National Geographic : 2016 Mar
REturn of the seychelles 101 take them snorkeling and on field trips to show that we have a fragile ecosystem and must look after it for the next generation.” Some older Seychellois have been walking the restoration road for a while. On the granite slabs of Mahé, park ranger Terence Valentin, a Rastafarian who wears a T-shirt on his head to contain a mass of dreadlocks, told me: “I’m 19 years with the environment, brother. Ya, man, I am connected to the Earth!” On Aldabra, the staff live that connection daily, on sea, on land, even inside their homes. Sunbirds build their nests on light fittings and shower rails, and steal the occasional necklace to decorate the nests. One giant tortoise that lives near the scientific station has figured out how to clamber up the steps for a drink of water. Aldabra has more tortoises than Seychelles has people. Everything about these behemoths seems ancient, even the sound of their move- ments, which is like the creak of a leather sad- dle. Endemic birds called drongos hitch rides on their backs, watching for insects disturbed by the giants’ lumbering passage. At night I lis- tened to the sea breathing in the rocks and the tortoises snoring under the floorboards. “This place changes your life,” Jude Brice, a boat skip- per, said. “ You see things differently.” On a hillside in Victoria, Mahé’s historic center, stands an unusual church clock that chimes twice—once on the hour, then again a few minutes later. I think of it as a metaphor for Seychelles: a second chime for a second chance, ringing out the rescue of robins, bee- tles, pitcher plants, and palms, a celebration of nature restored. j Watch a video featuring Seychelles’ native animals and the people working to protect them at ngm.com/ more. Explore National Geographic’s yearlong parks initiative at natgeo.com/parks. High tide in Aldabra lagoon finds green turtles grazing on sea grass. Here and on other Seychelles islands, exploitation by humans has given way to admiration and a desire to protect and restore.