Monday, February 20, 2012

20/02/12 Coconuts, skinks & tortoises

The divers are back....and better than ever (in our quite unbiased opinion)! After nearly 6 months of land based activities on Curieuse Island, the first group of marine-focused volunteers and interns arrived on February 11 2012 to join the current terrestrial volunteers who are hard at work surveying mangroves, Coco de Mer palms, and turtle hatchlings. The first several days have been fun-filled and jam-packed as we all try to get up to speed while adjusting to jet lag and the island paradise that we can now call home.

Now let me ask you something. Ever been wandering down a beach only to stumble upon a coconut lying on the beach. Just sitting there. Tempting you. Taunting you. Practically begging you to open it. I would venture to guess I am not the only one who has been haunted at night and lost sleep over those unopened coconuts. Well my friend, worry no longer. If you happen to find yourself on said coconut-laden beach with a machete and giant steel rod (and one of us handy GVI-ers), you’re in luck. Our very first afternoon we were put right to work with training on how to (safely!) open a coconut...and coconut has never tasted so good. Check that off my bucket list. Come talk to me in 12 weeks and we will see if I am quite so keen on coconut. Besides the enormously practical machete coconut demonstration, the volunteers and interns really got down to business during the first week as we started our Emergency First Response and Advanced Open Water training, began lectures on BTEC Supervision of Biological Surveys and Team Leadership, and dove head first (yes, bad pun intended) into learning coral and fish identifications. We had some enthusiastic (and entertaining) demonstrations as we readied ourselves for the real diving to begin.

As it is our first week, I would guess that there have also been a lot of firsts for those of us who have never lived on an island inhabited by more giant tortoises than humans. Just to give you a sense of what we are dealing with here, it is probably safe to say that most people do their studying in libraries or classrooms, not perched on a tree house perched over the crashing waves of the Indian Ocean. Or try this one on for size...a few GVI-ers decided to don trainers and take a running tour of the island and instead found themselves face to face with one of the...locals. Where I come from, runs are generally interrupted by honking cars and rude cyclists. This particular run was stopped short as a giant tortoise emerged from the mangroves and slowly made his way across a wooden planked walkway. Ever wake-up to find yourself spooning with a skink? No? We had one lucky intern cozying up all night with a very friendly reptile. And my personal favourite—watching shooting stars....from our very own luxury outdoor shower. I think I could get used to this island living.

We have our first day out diving tomorrow so stay week promises to be an exciting blog!

Husking a coconut