One month, two turtle encounters, and hundreds of hatchlings later, my volunteering time with MCSS has sadly come to an end. But what an amazing experience this has been! For my first turtle encounter I arrived just in time to see her lay the last of her 212 eggs. I’ve always had a lot of respect for animals and what they are capable of, but when you witness the effort these turtles have to go through to make their way up the beach, dig a nest, lay around 100-200 eggs, cover the nest and camouflage the area before returning to the ocean (and repeat this 2-3 times during one nesting season), your respect for them just grows immensely.
The same goes for the little ones, digging their way through the sand, walking along the beach surrounded by crabs ready to attack, and entering the wide ocean where more threats await. It is fascinating to watch them intuitively move towards the sea, how they speed up the closer they get, and how they conquer every footprint in the sand or rock.
During one of our hatchling rescues however, we found them stuck in a water hole and underneath one of the hotel villas. When turtles hatch during the night, they move towards the reflection of the moonlight on the ocean. However, when bright hotel lights are on, they can become disoriented and end up lost. One way to prevent this is to use red bulbs instead as the turtles cannot see this wavelength. This has been implemented by various hotels and hopefully the Banyan Tree Resort will follow suit. Once the hatchlings had been rescued, we placed them on the sand a couple of meters away from the ocean because this is important both for their personal development and so they can find their way back to the beach years later
On the same day as this rescue operation we noticed a Hawksbill turtle nesting on the beach. Since her nest was very close to the high tide line, we waited for her to finish and then relocated the egg clutch to prevent the nest from being flooded. This is a delicate process as the eggs should not be rotated and the nest conditions (including the order in which the eggs were laid) should be kept as similar as possible. A very interesting experience, both for us and the tourists on the beach.
There were also two special events during my time here. One was the National Protected Areas Day where conservation societies in the Seychelles come together to present their work to each other and the public. It was very interesting to learn about the different conservation efforts made across the islands and to meet such a large number of people involved, including Jeanne Mortimer. She has spent over 40 years studying turtles across the world, moved to the Seychelles in 1981 where she has contributed to local turtle protection as well as international research, and was awarded a “Lifelong Achievement Award” from the International Sea Turtle Society in 2016. It is mainly thanks to her efforts that the government and locals have changed their mindset, and the killing of turtles (common for their meat) has become illegal, resulting in high fines and prison charges. It was inspiring to meet someone with so much passion and dedication to turtle/nature conservation. The second event was World Wetland Day, for which we organized a tour around the beautiful Intendance wetland for guests staying at the Banyan Tree Resort. It is always nice to teach others about the work performed by MCSS and perhaps to inspire them to help preserve nature and care for animals.
My stay on Mahe Island has been amazing and I will definitely miss the turtles, people, stunning white sandy beaches and turquoise water. But now it is time to embark on a new adventure: volunteering with rhino conservation in Uganda!