So my second expedition of the year and to somewhere uncharted for me, the Indian Ocean. Right now I’m sitting on the beach on a tiny island within the Seychelles Island group called Curiouse. After two days in a hotel that can only be considered luxury for field research, we trekked of the main island of Mahe to our field research site, a tiny 2.86 km2 granitic island just off the coast of Praslin. We are working together with EarthWatch to conduct and run a course on coral communities in the Seychelles as well as conducting my own field research similar to what I was doing in Indonesia.
The Seychelles consists of 115 islands, 42 are granitic, 2 sand quays and the remaining are coral islands. Situated on the western bank of the Indian Ocean, it shares currents and gene flow with the western Indian Ocean including Madagascar, Mauritius and the African mainland. Curiouse is a protected park, home to many endemic flora and fauna. When I arrived on the island, so distracted by carrying kit of the boat and looking around I walked straight past the most iconic of these. When I walked past the second time I noticed 4 large boulders that I was sure were not there several minutes before. It took me a moment to register before realizing that they were Aldabra Giant Tortoises (Aldabrachelys gigantean), introduced to replace the extinct local Seychelles giant tortoise (Aldabrachelys hololissa). These huge prehistoric remnants were everywhere and pretty feisty with a protective stance and hiss to match Darth Vadar. Now I kid you not, these things are huge, some built like small mini cars, and weighing a tonne. Several individuals are over 100 years old and one in particular reported to breathe the same air as Darwin. As I wondered around I noticed them everywhere, in the bushes, in the sand and even in the shallow ocean. Their long legs and neck allow them to stand tall against men almost to chest level. I don’t understand how a diet of grass can sustain these creatures but they really are something out of a Jurassic era. I have already fallen in love with them and filled my memory card with pictures.
The expedition has been tame so far, but volunteers arrive tomorrow along with sample collection. It looks to be an intense next two weeks, but I’m looking forward to the challenge. I’ll let you know how it goes.