Hey there! It’s Sarah here and I just completed my two week internship with Island Conservation Society on Aride Island yesterday afternoon after coming from a very rough trip on the sea to Praslin to meet the very sweet, fast-talking Kalsey Belle to hand in my weekly report and performance sheet together with the lanyard at the Oasis Hotel and collect my stipend allowance (I thought they were Euros! Being on an island gets you very outdated). This internship has taught me a lot, not only about birds and conservation but also life skills such as cooking and depending on myself.
I still remember crystal-clearly on my very first day, I was stirring my mini-sized pot of lentils tirelessly for more than three quarters of an hour trying to get it to a creamy consistency but it just would not work out! The manager of the island, Mr Uzice Samedi peeked into my kitchen to see whether I was settling in alright and he asked me if I had added salt at the beginning for he had already realised what was happening. I replied rather meekly with a shallow nod. He simply chuckled and explained that I must add all my seasonings at the end when it was at the desired consistency. Now I am a lentils expert! Just kidding I’m still a beginner *blushing*.
Aride relies solely on solar power since their generator broke down less than two years ago hence electricity is unavailable early morning and late night. I sometimes wake up in a pool of sweat, completely drenched and overwhelmed by the heat. I have to go outside a sit down in the traditional creole armchair (fotey) to get some fresh air and open up the windows which I deliberately close every night to keep the mice, geckos and ghosts out.
Trying to sleep with the mysterious noises of the shearwaters is a problem, but waking up in the morning is a whole other level of difficulty. The cool, early morning breeze and the soft, rosy sunlight caressing my face resulted in me touching the snooze icon on my phone several times before I could build up enough will power to wake up at 7:20am which gave me 10 minutes to pull on my swimsuit and go push the zodiac and get ready for clients. In order to land on Aride, the zodiac (a neon-orange dingy) has to ‘beach’ land, simply meaning coming straight onto the beach at full speed (an experience which causes the tourists to shriek and shout in excitement and fear ).
Working on Aride came with some challenges, such as sunburns and mosquito bites but these soon became normal, scrambling about in the dirt looking for cockroaches to feed the magpie robins becomes second-nature and performing shearwater censuses in the middle of the night by looking into burrows in the woods and under rocks results in an unforgettable adventure.
Staying positive and open-minded by mingling with all the workers on the island and volunteering to do things kept me content. Looking forward to the sunsets while snacking on organic tomatoes at the end of each day was a motivation and helped me really appreciate nature to the fullest. Watching the sun melt in a pool of gold and the salmon-pink clouds soften in the background was a sight to see and the soft-white sand slip through my toes was a relief to my small feet from trekking around in the woods in a pair of tight-fitting, heavy shoes all day.
I would sometimes forget that I was a ‘Blue Economy’ Intern, mainly because I was on an island and I, honestly, had this illusion that the Blue Economy was only pin-pointed towards our ocean, our Seychelles Economically Exclusive Zone (SEEZ). But is it really? It’s true that the main perspective of the Blue Economy is to ensure that exploitations of our oceans is done in a sustainable fashion and so that the future generations can enjoy the fruits, or as Mr Vincent Meriton said in the opening ceremony that was done two weeks ago, the ‘Blue Gold’ of our waters!
But what about on land? Surely the fish and marine ecosystems would be greatly affected if there weren’t any proper sewage treatments. Or if our farmers used chemical fertilisers and pesticides that would eventually leech into the sea. If we did not have lawyers and authorities educated in universities and established on land respectively, who would impose the law and draft policies? Who would decide whether or not to give a vessel licenses to fish in our waters or open seasons for delicacies such as lobster and sea cucumber?
Aride is eco-friendly and its contributions may be small but they are definitely not insignificant. Using solar power, practicing organic farming, collecting rainwater, and respecting the marine park around Aride and fishing outside of it is a genuine start.
I would like to, at last, say an immense thank you to everyone on the island for making my stay as pleasant as possible and for teaching me so many new things including my supervisor, Melinda Curran who is an energetic woman who doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty; thank you for always cheering me up and helping me see the wonders of being in wildlife, SYAH for organising this internship, selecting me and placing me with ICS which couldn’t have being more well-suited for me and the British High Commission for their utmost support and funding especially for the 13 lucky interns who will be going to Mauritius next year, I wish you all good-luck !