'Our little Claire-bear played the role of the first volunteer on this project and unfortunately the time has already come to say goodbye to this accountant. Read on as she bids the island farewell...
'I knew it had to end at some point and I have already extended one week longer than initially planned but I’m so sad to leave. This month with MCSS and particularly the CICP programme was an amazing and unique experience I am not ready to forget. I have learnt so much about fishes and coral ID and general marine conservation and terrestrial knowledge through all the activities we have performed. I am so grateful to have the chance to work with Savi, Natalie and also many other people who taught me along the way.
This morning we were were aided by the hands of the Maritime Training Center and Seychelles National Parks Authority as we beach cleaned and collected three full bags of garbage. This is quite a haul and not only can guests enjoy pristine beaches, but we can rest assured that we have done our part to minimize plastics in our ecosystem.
Then I had a couple of guests who were interesting in snorkeling so I guided them through the trail. We had the chance to see a sea turtle, many trumpet fish and an overall delightful underwater scene. From almost zero knowledge on fish ID to know being able to identify fish to genus level, I was now able to show guests the reef life name them rather than my previous ‘Hmm I don’t really know, I will ask and let you know as soon as I know’. They were very happy about their snorkel and so was I!
MCSS is not only Cerf Island Conservation Programme but also other very interesting projects on the main Island of Mahe. This is how I got the chance to spend one day at the Banyan Tree Rehabilitation Center as a part of the ongoing nesting turtle and terrapin monitoring. The day there started by feeding the little terrapin (hard not to fall in love with this lovely buddy). After that, hop in the car to start the beach patrol where we are looking for any turtle tracks on the beaches to monitor the critically endangered Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) and endangered Green (Chelonia mydas) sea turtles. On one beach we found a fresh track and another one in which we concluded was of a nesting (fresh track going up through the sand dunes and vegetation), turtle on the last beach of Anse Cachee! :) Though it is the middle of peak nesting season, I realize how lucky I am to have witnessed this event. We had time to take some pictures for ID / monitoring it, measuring the carapace, and have a final picture on her way back to sea. This was a magical moment, even more since we found another nesting place on the same beach. What else can we ask for?!
When we got back to the Center, we had more good news waiting for us; the arrival of a new terrapin at the Center that somebody had found within the resort. This is how I had the opportunity to discover the procedure for a new arrival including weighing of the terrapin, measuring it and performing an X-Ray to check if it is in good health. This one was in a very good shape and is now a new addition to the ID library of terrapins! This patrolling day was very rewarding, I have learnt a lot thanks to Vanessa (who carries out the turtle monitoring around our nesting beaches) and other volunteers who work there. I am very grateful to them and so happy to have seen and learnt so much :)
It is also very rewarding when guests ask questions about the project, and when they are interested by what we do and ask how they can help. Most of them didn’t realize how important every little step is and I can’t blame them since I felt the same way before living this experience.
Even if I am going back to my (very exiting) accounting life in Paris, I will now try to incorporate everything I have learned here in my daily routine back to France. I might not be very helpful with fish ID on the subway but will definitely pick and throw away/recycle every waste I see in the street and try to teach my friends and family about the marine conservation and how they too can help. I don’t want to stop helping with marine conservation, I will speak about it, do some volunteering as often as I will have the opportunity to and maybe one day see if I can find a way to work in this exciting and constantly developing field of conservation.'
Thanks Claire for all the laughs and hard work you put into this project as we move forward one step at a time to preserve the biodiversity of Cerf Island! Good luck in your accounting future!
Time flies when you’re having fun, hence why this week has gone so quickly. We have managed to accomplish a lot considering it is the beginning of this project and are making slow but steady progress; not only conserving the reefs, but also involving the island’s community and resorts.
Our main duties throughout the programme here on Cerf Island are to interact with the guests through guided snorkel trails and to make them aware of the impacts that are affecting the reefs and wild life that inhabit them. This is effective as most people need to experience the beauty of the reefs, and also see the destruction, in order to change their ways of thinking towards the marine environment and the small changes that they can make in their daily routine to contribute to a brighter future. To do this as effectively as possible, we have been partaking in presentations to further our own knowledge on the marine species inhabiting the reef in order to better inform the guests. We have also been performing simple tasks such as beach cleans, and raising awareness for sharks through demonstrating the kind nature of the Lemon Shark pups we have just outside Cerf Island Resort; how lucky are we?!
We have also been asked to maintain one of the island trecks which allows visitors to leisurely walk from one side to the other. Doing this little hike ourselves, we took GPS points and notes on interesting finds throughout the walk to show the guests, such as different plants/spices and their uses. Towards the end of the treck, when the other beach was in sight, we came across some mud flats that were home to a variety of crabs, as well as a giant Tortoise we later found out is called Matilda. We had plenty of selfie time with Matilda and, to say thank you, fed her copious amounts of her favourite leaves. We then headed towards the beach where we found our own little paradise, looking out at the Islands of St. Anne, Moyenne, Ronde and Longue. Here we had a few more photo opportunities and made friends with a little green Lizard (Green Gecko) as we rehydrated before making our way back over (keeping our spider stick handy to avoid any face to spider collision!)
Partnership is a strong aspect of this project and we began one of our days by meeting the residents of the Island and the Resorts to help strengthen the links between the partners. This also gave us the opportunity to introduce ourselves so they know what we are doing, why we are here and also gives them a point of call if they need any information concerning the programme or snorkelling tours. This worked both ways, in that we learned a lot about the Island, the problems Cerf faces and why these issues haven't been able to be resolved as of yet. This information is key to making a difference as without local knowledge and taking into account the history of the Island, this programme will not be able to work as a partnership and tackle the issues affecting the Marine Park. Once we had taken all this information on board, we needed to get in the water. The buoys at the Cerf Island Resort kayak points needed cleaning and this gave us the perfect opportunity to go for a paddle and get in the sea allowing us to get extremely familiar with the reef around these points so we may help guests experience and discover the little secretes Cerf Island has to offer.
With the success of the initial snorkel trail at Cerf Island Resort, other establishments wish to have one as well. L’habitation now have their own trail and Fairy Tern is on their way to having their own. In order to map a new trail we use the knowledge from the St. Anne’s Stewardship Project for which we now know the locations of the reefs. We then use a GPS, kayak and snorkelers to find the main points of interests that have been discovered such as areas with dense coral coverage and high levels of marine life. Though areas of delightful and colourful brain corals were found, large areas of rubble ridden areas were found as a result from the 1998 El nino event as well as the 2004 Tsunami. This and other areas are great candidates for a coral reef restoration project in which steel frames are used to attach broken fragments of coral, and granite boulders are used to create structurally complex habitats. Watch this space for more information and progress!
During our free time, we borrowed a kayak from Cerf Island Resort to paddle around this beautiful Island and see what other snorkeling spots it has to offer. The landscape is breathtaking; you discover a new paradise around every corner.
We would like to thank Cerf Island Resort for providing us with not only accommodation but also all the tools and hands we need to accomplish our goals. Without the support of this establishment this continuation project would not be possible and we look forward as other partners join in full force to see this project through. We would also like to commend the SNPA who are continuing their efforts in halting illegal fishing and happy to see an increased presence around the marine park to aid in the control of high speed boat traffic which often threatens the reef and snorkelers.
This week we have started to encompass other aspects of conservation and getting the CICP name out there. Firstly, we arranged and relabelled the snorkel equipment and are working to transform the room into a gallery for the project. Using the items we have collected on our beach cleans we have been able to display the amount of glass we find, as well as other items such as anchors and plastics. This enables us to show the guests how important it is not to litter and the effectiveness of our beach cleans. We are also aiming to create an area to display the 'Artificial reef project'. This will involve a small model of the frame we will be using to propagate the coral, an explanation of the project and various limestone skeletons to show the different coral species we have here. The gallery will also contain photos of the guests snorkelling, various volunteers who have helped the CICP and identification information for guests who wish to snorkel (such as ID books).
We have also spent time this week creating posters to go around the resorts and booklets, which inform guests that coral is in fact a live animal and therefore should not be stood on as well as information on the detrimental effects of shell collection. Hopefully this will encourage guests to take more care in the water and conserve the beauty of the environment around them.
Our usual kayak and snorkel trail maintenance took a leap forward this week as we made the hiking route more accessible. Armed with a machete, GPS and camera, we headed into the jungle to create a clear path and also note down all points at which we shall put signs - either as points of interest or to keep on the correct path. Once we had achieved this (3 hours later!), we started to design signs that will keep to the forest theme but are clear enough for people to see. This also gave us an opportunity to learn more about the species of plants and terrestrial wildlife that inhabit the area.
On that note, we had our first fish and coral ID test which actually wasn't so bad. We were able to see how much we have learned over the past few weeks and the results really motivated us to keep going. On top of all that, we have partaking in coral identification snorkels which have been not only educational, but actually a lot of fun! We are feeling much more confident in the water now that we are able to point wildlife out to the guests, and it also means every time we get in we are constantly testing ourselves.
~Natalie and Claire
Claire and Natalie are always smiling whether its cleaning, learning or snorkel time
Claire, Lauren and Natalie smile at the halfway point on the walk to the other side of Cerf Island.
*Read our next blog to find out who this mystery Lauren is!
Claire and Natalie use their heads to describe this type of coral!
We welcomed a new face with us this week who will be here till the middle of December.
Welcome to MCSS and the CICP Laurene!
Hi my name is Laurene Mousbe im 17 years old. I went to SMA post secondary, that is Seychelles Marinetime Academy. There I’ve been learning about the ocean and the species that are found in the ocean. But since I love to do science, I feel that what SMA is teaching me is not enough so I’ve been asking for information about where I could learn more about marine species. My class teacher told me that he knows a place where I could study more about marine species; that’s why I’ve come here to Cerf Island to do my work attachment with the MCSS (Marine Conservation Society Seychelles). I’ve been here for 3 days and they are teaching me how to be comfortable in the water, and snorkeling. Im looking forward to learn more about everything and to achieve my goals in the month that I’ll be here. Here at the MCSS they don’t just snorkel around on the snorkelling and kayak trails. They also clean the beach and the reef just to make sure things like empty bottles, plastic bag don’t pollute the sea, they are increasing the interaction between wildlife and visitors, they are educating marine park goers about the reef, and are working on artificial reefs. I look forward to learning all and participating in these activities.
Laurene, Natalie, Vanessa, and Claire about to head off for snorkel
Natalie takes a sponge to the trail to keep it in top shape for visitors
Claire introduces Laurene to the Kayak trail as they give it the old weekly maintenance
The CICP is proud to announce the arrival of our very first volunteers on the project! Read below to meet our clearly and understandably so excited ladies.
Hi there! I’m Claire, volunteering for MCSS for 3 weeks to take a break in my boring accounting life!
I am French, starting a new (boring) job in Paris in December so before that I wanted to do something special, something I really like, something useful, so here I am ;)
I have been diving and free diving for years, travelling around the world to discover some nice spot. That’s how I got to Australia, Bali, Malta, Croatia and now Seychelles!
I’ve heard about MCSS through Georgia French who used to work here as well, I had a look on the website and the projects and I didn’t hesitate one second to send an email; one week later I was buying my plane tickets! I’m wanting of this experience to be useful, help with marine and terrestrial conservation. I want to feel that I’m really making a difference by doing things and that I’m providing help to the community
I’m working on the Cerf Island Conservation Programme which is aimed to develop a partnership with locals, hotels and the marine park in order to protect the area and show to the tourists the beautiful landscape and underwater life that the island offers. This place is amazing, the water so clear and fishes showing up everywhere, we need to keep this and I’m proud to be part of the project!
This looks like an amazing experience in a lovely environment and I would advice anybody to live this and enjoy what Cerf Island has to offer :)
Hi, my name is Natalie and I am volunteering under the Cerf Island Stewardship programme for 2 months. My only passion in life is for the marine environment, which led me to gain a degree in Marine Biology and Coastal Ecology, and spend all my time in the Sea as a Scuba Diving Instructor. I came to the Seychelles hoping to raise awareness for the Oceans plight and to make a real difference. Not only is the landscape stunning here, the water is warm, the weather is beautiful and the people are lovely. However, work is needed here to help conserve the beauty of this Island in our ever changing environment. We aim to do this by educating guests through snorkeling trails and jungle hikes, propagating coral using our own framework design and taking part in simple, yet effective daily activities such as beach cleans and blogging.