Tuesday, December 13, 2016

An amazing volunteering couple!

A Warm Welcome from the Seychelles´ Turtles
We hit the jackpot! A total of six hawksbill turtles welcomed us in our first two volunteering weeks with the Marine Conservation Society Seychelles. Emerging from the beach, digging a whole, laying the eggs and camouflaging –the turtles offered us the whole programme. But let´s start at the beginning…

Michi & Nina
We are Michi and Nina from Germany. MCSS is our first project on our 1-year volunteering trip to Seychelles, Madagascar, South Africa, Malawi and Canada.
Instead of the usual “laying-on-the-beach-and-move-as-less-as-possible-holidays”, this year we decided to do something meaningful by supporting the Marine Conservation Society Seychelles (MCSS). And how could we spend our time better than protecting critically endangered turtles? Apart from this, patrolling the beautiful beaches of the Seychelles and monitoring its awesome fauna could still be regarded as a luxury holiday trip – just much more exciting.
Nevertheless, the first two weeks of our volunteering were anything but relaxed. The turtle’s nesting season just reached its peak which means one thing above all: a lot of action!While patrolling the beaches of south Mahe we encountered turtles nearly every day. Although each spotting was special in its own way, we will remember in particular one: our first hawksbill turtle encounter.

Turtle encounter on Anse Cachee
 What a beautiful surprise! This female hawksbill turtle is for sure around 30 years old, since this is normally the age when they are reproducing.

It was only our first day at MCSS, our first patrol and even our first five minutes at a Seychelles´ beach.We instantly spotted fresh and clearly visible turtle tracks in the sand upwards into the vegetation. Seeing just an up-track but no down-track usually means the turtle was still somewhere on the beach.
Indeed! We found her in the dense shrubbery still laying her eggs. Instantly, we could see how exhausted she already was after emerging from the beach, looking for the right place for her eggs and digging the nest. Yet, she still had one final but important step to undergo: covering and camouflaging the nest. Thereby, she hid the nest with sand and natural debris to guarantee an undisturbed and save environment for her eggs. The turtles take this phase extremely serious so that they can leave their eggs safely before going back to sea.

Nina & Annabelle counting the eggs as the turtle is laying
 Nina and Annabelle counting the eggs laid. All the data taken by MCSS contributes to an improved understanding of the species.
Nowhere else in the world than on the Seychelles Hawksbill turtles nest during the day and can be observed – while of course keeping a respectful distance–as impressive as here. Furthermore, they are categorized as critically endangered on the IUCN´s Red List of Threatened Species.  Our visit and work with MCSS will definitely not be our last one, but we have gained so much through this volunteering programme.

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