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Elena Hugo

When I decided to make the journey from Huddersfield, England to the GVI base camp here on Curieuse I had a very open mindset as to what I had signed up for. Arriving at base camp last weekend I discovered that there is a lot more to ‘island life’ than meets the eye. To start with the camp is located right on the beach looking over the Indian Ocean to neighbouring island Praslin; as you can imagine the views are amazing, especially while you’re relaxing in the hammock after a morning hike. I was astounded by the beauty of the Seychelles from the moment the plane touched down, the clear waters and incredible scenery is even better in real life than it is in photos.

Base camp really is perfect for the lifestyle you live while you are here on Curieuse; the facilities far surpass what I was expecting, considering that only us, here at base camp, and the national park rangers inhabit the island. All the social spaces and dorms are perfect for relaxing in evenings and in our free time after surveys many of us go to the local beach, Anse Jose, to relax and catch the afternoon sun. It is always nice to arrive back at camp after a long hike to see “Obama”, the resident giant tortoise, snoozing under the trees on the beach. He is a real character and loves attention (especially neck rubs); he is never very happy to see you leave and is always happy to see you.

One of the main reasons why this volunteering programme appealed to me was the sheer variety that it offered and it really hasn’t disappointed. In the morning you could be hiking to Grande Anse on a turtle survey to see if you can spot any turtle tracks or nests and in the afternoon you might be heading out on Dexter (the camp boat) to nearby spots to snorkel. One of my favourite surveys is the giant tortoise census: we go out and collect data and measurements from the tortoises such as width, length and tail type etc. This is really important as it allows us to track the growth and whereabouts of the individuals on the island, and population as a whole. We also get the opportunity to go out with the volunteers who are doing internships here and contribute to their chosen project, for example the two interns who are currently here are studying epiphytes and terrapins. This again has been really fun to join in with and both projects were very interesting and successful.

It is a very surreal experience and having been here just over a week it still hasn’t quite sunk in that we are in such a diverse and beautiful place. Being able to constantly explore this beautiful island and the organisms that inhabit it is a real privilege and definitely an experience I will never forget. It’s incredible that I’ve had the opportunity to help conserve this beautiful national park.

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