As you can imagine, any feeling of ease that i had at the beginning of this expedition has quickly been ripped from me and replaced by work work and more work.
The volunteers arrived and were quickly thrown in to the deep end. Team snorkel, which i was heading up, were in for a shock, as some had never snorkeled before in their lives. However after a quick snorkel 101 and brief overview of sampling methods and camera operation, we were quickly off to begin our reef survey work.
After the drama of 2011 in Seychellois waters, its understandable that several of the volunteers were nervous regarding the potential of man eating sharks lurking in the depths. However i quickly assured them that they were more likely to be crushed to death by a giant tortoise mistaking them as a shelly female than being eaten by a shark. But just to throw a spanner in the works, what did we see on the first day, two majestic white tips gliding past us at our survey site. Unfortunately one volunteer shouted shark while several others where still on the boat, it didn’t quite go down so well. However, it wasn’t long before the lure of turquoise waters got everyone involved in the surveying.
At first i was a little bit bummed that i was spending most of my days snorkeling, however i soon found that snorkelling was actually a pretty good deal, we saw more megafauna that the divers and had the best lighting for photography. The only hard bit is staying down for manual focus or to adjust camera settings while trying to take photos, that would be made much easier with a tank strapped to my back.
We soon got our experiments underway which quickly became my life. I always have to explain to people who assume I’m swanning off round the world to sunbathe, that i actually work 18 hour days, everyday, with no days off! However i got some good help from the volunteers with water changes in the morning and afternoon saving me 2 hours of work each day… thanks guys!
Our experiments focused on differences in bleaching tolerance across growth habitats and then attempted to identify if any physiological accounted for these differences. The work was very successful, every morning i rose and shone at 6am to measure the photosynthetic efficiency of the corals, followed by several hours of data, snorkel fish transects, lunch with a bit more data thrown in if , another snorkel, shower, measurements, dinner and to top it off data until my eyes hurt. I’m not saying i dont enjoy it but just to justify that i most definitely was not having a recce. I can fairly say i have data pouring out of my ears and more than enough for a full thesis chapter and publication.
However whilst doing all this i was on a pristine white sand beach, surrounded by granitic boulders and lush forest with a few roaming boulders or tortoises. Every day when i snorkeled the water was warm and we saw vast numbers of tropical fish and other marine animals including barracuda, cow fish, moray eels, travelly, snapper, turtles, rays, sharks and even seabirds such as giant frigate birds, lesser noddys and roseate terns.
The only disappointment was that i didn’t manage to spot the endemic, tiger chameleon, black parrot or paradise fly catcher, i did however catch a glimpse of the endemic and endangered Coco de Mer. But there’s always next time…. maybe.
So over all impressions of the Seychelles, great food, great music, fantastic people, slightly on the expensive side, but with a vast variety of landscapes and wildlife to explore, and when you need to relax pristine waters and beaches await.