Met some fabulous characters including a computer shy mule wrangler (or what I assumed to be a mule wrangler), and a delightful school librarian from California.
Marc Jean Baptiste, visiting from the Seychelles archipelago (off the coast of Kenya and north of Madagascar), gave a slide presentation about his home parks, also UNESCO World Heritage sites. He is currently the site manager for Valle de Mai, but has done work on the Aldabra Atoll as well. In fact he is the third person to visit the US through an exchange conducted by the UN. Other international visitors from parks around the globe have been to the Everglades and the Hawaiian Volcanoes.
40% of the whole country has “conservation status” which is a cool stat even though it’s small. I don’t know if the state of Hawaii can boast that. They may be about the same I’ll have to look that up. They also get 114.2 inches of rain a year and we think PDX pours! Economic stimulation comes through bread fruit, cassava, fisheries and tourism. I did ask Marc if they had a park librarian…they do not as such. Giant tortoises outnumber the human population with 85,000 residents and 100,000 turtles. Turtles had even greater numbers years ago, but the introduction of goats to the islands reduced the vegetation turtles rely on. The fact that Marc gave his talk on June 29th was significant since that was when the country obtained independence from Great Britain in 1976. Three languages have simultaneous official status: French, English, and Creole—but a completely different Creole than what you would hear in Louisiana. Arab seafarers and wanderers like Vasco de Gama noticed the islands, but there were no populations indigenous to the island. The French first colonized it, but power was wrested away by the Brits in 1903 under Victoria’s reign. The British Crown, it seems, had a habit of sending political prisoners to Seychelles as an “open prison.” When Marc flashed a picture of some people in a Paradise swimming hole, one of the members of the audience asked if those were the prisoners…
The Aldabra Atoll is the largest raised coral atoll in the world, a sunken volcano it has no fresh water, little soil and affords only three hours between low and high tide. Valle de Mai is home to acres of Coco de Mer, coconut trees with mythical status and risqué looking male and female tree parts. While it is obvious that Marc is thrilled about the opportunity to spread the news about his lovely home, they have 60,000 tourists a year while Grand Canyon alone has 5 billion. It’s one of those places on earth I’m happy hasn’t been “discovered” and overdeveloped. The Seychelles Island Foundation (their version of NPS) limits cruise ships to one per day and is working on mitigating the desire to accommodate tourists with the necessity of protecting parrots, colonies of flamingoes, nesting turtles and the like from the heavy tread of man. The tread is deep and grooved here at the canyon, pun intended.