I feel like Aldabra is everyone’s dream place to visit. But with major difficulties of accessing it from the main island it is seen as an almost impossible dream. One of the reasons I applied to be part of this project was because it might be my only chance to visit this place I’ve heard so much about. In Seychelles we’re all told of how important it is to have this UNESCO world heritage site protected and we learn about its wildlife, knowing that more tortoises live there than people live in our whole country. Seeing pictures and videos of the birds and marine animals that live there makes us all want to be explorers. Now knowing that I will be going there in less than a month I am excited to see Fregate birds for myself, swim with sharks and turtles and maybe see a flamingo. It’s a privilege for me to get this chance to visit Aldabra and help its life. At the same time I’ve been preparing for the heavy amount of work we’ll be doing in extremely hot and quite a dangerous place, where water is limited. Knowing those challenges has even helped me quit smoking. So living on camp for a while and working long hours every day in the sun will be tough, but knowing how I will be helping and experiencing Aldabra will help me.
Thinking more about why I am interested in visiting Aldabra and took this chance, I remember how nature and my surroundings have always fascinated me. As a self-employed tour guide, helping tourist discover the hikes and trails of my home island of Praslin, I work in and around nature a lot and depend on it for my life and to share it with others is a blessing. Also a lot of my free time is spent with environmental work. For the last two years I have been an active member of the Terrestrial Restoration Action Society of Seychelles (TRASS). TRASS, which has the mission of rehabilitating Praslin’s forests and ecosystems by planting endemic trees that have been lost to fire and deforestation, is very rewarding and through my volunteering I get a chance to help rehabilitate my part of this planet. Planting trees like mangroves shows you how connected everything is to each other. Planting mangroves is not only something that restores Praslin’s natural environment and provides a home for small fish and other life, but it also helps the ocean stay clean as mangrove roots act like a sieve that traps things like plastic. I’ve also been really involved with Global Vision International Curieuse’ activities, going to every one of their beach clean ups and in my job while I show my clients around or wait for them I pick up plastic that is around me. It’s sad to know that a lot of it is from littering that should never happen and now with the North East winds blowing you can see how much marine debris is out there.
So being part of this project adds to the things I do and want to do with life. It also helps share Aldabra with the people around me, who always ask if I’ve been to Aldabra yet or when will I be going. They always remind me of how lucky I am to get this chance and how they wish they could go. They also ask about how plastic ends up on Aldabra’s beaches when no one lives there. They’ve always seen Aldabra as unspoilt and they are shocked when I show them pictures and videos of what is on Aldabra’s beaches. Sometimes people also ask why more people can’t go to Aldabra and I have to explain that with limited spaces on a plane and limited water it’s very hard to get lots of people to an island like that and make sure they’re ok. Some people accept this, others need more convincing. So being part of ACUP I get share what I’ve already learned about Aldabra and the plastic problem explaining how SIF believes that a lot of what ends up on this UNESCO world Heritage sites’ beaches comes from places like South East Asia and how research from this project will find this out or find out if it comes from other places. Also knowing how the project wants to help reprocess waist I am sure that this expedition will inspire me as an artist. I am someone who makes necklaces, bracelets and other things from what I find in the forest. I want to come back from Aldabra with some of the things we collect and make art out of it to make sure I help with stopping some of this material going to the landfill.
I hope all of these actions will let young people know that they can imagine and help make a different world. They must begin to know that we can make a difference collectively to save life at sea, on land and in the air. I hope lots of people will see what we are doing and that this will make them understand that things have to change. By working for free to clean and raise awareness we as volunteers want to show the world how bad plastic is for our environment and make sure that the systems changes to stop plastic hurting special places like Aldabra.