities they provide all over the world. Conserving and helping to protect this ancient species is a key interest of mine, along with the conservation of many other habitats and ecosystems in order to prevent extinction of these beautiful creatures and plants that exist on our earth.

Since being on this island I have learnt lots about these giant but friendly creatures including their threats, history, what they eat, and what to do to help protect them. I have also had some amazing experiences with them which is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Some threats that they face, which slowly are becoming less of an issue due to organisations such as GVI, include: Illegal poaching, this has been reduced by the increased protection and security surrounding the island and the funding coming from volunteers, tourists, and local communities. Another threat includes plastic pollution. I have done a couple of beach cleans whilst being here and the amount of plastics collected from what the tourists leave but also from what’s being washed up in the seaweed is extraordinary. Another threat that is specific to the tortoise hatchlings is rats which attempt to eat the newborn – thankfully this is being controlled by rat traps which is another GVI project  happening on Curieuse.

I have had the chance to measure the hatchlings and the tortoises. This was such an experience, which includes measuring their 3rd dorsal scute (which grows considerably as they get older), their width, and their overall length, as well as feeling under their bodies to check if they are male (which means they would have a concaved shell) or female (where underneath would be flat).

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