Words by Morgan Gueuning
Despite the idyllic appearance of St Joseph Atoll, one must never forget the roughness and inhospitably of this environment. If you think – as we naively did – that sampling on tropical islands is an easy thing, you’ve got it wrong. Even though the crystal waters, the coconut trees and the fine, white sand foreshadow easy-going sampling conditions, the reality is much different. It takes a lot more than just a pair of flip-flops and a swimming suit to survive here. Constant exposure to the sun obliges us to be covered from head to toe with hats, buffs, long-sleeve shirts and pants. It is probably not the most suitable outfit for paddling or dragging overloaded kayaks in 35°C all day long, however, it is the only way not to end up totally roasted. Here are pictures of what we thought it would be like and what it actually is like.
This over-iteming does not apply only to clothing, but also to everything else, to the point that each trip to the atoll transforms into a mission. Sometimes we are so heavily packed that loading the boat with all of our gear seems like a game of Tetris – as if we are from the Gameboy generation. Once the boat is loaded, navigating there requires us to follow one simple and essential rule: ‘Do not move a single inch!’ Hard work when mantas are majestically swimming by!