Global Vision International on Curieuse Island - Volunteering and eco-tourism combined in the Seychelles
Global Vision International volunteers pose for a quick selfie on top of Cap Matoopa, one of the wildest and most beautiful places on the Seychelles main island of Mahe (Global Vision International)
(Seychelles News Agency) - A dinghy with six men and women in blue t-shirt and heavy backpacks arrives on Curieuse Island, a National Park located fifteen minutes by boat from Praslin, the second most populated island of the Seychelles archipelago.
These men and women are of different nationalities and ages and what awaits them is a three-month programme of monitoring various species found on the island, such as the endemic and majestic palms of the coco de mer, giant tortoises, hawksbill turtles and lemon sharks - all this coupled with the unusual routine of living on a camp on an isolated island.
They are the latest group of volunteers on the expedition base of Curieuse Island in the programme run by Global Vision International, GVI, which commenced in 2010.
The organisation runs conservation and community development programmes in numerous locations around the world with projects ranging from wildlife conservation in South Africa to childcare in Mexico and a whole lot more in between.
|Scuba doo! Volunteers on the marine expedition prepare to go diving (Global Vision International) Photo license: CC-BY|
A welcome programme for Seychelles
It was almost ten years ago that Global Vision International (GVI) first arrived in the Seychelles to lend a hand with the many ongoing conservation projects in the 115-island archipelago situated in the Indian Ocean.
Their first task was to do with the monitoring of coral bleaching which had been given over to the Seychelles National Parks Authority in 2004, but the SNPA needed more resources.
It was the first of many volunteer programmes for volunteers from around the world in the Seychelles, otherwise known as ‘voluntourism,' a mix of tourism and volunteer work.
“The Seychelles marine conservation expedition focuses on collecting data from twenty sites along the coast of northwest Mahé,” said GVI Seychelles Programme Coordinator Chris Mason-Parker.
“Upon arriving in the field, they undergo an intensive science training programme, designed to teach species identification and monitoring techniques. Accuracy is paramount and a series of rigorous tests must be successfully completed before volunteers are allowed to collect data.”
When they are not learning their fish or corals, or counting giant tortoises, the volunteers are kept busy with other activities around the expedition bases.
On the Seychelles main island of Mahé, the GVI base is located at Baie Ternay, bordered by a protected marine park, which is the best possible site for monitoring and learning in an almost completely undisturbed environment.
|A massive patient - volunteers and SNPA rangers turn a giant tortoise over for tagging on Curieuse Island (Global Vision International) Photo license: CC-BY|
Study sessions, lectures and health and safety courses keep everyone very busy, but there is also plenty of time to enjoy the amazing Seychelles scenery.
At weekends, the volunteers like to explore further afield and experience what else Seychelles has to offer, with La Digue and Bird Island popular destinations with the nature-loving voluntourists.
Over the years GVI Seychelles has collaborated with a number of local organizations on a variety of conservation and environmental education projects, while the data collected by GVI Seychelles volunteers is being used to help protect key endangered species such as the world’s largest seed, the endemic coco de mer, in addition to vulnerable green and hawksbill marine turtles.
Living their dreams
Aside from data collection and scientific research, for a number of years GVI has been involved in raising money for specific projects under the GVI Charitable Trust.
One of such programmes takes place on Mahé, where the organisation has a longstanding relationship with the President’s Village Children’s Home which includes weekly games and snorkeling sessions at Port Launay.
“For many people, volunteering can be a life-changing experience, while for others it provides them with the opportunity to gain new skills and experience. At times it can be hard, with bad weather, long hours, and communal living all providing difficult obstacles to overcome,”said Mason-Parker.
“For the majority of volunteers though, GVI Seychelles expeditions offer the opportunity to experience Seychelles culture, get up close and personal with the islands amazing wildlife and make lifelong friendships.”
|GVI volunteers enter the Seychelles eco-marathon event to raise funds for children at the President's Village (Global Vision International) Photo license: CC-BY|
Creating local expertise
One of GVI Seychelles’ aims is to provide in-country training and allow Seychellois people to become involved with the education and research that GVI conducts.
The organisation’s National Scholarship Programme invites local people over the age of 18 with a keen interest in conservation to join the GVI volunteer team for a four or eight week period.
To date, GVI Seychelles has trained dozens of park rangers, university students and budding conservationists in species identification and scientific monitoring techniques.
“The Seychelles is by far one of the most beautiful places that I have ever been, and the diving has completely blown me away. I can’t thank GVI Seychelles enough for this unforgettable experience that I will cherish forever,” said Kristen Aschenbrenner from Canada.
Todd Broderick from the United States also shared his experience with SNA.
"My two months volunteering with GVI on Curieuse Island has been amazing. I have had the chance to do, see and experience so much more than I ever thought I would. Getting up close to giant tortoises, sea turtles (and their hatchlings), birds, lemon shark pups, the endemic coco de mer palm and the amazing mangrove system here is just so rewarding and something I will never forget!"
Aside from Seychelles Global Vision International have over 150 volunteering programmes in 25 other countries, including Kenya and Costa Rica.