Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Back from Mauritius.

I'm just back from Mauritius - the flight's twelve and a half hours each way, so we are feeling tired. But it is good to be home, even though we loved Mauritius and its neighbour island Rodrigues.   We travelled around a lot and saw so much, including some of the conservation work being done.

 I didn't blog much about this before I went (too busy, too nervous).  But all this is part of my research for a book about Gerald Durrell and Mauritius.  The island meant a lot to him and the intervention he planned with huge care thirty five years ago has been quietly developing and flourishing.

One result is the saving of five species of birds, birds so close to extinction that they were down to 12 or fewer individuals. There are other notable successes too, which make Mauritius a pretty remarkable story. 

Anyway, I talked to many people in Mauritius, went into protected wildlife areas and had some memorable experiences, like being in the middle of the forest surrounded by some of the birds that everyone thought would be extinct by now.  These are two pink pigeons...

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and these are echo parakeets, the only native parrots left in the whole of this section of the Indian Ocean. They are a cousin of the Indian green parakeet but quite different from them in many ways. 


Part of the rescue strategy for these birds is to release them into the wild, and also supplement their diet while their numbers continue to build. This keeps them wild but gives them the best chance to reproduce and thrive.   A bit like we feed birds in the garden, I suppose.   

Apart from having several expeditions with naturalists, exploring the island and meeting up with some old friends who live on Mauritius, we also visited Rodrigues island. You reach Rodrigues by a small turbo prop plane which buzzes over the ocean for an hour and a half,  finally landing at an airport where very free range chickens roam about.


Rodrigues is part of Mauritius but has its own assembly, a bit like Scotland or Wales in relation to England. It is said by many mainland Mauritians that Rodrigues is like Mauritius was 30 years ago, laid back, easy going and unsophisticated.  Most of the population is descended from African slaves, and they're noticeably charming, friendly and public spirited compared with almost anywhere else I've been.  And although they might not be considered sophisticated, they certainly seem to have their heads screwed on about looking after their very special island. So far they've stood out against the building of luxury hotels and resorts, they've rejected the polluting fish farms that are now being planned in mainland Mauritius.

It was clean, it was safe and many of the local people live in traditional ways. Here are some of them gathering seaweed to use as fertiliser.  The time was 7 AM, and they were already hard at work before it got too hot.  Since Mauritius is in the tropics, by 11 AM the sun is directly overhead and anyone with any sense then goes home. 


 Now, back in London in November, it's time for me to start transcribing some of my interviews, preparing for more interviews (in Jersey and the West of England early next year) and also get down some of my personal impressions of Mauritius and Rodrigues before I forget.

52 comments:

  1. It looks like a fascinating project for you.

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    1. Yes, and I hope it will also interest other people when it is done.

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  2. What a beautiful and exotic place to visit! I did not know of Mauritius and after reading your post, I looked it up on Google. Saving species and keeping their environment true to its natural beauty and not allowing resort building is lovely to read. It could probably bring more money to them, but so much more is lost. Good for them.

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    1. Mauritius must be about on the other side of the world to you, like Australia is to us. Am I right?

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  3. Interesting, I didn't know he was involved with Mauritius.

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  4. Ah...that water! Reminds me of the water surrounding my beloved Cozumel off the Yucatan peninsula. I love that you are following in the footsteps of Gerald Durrell. I wish you the very best of luck in the project and I thank you for the beautiful pictures.

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    1. Cozumel sounds so romantic. There is a poem about it which you've made me want to find now. Thank you for your encouraging words!

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  5. Absolutely love that final photograph, along with the one of the green parakeets, Oh to be there now that my part of the UK is threatened with snow.

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    1. It certainly is a different climate. For a couple of days after my return I kept waking and wondering why I was cold! I'm glad you like the photos, Valerie.

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  6. Oh Jenny, I'm so glad to read your post! It really looks beautiful and how lucky you were to be able to see those birds up close and personal. Plus, the whole feeling of it is good. I can see why you are so enthused about the topic -- it's very inspiring, particularly in today's world of waste and excess. And the photos are lovely!

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    1. Thanks Jeanie, I know I told you a bit about it when you were here. I am usually a bit superstitious about talking too much before I actually get my feet on the ground and I am glad you liked the photos.

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  7. I'm so glad that this is all coming together for you, Jenny. Very best wishes for all the hard work to come.

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    1. Thank you, I am glad too. If I think too far ahead about it I get a bit scared, so many hills to scale before I have got anywhere, but it's an interesting journey.

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  8. Hello, Jenny!
    You're back, have a lot of impressions. Your photos get me to feel heat, especially the last one. Lovely birds, I've seen similar birds in Dominican republic. Hopefully it was nice to return to UK climate after a tropic island.

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    1. I would love to go to the Domincan Republic!! did you ever post about it? Let me know if so and I will be interested to read the posts.

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  9. Good gracious those Durrells certainly got around the globe. I recall coming across the home of Lawrence Durrell whilst staying in the Turkish section of Cyprus, and it was where he wrote Bitter Lemons.
    Your research certainly takes you to some beautiful and exotic locations.
    Those echo parakeets look very similar to the ones we saw in Sri Lanka but I suspect that they must have been Indian parakeets

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    1. I do think they were very well travelled people. Gerry told me that his ambition was to return to his birthplace in India. He had visited India but never got a chance to know the area round where he lived, yet he did have memories of it from when he was small. I don't think he ever managed to make that particular trip.

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  10. Hello Jenny, I hope that you will tell us more about Mauritius and your experiences there. I always marvel at places so exotic and different. I have lived in Taiwan for years and yet I never cease to be amazed at how different this is from Ohio!
    --Jim

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    1. Thank you. I think Taiwan sounds interesting and unusual and keep hoping you will post some more in your blog.

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  11. Hi Jenny, it was extremely interesting reading of this latest trip.
    What a good feeling it must have been for you to go into those protected areas and see the work that is being done and successes achieved.
    I loved seeing your photographs too, had a chuckle at the very free range chickens. It's always eye-opening seeing local peoples' traditional ways, that seaweed would be so good for the garden.
    All the best Jenny, this will have added greatly to your research for your book. Cheers and thanks for your post :D)

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    1. Thanks, Sue. I must say those chickens got into all kinds of places!

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  12. Oh wow! Fascinating! Would love to hear even more. :)

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  13. Welcome home! It sounds like quite a trip, i hope you recover quickly and get all of the rest of the info you need for your book.

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    1. Thank you! I hope so too, a pile of work awaits...

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  14. Beautiful photographs!
    That is along flight for sure.

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    1. I hate long flights, but it is usually worth it to see somewhere utterly different.

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  15. What an intriguing place to visit - especially at this time of year when winter is approaching in many places. I love the pink pigeons....and those echo parakeets remind me of an African Senegal parrot that I had long ago (except the Senegal parrots have a bright orange breast).
    The chickens at the airport are funny!

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    1. I do like parrots. I believe they are among the most intelligent birds, as are crows. But somehow the idea of having a pet crow does not seem very appealing, and also crows can't talk. There were a lot of Indian mynah birds there too, and they had a rather appealing air to them, if you like swaggering ruffians ! :)

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  16. Wonderful! Takes us right out of our gray lives and into the sunshine.
    I am glad these folks have resisted large hotels and keep their home simple yet sustainable. I hope they can survive.
    For you it must have been wonderful surrounded by the wildlife, walking in the 'jungle' and seeing the sights. Well worth going.
    Have fun transcribing the interviews!

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    1. I think that having bright colours around you a lot of the time does affect ones general feelings about life. I would not call transcribing the interveiws "fun" to be really really honest... but it is very interesting as it makes me repeat the conversations word for word, in real time, nd so that fixes a lot more in my mind than if I'd just read transcriptions done by someone else.

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  17. As I do not know much about Mauritius, I found this particularly interesting, especially Rodrigues - I knew next to nothing about the place.
    How different life seems there, compared to how and where I spend my days! Very exotic, and I bet they would not swap with me for all the riches in the world!

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    1. They do seem very patriotic about their island, but Germany is also very nice. It is so hard to compare different places and who knows, maybe Germany and Britain seem very exotic to them! We have a lot of culture.

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  18. It seems almost impossible these days to imagine that an island would eschew modern commercialism as a way of growing the economy (Rodrigues Island). I know nothing of the economy of either Island but I would hazard a guess that providing there is no inherent poverty it is better to be adequately (if only just) remunerated and rewarded for one's work for ones self than be working for a hotel magnate for little reward. I'm sure that lots of others will comment on how wonderful the conservation efforts are.

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    1. Some are actually quite poor but they do a lot of bartering, and seem very rooted on their island, in that I detected a lot of pride in it. But still, I didn't speak to any of the people who were very poor, so I might not be reading them correctly.

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  19. I have a white parrot when I was kid.
    thank you for sharing beautiful photos.
    have a great day

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    1. They are very intelligent birds. I always wanted one when I was young, I wanted to teach it to talk.

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  20. This is wonderful post dear Jenny!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I thoroughly enjoyed the very beautiful photos you shared here and details about Rodrigue a neighboring island .

    i know about Gerald through t.v and magazines ,he is truly a savior of some beautiful wild life !

    We have green parrots here in abundance though you said those are different in some ways from our's ,they learn to talk so fast as my mom used to have chat with them when she had pair of them as pet ,

    I am impressed by the attitude of people of Rodrigues who want to keep their natural environment safe and untouched .

    Sun brings activation to life and i can see this in your last image :)

    Best of luck for the interview and other tasks my friend!

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    1. I think the parrots are similar to the Indian green parrots but a different species. Sunshine brightens all the colours doesn't it!

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  21. Enjoy your reflecting - I’m just back from Sri Lanka - so know just how hard it can be to think straight when you’re this tired!

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  22. Rodrigues sounds like a very civilised place. Glad they've resisted the modern trend to pander to tourism with loads of high-rise hotels and fancy resorts. If only some other once-lovely spots had had the same common sense.

    The echo parakeets are beautiful. They look as if they're having an earnest conversation about something!

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    1. Yes, they do look as if they are having a gossip. And yes, Rodrigues was a very pleasant place to be, the people really were pretty nice.

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  23. Thank you for sharing those interesting birds. It would be exciting to visit such places.
    I think the rescue strategy you mentioned about those birds,it is a great work. I wonder how would flight with a small turbo prop I had never experienced!!
    Have a good weekend,Jenny.

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    1. Flying in a little turbo prop is okay, but much slower I think, it takes an hour and a half to get to Rodrigues from Mauritius and it is only 200 KM!

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  24. Oh, wow, sounds like you've embarked on a fantastic project ... so timely and potentially eyeopening considering the latest reports on climate change. Marvelous!

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    1. I hope so, it's proving to be very interesting!

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  25. Lovely. I've never been there, but the last photo reminds me of Zanzibar.

    Very cool about the conservation efforts for the pink pigeons.

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    1. I've never been to Zanzibar but I have seen pictures and it looks wonderful.

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  26. Twelve and a half hours’one way flight is like coming to Japan. I checked to know that the total flight duration from Japan to Mauritius is 13 hours, 43 minutes. You must have felt wondrous sensation seeing the birds that are thought to be extinct in person. Pink pigeons are gorgeous and echo parakeets are camouflaged in the green.

    Yoko

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