Seychelles Diary - The Silhouette island satellite base

The Silhouette island satellite base had just been set up, and we were luckily enough to have the opportunity to develop the initial stages of the research project. I was thoroughly looking forward to our week on Silhouette island, hearing much about its beauty and biodiversity. As we arrived at the main port of La Passe, we scrambled into a small boat which whisked us around to the west side of the island. The dramatic looking island seemed like a timeless, undiscovered realm from the Jurassic age.

The route around the island was stunning, with the haunting granitic mountains looming over us as we came into the bay, backing onto the mile long Grand Barbe beach. Spotting a hawksbill turtle nesting on our arrival at the beach was more than we could have wished for and certainly gave us a taster of what was to come. We were anticipating an incredible week!! The local Creole family, who have been based on Silhouette for 22 years, greeted us onto the island and showed us to our charming looking ‘A-frame' hut.



Arriving at midday, we cooked up some lunch, baking our own bread and then made the hut our own with a few personal touches. A science briefing discussing the turtle survey methodology was then followed by an afternoon walk along the beach. We were certainly spoilt on our first survey, with three hawksbills making an appearance for us! All three nested successfully too!! It was mesmerizing to watch these fascinating animals so focused on their natural instinct to nest. Each movement seemed so analytically planned and practiced. We were all buzzing with excitement at the end of the first day, we struggled to sleep.

The surveys were carried out twice a day at each high tide; early in the morning and late afternoon. Measurements, characteristics, behaviour and photographs were taken of each individual. One turtle in particular took a total of 3 hours to complete her whole nesting process – we felt so proud of her since she put so much effort into making her nest so perfect, we applauded (quietly) as she gracefully slipped back into the sea. A turtle happily heading back to the surf at sunset is an indescribably magical scene. By the end of the week, we had a record breaking number of nesting turtles totalling 14 – the experience of watching them was no less amazing each time!!



Hawsbill Turtle returning to the sea at sunset after a staggering 3 hours of nesting

Afternoons were filled with reading, a sun-drenched dip in the mangrove lagoon, socialising with the locals, or making our own gifts out of coconut shells. In the evenings data was collated, before dinner was prepared. This was followed by games and moonlit chatting on the hut's veranda. We often wondered about the possible adventures that could be enveloping back at the main base at Cap Ternay. On the way back to Mahe island, we had the opportunity to visit our local partners' breeding centre, rehabilitating the last few remaining Seychellois Giant Tortoise thought to be extinct for 150 years. It is hoped that in the next 5 years these will be re-released into the wild forest interior of Silhouette.

The week on Silhouette was certainly one of the highlights of the expedition so far, and we all feel honoured to have visited the mystical island witnessing and experienced what we had seen in the past week, in addition to assisting local partners with their much needed research. Having just arrived back on Mahe, it was extremely exciting to see everyone back at base catching up on all the gossip, hearing stories of recent manta ray and dolphin sightings! Now looking forward to spending as much time as possible in the water for the last few remaining weeks of the expedition!! It will be a very sad day when we all have to leave this island, which now feels like home. This is an experience I will never forget!

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