It is time for us, the atoll refugees, to go home! Our eight weeks at St Joseph Atoll in the Seychelles have passed so quickly, but we have all learnt so much and experienced so many once-in-a-lifetime moments. We think it fitting for our last blog to leave you with some of our highlights.
The highlight for me was how spoilt I felt every day, living and working in this environment. Kayaking through the turquoise waters of the atoll as we captured or tracked sharks while surrounded by the lagoon’s wildlife meant that no two moments were ever the same. Storm clouds, sunsets and sunrises, moons, seabirds, rays, turtles, fishes, sharks, crabs and insects – they all make for such a dynamic environment that we were forever discovering new sights and creatures. And that’s just the work part! In our time off we captured sea turtles and watched them nest at the joyous hour of 3 am, made ridiculous attempts to surf, chilled out under the sea with mantas to the soundtrack of dolphin clicks… And to top it off I did it all with a great team of people who made me crack up laughing every day.
For me, the highlight of these past eight weeks was my first encounter with a shark. The challenge of first unravelling the shark from our net and then transferring it to the hand-held dip net was exhilarating and got the heart pumping. The sheer power of the shark, despite its small size, is surprising. The thrill I got from that is something I am definitely going to miss. After these two amazing months working with sharks every day, I began to understand their behaviour better and develop a special bond with these beautiful animals.
The highlight for me would have to be continually working among so many large adult sharks. I thoroughly enjoyed every second of our work with the juveniles, but having grown up as a massive fan of the film Jaws (and subsequently some slightly less mainstream shark movies, such as Sharknado), I was as excited as a child every time we saw a big dorsal fin rise above the surface. It was a sight I honestly thought I’d never be lucky enough to see. A particular moment that will forever stand out was when a hunting adult sicklefin lemon shark, travelling at some serious speed in the shallows, only veered away from our exposed legs at the last second, merely a metre away!
We would particularly like to thank Ornella for giving us this amazing opportunity and sharing her passion and knowledge about sharks with us. We are looking forward to following the development of her project – but seriously doubt she will ever find a team as awesome as us!