Over the course of a long day that had started early, we flew from Johannesburg to Mahé, the largest island of the Seychelles. As we got off the plane we were engulfed in a blanket of humidity and heat, a feeling you are happy to learn to live with as the beauty of the Seychelles lives up to and exceeds all expectations. After a short overnight stop on Mahé, we hopped onto a small plane bound for D’Arros, our home base for the next month.
On arrival at D’Arros we were finally able to meet up with the research team and plan the much-anticipated activities and goals of the project. The next few days were spent mending nets and ensuring that all the gear was in order.
Work hard and play hard being our motto, we enjoyed a lovely barbecue as we got to know our fellow staff on the island. We even found time for a snorkel over the reef among some spectacular wildlife – turtles, mantas, rays and even a blacktip reef shark.
It was finally time for the boat ride to St Joseph Atoll, where we attempted to find our place (at the bottom of the food chain) between the millions of mosquitoes and the charismatic hermit crabs. Night time under the full moon was a sight for sore eyes and definitely made the itching worthwhile.
On the next day we split into two groups, covering great distances over the sand flats in order to tag the famous bonefish. The literature, mainly collected in the Bahamas and Florida, suggests that bonefish are extremely shy and difficult to catch. We were apprehensive about our ambitions for the planned trip, which involved catching and tagging 30 bonefish. Thankfully, however, we were welcomed by shoals of obliging bonefish and were able to catch 20 within three days, making a good start to our field trip. We used conventional fishing gear and a soft landing net, focusing on good handling practices to ensure maximum survival of the bonefish. Due to the abundance of sharks in the atoll, which made our tagged bonefish vulnerable to predation, we held our breath each time we released a fish, hoping it would return quickly and safely to the water. Luckily we saw no commotion or splashing, indicating a successful release.
Despite the pristine setting of our working environment, after three long days of wading around the atoll in the scorching heat, we were glad to return to D’Arros. Here we will spend a day capturing data and preparing for our next trip out to the atoll.