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  • Salina Janzan

A cockroach ate my headphones, and other Stories from Round Island.


In the madness of project presentations, hand-ins and celebrations; not to mention moving from one country to another, moving back into my flat and restarting work within 48 hours of being back in the UK, I have neglected Stories a little. Before I talk about saying goodbyes, moving back, and re-adapting to London life, I hope you will indulge me one last story about my Mauritian adventures; in particular, my adventures on Round Island.

Round Island was my last field station, and - despite it being smack bang in the middle of my project development/write-up time – I was really glad of this. It is so beautiful there. There were only seven of us on the island for the week; everyone else was a seabird, skink, tortoise, snake or gecko. Round Island boasts a unique assemblage of life - including reptiles, insects, seabirds, and palms - found nowhere else. Thanks to conservation efforts to eradicate invasive species (invasive mammals have successfully been removed from the island) and restore naturally ecosystem functions, Round Island is a habitat in recovery and ongoing model for success in conservation.

The journey getting to Round was not exactly smooth sailing. We were thrown all over the place and drenched with salt water (I went from clean hair to cave-girl dreads in a two hour period) with our barrels sliding up and down the boat (you quarantine all of your belongings into barrels before traveling to Round to prevent any undesirable bio-friends making the crossing with you). This experience was fairly hilarious and fun, for the first hour at least. Another hour later, we were looking forward to being on land again. But first: jumping from the boat to the landing rock.

Below is an image of the Round Island field station (bottom right). Now, I’d like you to think of this Story as a literary ‘cribs’. I’d like to take you on a little tour of the Round Island field station, to give you a visual idea of life as a conservationist working there.

So anti-clockwise from top left in the above: The Round Island sink and washing up centre; the RI pre-rinse dishwasher; freshly-caught RI dinner (major kudos to Aurelie); RI field station – kitchen, fridge, dining table, study, bedroom (for four); morning breakfast spot (whale scouting!); a friendly skink doing some boot inspection. The skinks are super friendly, particularly with your toes when you least suspect.

Continuing on, below is the RI kitchen (and dining room). We took it in turns to cook each night; and the ‘visitors’ took it in turns to bake cakes (although Sian was the Cake Queen and made 3!) Important rule on RI: visitors must make at least one cake during their stay.

Next up drinking, toilet and shower facilities, anticlockwise from top left: drinking water supplies – this comes from filtered rainwater; the RI shower; the RI toilet (compost); and, very important: the RI ‘bathroom door’ (occupied/vacant). Forgetting to change the sign to ‘occupied’ sure makes for an tense bathroom visit.

And we’ll end our cribs tour, with my bedroom:

I had some charming neighbours (e.g. bottom, second from left), who seemed to have the exact opposite sleep pattern to me, and enjoyed many a rowdy party. They do have some very cute children though.

My thumb is in this photo collage, because a particularly sassy adult petrel (seabird) gave me quite the nip whilst we were surveying them. Granted, if a giant came and picked me up I would probably do the same. I have definitely developed a love for them though. From them soaring overhead, turning so quickly it sounds like a race car, to their obnoxiously loud night time calls; their muddled waddle as you try to jump around them trying to get to your tent at night, and particularly their confused morning behaviour drowsily flying into rock faces.

Of course, I shouldn’t forget a mention of the other inhabitants of Round Island that I spent some time with. so.many.tortoises. (And check me out looking all cool and calm pulling the snake out of the bag):

It was an amazing week; safe to say I didn’t want to leave. I’ll leave you with a little piece of its serenity and beauty: soaring seabirds at sunset, from the summit.

P.S. yes, a cockroach did legitimately take quite a nibble out of my headphones. Nice huh?


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