Italian student Giulia Campanile is volunteering with Nature Seychelles for one month. As part of her work, she assists the NGO's LEAP (Locally Empowered Area Protection) team based at Cap Ternay with survey work in the Ramsar-designated wetland and mangroves. The following is her account of her time thus far.
I arrived on 15 October. From the air, I could see these islands were beautiful, with lush vegetation and paradisiacal beaches. From the moment I stepped off the airplane, I was in awe of the place.
The incredible biodiversity and vibrant life here immediately caught my attention. Outside my window at the base in Cap Ternay, you can observe a variety of flora and fauna. Numerous stars adorn the night sky.
Fieldwork included conducting mangrove surveys
The first week was spent touring the wetlands and hearing presentations about the project, mangroves, and the Seychelles in general. They taught me how to recognize different mangrove species in the wetlands.
We conducted surveys at the Constance Ephelia Hotel, which houses a large mangrove area. During fieldwork, we measured the height and diameter of the mangroves. We studied soil characteristics, described the canopy, and noted the presence of flora and fauna.
Throughout the first week, many people mentioned the presence of whale sharks around Seychelles. They had been spotted in Baie Ternay too. So, whenever we had free time, we would go in to look for them on paddleboards. On the first day, we spent almost six hours snorkelling and looking for them. I loved it and developed a newfound appreciation for paddleboarding because it's relaxing and quiet compared to boating. Unfortunately, I haven't spotted any whale sharks yet.
The team and I also initiated a small project near our house. We cleared invasive ferns from a small area, as they compete with mangroves and hinder their growth. It was exhausting, but we successfully removed many ferns and planted mangrove seeds here. The area already looks promising for mangrove growth, and within a few days, we noticed some seeds sprouting leaves. Who knows, in 5-10 years, we will witness substantial mangrove growth there.
As part of the project, we also visited local schools where Nature Seychelles gave a presentation on seagrass. It was rewarding to see young people interested in marine biology.
My expectations for this program were to learn everything about mangroves and the habitats they create for other species. I had already studied mangroves and always found them fascinating, so I eagerly wanted to see them and work in the field. During the program, I certainly did that.
However, I also realized that I was learning so much more. I've become more familiar with the plant and tree species of Seychelles, the various birds inhabiting the wetlands, and I've identified and learned the names of marine animal species. Additionally, in my free time, such as during trips around the islands and school visits with the kids, I've gained insights into the local culture. This has been truly interesting.