Published: April 9th 2012April 9th 2012
So, as introduction to what this is: it is an entirely self focused monologue of my travels and tales from Mauritius for the next 6 months. I leave it to your own discretion if you want to listen to me ramble on, but for those of you that are interested I hope this provides some light amusement or just interest whilst I spend my days on a little island with limited internet connection and in the company of fruit bats, pigeons, passerines and giant tortoises! To put it briefly into perspective though: in July last year I was sat on a friend’s bed having a breakdown because my life ‘had all gone wrong’ and was as good as over in my eyes. Six months down the line and I moved to Mauritius, having already been settled here for two weeks. I offer this up as evidence to anyone who would challenge the statement that things work out.
For all those who have forgotten/ I never told/ didn’t listen the first time round I will give a brief overview as to where I am and what I am doing. To all those who haven’t
guessed, I will be spending next six months in Mauritius, volunteering with the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation (MWF).
To begin at the beginning, my arrival into the country was met with angry passport men and heavy rain. For all of you who remember the saga of my permits, this did cause a problem at customs and I fear the men working there seriously considered putting me on the next plane back to the UK. But all is now well (even if my permits are still not quite through) and I am happily settled in the country at least… After a week the rain eased and I was bathed in glorious sunshine from pretty much then in.
I am working on the Passerine team, particularly with the Mauritian Fody and the Olive White Eye. At the moment it is low season, meaning we won’t be seeing much breeding, but hopefully things might start up again in August meaning I will get to see some chicks and nests before I head home. At the moment it is just a case of feeding the birds (morning and afternoon) and doing regular head counts, both in terms of taking a ‘register’ at
the aviary and then searching the birds’ territories to try and catch sight of them. As the season starts again this will also involve watching pairs to see if they have any nests or show any signs of breeding. The feeding in the morning, however, constitutes getting up and beginning work at 6am – that should shock any of you that consider this jaunt a 6 month long holiday, and then we finish at 5pm. Needless to say, this is exhausting and by bedtime is now usually much closer to 9pm - a time I can’t remember falling to sleep at since I was around 11! The evenings are quite a social affair, however, depending on whos turn it is to cook. We will often go snorkelling just off the island – it has some fabulous snorkelling, or just enjoy relaxing on the jetty watching the sunset over the mountains. Evenings have also been known to turn into heated board game play, or more recently rum and oranges! One evening was spent without power, which again, is all part of the experience, and after a lot of candles being burnt through just resulting in a very early bedtime.
I am based on a little offshore island off ‘Blue-bay’. Any guesses for where it gets it’s name from? There are also other field stations across the island, usually based near to or in the Black River Gorges National Park. Again, these have teams working on Pink Pigeons, Passerines as well as the Mauritian Kestrel and Echo Parakeets. The island itself is called ‘Ile aux Aigrettes’ and is a coral island of 26ha. It is a nature reserve, with visitors only allowed with guides where a MWF field station is based. There are currently 9 of us living here in the week studying a variety of passerines, pigeons, reptiles and plants. Bar shrews that predate on young Tailfair skinks the island is predator free, meaning of endangered populations are able to flourish. In the week we live in a field station, complete with kitchen, bathroom, office and veranda. The bunkhouse is one room sleeping us all on bunk beds, doors kept wide open at all times of day or night and usually we have geckos and the customary mosquitoes sharing our sleeping space with us. Fun fact for those who appreciate the wildlife: last night we were disturbed by
Rodrigues fruit bats in a nearby tree screaming their little hearts out. Another perk is the free roaming Giant Tortoises – some who appreciate a good cuddle, others who have been known to lumber out of the bushes at me, chomping and pursuing me down the path…
At the weekends we all decamp back to the other side of Mauritius to the MWF house where all non-Mauritian staff and volunteers who live and work at the various field stations associated with the foundation gather at weekends for our time off. Again, the house is busy and a moment alone is rare! However, it has internet, a shop nearby to stock up on the goodies the island deprives me (and my waistline) of and a gorgeous beach (think stunning views, white sand and blue sea and sky) only a few minutes walk away from the house! I have only been back a couple of times so I haven’t much to report from there – the company seems good, the mainland mosquitoes bite me less and the time off is much appreciated. Last Saturday we went out for Italian and then a drink afterwards, which again was good, if maybe
not quite traditional Mauritian dining! However, at the market on Monday I was introduced to the famous ‘Roti’, which from what I understand seems to just be a floury, chilli pancake and is much raved about, but I am yet to understand the full wonder of it – maybe it’s something that will develop with another taste! I was also introduced to a traditional drink, which seems a bit like strawberry milkshake, only with the addition of jelly and some berries that can only be described ‘Squeaky balls’, as they were aptly named by a someone at the IAA field station upon tasting them for the first time. Give me a few weeks though, and this might knowledge might expand into something a bit more tasty, or in the very least eloquent! This week I was also introduced to a local ‘delicacy’, which roughly translates into wasp larvae, with onions and chilli. Why not, hey?
This weekend was Easter weekend so we got Monday off too! Saturday evening we had a BBQ on the beach after watching the sun set over the ocean, where we met some people from the Marine Conservation Society and there are hopes of
organizing a trip in the near future for whale and dolphin spotting! On Sunday we visited the market in Quatre Bourne which was busy and hot, but definitely an experience and with lots of bargains to be had it will be a favourite for present shopping when September comes around. I have also to admit that I have, as of today, experience my first taste of Mauritian sunburn – a thin around my neck which just gives the impression that someone has tried to strangle me recently! I was also taken out in the Jeep, which I will be allowed to drive. I’m not sure which scares me more – me in control of a 4x4, or the Mauritian drivers/ warnings of hitting stray dogs!
At present I cannot think of many more exciting facts or stories, I am still feeling my way through it all (read crashing into things) and am a bit unsure of all at the moment. I have had doubts that I will be able to manage 6 months, so any reassurance anyone has to offer would be greatly received! I think this was made worse but the news the family has bought a
new puppy, and so it’s not so much a case of missing home, but just feeling like I am missing out! Some days I feel extremely content, whereas others I look at the weeks in my diary and feel very daunted! However, onwards we go!
I will wrap up my tales now so as not to bore you anymore but promise another update soon! Lots of Mauritius sunshine and love, until the next time! J
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