I mentioned before that a group of school kids were on the island… Each year Seychellois school children around the ages of 10-16 compete with one another to win a visit to Aldabra courtesy of the Seychelles Island Foundation. From first setting foot in the Seychelles on the SOSF expedition I realized that for most Seychellois Aldabra is a destination all have heard off but most will never reach. As the immigrations officer who proudly stamped my passport with the Seychelles’ coco da mer shaped entry stamp put it when he discovered my final destination was Aldabra… “Ah Aldabra, yes well that might as well be in Europe.” It is another world even for the Seychellois and only the cream of the environment/biology crop are invited to experience 10 days here. Last night Tom, Dan and myself provided their entertainment. I gave them an introduction on shark conservation and the Save Our Seas Foundation’s mission: to document the role that sharks and rays play in maintaining healthy marine ecosystems and the consequences of removing them from the world’s oceans. They learnt that sharks and rays are elasmobranches and were amazed that they are made of the substance in our ears, cartilage. Dan Beecham presented his HD footage showcasing SOSF’s marine projects around the world, from manta rays in Mexico to white sharks in South Africa – all exciting projects that hopefully brought to life what they learn in the class room. SOSF’s photographer Tom Peschak presented a slide show of some of his most outstanding images, which can’t help but inspire people to if not love, at least admire and respect the Ocean and its life. I hope all the images he showed of us free diving with big sharks helped change their perceptions. Who knows we might have inspired the next Jacques Cousteau.
We are working from a new part of the Atoll for the next couple of days called Middle Camp. After a morning spent cleaning and re-organizing camera gear, we took advantage of the crystal clear water and free-dived (and SCUBA dived) along the reef. Faining a complete lack of interest I had a hawksbill turtle follow me for a few metres. I had to look at him at some stage but as I turned he took fright at our proximity and proceeded to taunt me by swimming slowly parallel to me – keeping just far enough away to make his image a mere dot in my frame.
Rainer is our new Water World captain and the rotting fish that he and James trailed behind the boat attracted about ten black tips and one tawny nurse shark. Tom and I photographed the mayhem of them behind the boat before the current became too strong for me to hold the camera housing in one hand and the boat with the other.
Moving on from there we explored Passe Houareau on a drift dive, Dan on SCUBA and James, Tom and I free-diving. You get a much better over-view of what is going on fee diving and the fish seem bolder – less scared than when you approach them with a noisy breathing apparatus and bubbles billowing out everywhere. Tom is a fish underwater and free diving, like most sports, is all about practice. Dan is always on SCUBA as filming with the bulky HD video camera is a whole different story, but he is fast down there when he needs a subject in frame. I preferred this drift dive to our first one at Pass Dubois. There is a more diversity of coral and reef fish. We had hoped to see a great hammerhead or a tiger shark, but once again they evaded us or they simply are not there.