Introduction to Round Island (week 1)
I arrived on a choppy sea - making for a slightly tricky offload to the 'landing rock' - at Round Island on Wednesday 9th Oct - a steep uninhabited island formed by the remaining half of an old volcanic crater, about 1km by 2km in size (and curiously not at all round) and 20km offshore Mauritius. The small field station, housing between 3 to 7 staff and researchers within it and some surrounding tents, will be my new home for the majority of the next 6 months. It's quite some place - geographically, plant-wise (we have our own nursery for propagating native species, while on the west coast there is the one and only remaining wild mature endemic hurricane palm) and with the array of semi-tame wildlife: charismatic Telfair skinks everywhere (dish cleaning/prowling for crumbs/jumping on your foot/generally skinking about the station in a rather comically villainous manner), friendly lumbering giant green tortoises some of which swing by for a good neck scratch (there are 100's resident on the whole island), big eyed ornate geckos, Durrell night geckos, lovely relaxed nocturnal Round Island boas to survey and tag, gloriously red and white tailed tropic birds, swooping nesting petrels and the simply incredible sounding shearwaters, which spend the night inhabiting their burrows and filling the entire island with their other-worldly howling impressions of packs of dogs, wolves, squeaky toys or a windy kind of whale song in a most unbird-like fashion.
Days are disappearing fast and have so far involved plant care and watering (in the nursery and all over the island slopes where saplings have been planted out), invasive weed searches, nocturnal reptile surveys, petrel tagging, helping create camera trap stands and various other assorted tasks, with some time for a little rock-pool swimming and occasional bucket shower on a precious few litres of fresh water a week!
We are always seeking for the place, a place where there are wonderful creatures who are around us. Let us play with them and I know that in the end there will be countless adventures that are waiting for us. I want to learn more about the ways of living in this place and I want them to learn on my own. I know that there will be experiences that will stay for me as long as I live. Let us not waste our time and follow what our hearts says.
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