Bird Island

The Lodge at World’s Edge

                                                      By Glynn Burridge

 2014-06-15 13.47.51

I first came to Bird Island in 1978, shortly after settling in Seychelles and, immediately, was captured by its astonishing beauty which has remained for me the benchmark against which I have judged the many islands of the archipelago I have visited since

Today, 36 years later, I am visiting again, as I have many times over the intervening years and it is as clear to me as ever that Seychelles’ islands, in the context of a planet which is sadly becoming grimier by the day, are increasingly special for the beauty, tranquillity and lifestyle they continue to offer. If this is the case, then among them, Bird Island is truly unique.

Bird’s uniqueness has many facets and one of them is its size. Where the sheer mass of many islands makes them difficult to navigate, and so enjoy, Bird comes in one delicious, bite-sized chunk, that you can walk around in about an hour, savouring every aspect of its beauty as you do so: raw nature at its best; shimmering sands of world-ranking beaches rolling into a sapphire ocean; sublime swimming and snorkelling; a lush interior criss-crossed by meandering, leafy, island pathways and, of course, if you turn up at the right time of year, the spectacular experience of one of the most important seabird colonies on earth – to the tune of close to a million nesting Sooty Terns.

Perched on the northernmost tip of the Seychelles plateau where the ocean floor slips away to a depth of 2000 metres, Bird Island’s history is equally spectacular. First sighted by the master of the Eagle cruiser in 1771, he remarked on the great number of birds and also Dugongs or sea cows which gave Bird its early name of Ile aux Vaches. Bird’s next encounter with the outside world came in 1808, when the French privateer, Hirondelle, with 100 passengers aboard en route from the Red Sea became wrecked on the island’s north-east coast. The survivors lived on the island for 22 days before sailing to Mahe, 100 miles distant, on a makeshift raft. The end of that century saw the island used as a base for salting fish and birds and also for the mining of phosphate which, at one point, saw the island population swell to around 100 people. One particularly intriguing story is of two Savy brothers who went to Bird in the late 19th century to harvest bird eggs. They experienced a problem with their boat which broke down and they drifted to the shore of the Arabian Peninsula where they became separated, with one brother being enslaved for a time by the Bedouin. They both eventually made it back to Seychelles, one arriving shortly after the other.

By the mid-1950′s human activity on the island had greatly damaged the environment and caused the bird population to plummet from over a million to only 65000 pairs and it was only after the island was sold to its present owner in 1967 that the task of winning back the island was commenced, largely through a sensitive and broad conservation programme and by opening the island to ‘gentle’ tourism.

 Today, the island’s 26 chalets remain a firm favourite with tourists in search of a’ genuine ecotourism experience’ for which the island was named as 7th best destination in the world by the BBC Wildlife Magazine in 2006, alongside numerous, top, international awards.

Uniqueness remains at the very heart of Bird Island’s appeal. Against a backdrop of islands surrendering their timeless beauty, character and very identity to accommodate levels of development that can only be described as deforming, Bird has stuck to its guns and to a simple formula which, after 40 years, is still working. Its evolution into a soulful and much sought-after eco-tourism product has been guided by the same conservationist principle that was adopted at the very beginning of its journey: the requirements of the island and its nature come first. They are king here and everything else follows suit.

This is another unique facet of Bird: that there is a well-studied and very practical philosophy at work here that guides it and steers it clear of the temptation to succumb to the latest fad or trade in its very soul to appease some trending consumer expectation of what the island should offer its clientele.

Another great attribute of Bird is the continuity that it has been blessed with for nearly half a century. In a world where nothing seems to last for long, Guy Savy has been guiding Bird since he purchased the island in 1967 and remains very much at the wheel today, surrounded by a team several of whom have been with him since the very beginning. This continuity has provided the island with a very particular identity, most refreshing in this changeling world of ours, and one that is unmistakably Creole. Where so many other hotels have gone the route of employing the foreign worker, Bird employs only Seychellois and all aspects of life on Bird have a distinctly Creole flavour. Bird is the embodiment of Creole-ness and of the time-honoured traditions of the Ilois, or island settler, dating back to the earliest days of settlement. Sadly, today, it is arguably the last place where the Creole way of life in an old-time island community can still be experienced.

And yet the island is not content to live in the past and the management is even now tweaking its formula to cater for, but not be governed by, modernity. Ingenious, low-tech methods of waste disposal are being looked at the same time that the island farm is being revamped to supply the lodge with fresh produce. A major reorganisation of the kitchen is also underway to streamline food preparation and broaden its culinary traditions of offering the very best food harvested from nature. The island is even resuming the extraction of coconut oil in response to the rediscovery of the medicinal benefits of the coconut.

As its very name suggests, Bird Island’s wildlife remains one of its main attractions and one that is going from strength to strength with the Sooty Tern population rising from a mere 20,000 pairs in 1967 to almost a million today. The island is even pioneering the use of GPS locators on certain of the Sooty Terns and the data from this experiment will greatly assist in our understanding of the movements of this extraordinary species which lives its life almost entirely on the wing. There are also significant populations of Fairy Terns, Common and Lesser Noddies and Tropic Birds and recent years have seen the introduction of the magnificent Blue Pigeon and Sunbird, adding to Bird’s impressive kaleidoscope of bird life.

In the waters surrounding the island, turtles are everywhere and visitors are able to swim with both the Green and Hawksbill varieties inside the reef which was not the case 40 years ago, helped along by a conservation programme which identifies and secures turtle nests, so ensuring a greater survival rate among hatchlings.

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Forty years on, Bird Island continues to evolve along its own special path that has already rescued its previously damaged ecosystem and set it on the road to full recovery. Today, the island enjoys a popular following among nature lovers the world over and an enviably high percentage of returning guests in search of one of the planet’s purest experiences of nature.

Yet Bird has preserved far more than just its ecology. Here at the world’s edge, where life is still governed by the rhythms of nature, an entire way of life has been preserved: that of the Seychellois Islander and the true soul of traditional, Seychellois island living.

Bird from the sea

寄宿在世界边缘

作者:Glynn Burridge   译者:李欢欢

 

第一次来鸟岛是在1978年,是我在塞舌尔定居后不久,即刻,我就被它惊人的美丽所俘虏,而这也为我之后到访过的群岛上的很多岛屿保留了一个评判标准。

 

今天,36年之后,我再次到访,如同过去的很多年里我清晰地认为的一样,塞舌尔的岛屿,在如今全球正悲哀地变得越来越肮脏的情况下,因为它们的美,静谧和持续提供的生活方式而变得日渐特别。若是这样,那么在这些岛屿里,鸟岛是不折不扣的独一无二。

 

鸟岛的独一无二有很多方面,其中之一就是它的大小。很多岛屿都因为他们过于庞大而使人们很难巡岛,但很享受的是,鸟岛像一小块口中美味,你能在大约一个小时绕岛一圈来品尝它美的各个方面:最原始的自然,世界级海滩上闪耀的沙子延伸到蓝宝石般的海洋,超群的游泳和浮潜体验,岛内郁葱,被曲折、繁茂的岛屿小径纵横交错,当然,如果您在一年中合适的时候前来,您将体验壮观的,地球上最重要的海鸟栖息地-接近数以百万计的乌燕鸥一起筑巢。

 

位于塞舌尔高地的最北端,这里大洋底落入到2000米深,鸟岛的历史同样地引人入胜。1771年首次被鹰巡洋舰主看到,他首先对大量的鸟、儒艮或海牛做出了评论,这些给了鸟岛如“牛岛”这样的早期名字。鸟岛接下来和外界的接触是在1808年,当时法国海盗 Hirondell 和从红海登船的100名乘客在岛屿的东北部海岸失事。幸存者在驶入马埃岛前在岛屿上住了22天,100英里远,在一个临时木筏上。在那个世纪末,鸟岛被用作咸鱼场和鸟场,也用作磷酸盐矿,一度,岛屿人口膨胀至100人。一个特别有趣的故事是两个萨维兄弟在19世纪晚期来到鸟岛采集鸟蛋。他们经历了船只发生故障的难题,然后漂流到阿拉伯半岛海岸,在此,他们分开,其中一个兄弟被贝多因人奴役了一段时间。最后,两人又回到了塞舌尔,其中一个在另一个到达不久后到达。

 

到1950年代中期,岛屿上的人类活动极大地破坏了环境,这导致鸟的数量从超过1百万骤减到仅仅65000对。只有在1976年岛屿售卖给现在的主人之后,恢复岛屿的任务才开始,主要措施是通过一个敏感宽广的保护计划和让岛屿开放“温和的”旅游业。

 

今天,当游客搜寻“真正的生态体验”时,岛屿的26个小木屋仍是他们的最爱,鸟岛也因此在2006年被BBC野生动植物杂志命名为“世界7大最好目的地”,以及很多国际大奖。

 

独特停留在鸟岛呼吁着的内心深处。很到岛屿放弃它们永恒的美,性格和身份来适应只能被描述成畸形的社会发展水平,而鸟岛和这个背景背道而驰,它始终坚持自己简约的风格,40年之后,依然可行。它进化成为了一个灵魂上受欢迎的生态旅游产品,事实上从进化旅程一开始,它就采用了不变的环保主义者的原则:岛屿的需要和其自然是首要的。这才是王道,其他的一切都要照这个原则来做。

 

这里是鸟岛独特的另一面:工作的时候,有一个被充分研究过的实用哲学指引着它,带领着它在灵魂深处远离那些屈服最时尚和交易的诱惑,

平息认为岛屿应该提供给客人这样或那样东西的消费预期的趋势。

 

鸟岛的另一个伟大的特质是将近半个世纪赐予它的连续性。在一个没有什么似乎能够长久的世界,Guy Savy 从他在1967年购买下这个岛屿到今天,就和他的团队一直管理鸟岛,团队里的几个人从最初就跟随着他。这个持续性给予了岛屿特别的身份,这在我们现在这个世界令人振奋,其中之一就是克里奥。很多酒店都走上了雇佣外籍劳工的道路,鸟岛只雇佣塞舌尔人并且岛上生活的各个方面都有明显的克里奥味道。鸟岛是克里奥特质和古老传统的岛民生活的体现,或者说叫岛屿定居者,那种追溯到最早期的殖民。令人悲哀的是,今天,它是可论证的最后一个地方,一个古老的岛屿群落里的克里奥式生活仍然能够被体验到的地方。

 

 

然而,鸟岛并不满足于只生活在过去,管理层正在对它的形式做出调整来迎合现代性,但并不被现代性所左右。有独创性的,低科技含量的废物处理方法正在被考虑,同时岛屿农场也正在被改进,为住所提供生鲜的农产品。厨房也在进行一个大的重组,从而使食物流线化准备,并能拓宽传统烹饪的范围,提供从自然获取的食材所做成的最好的食物。作为对重新发现了椰子的药用价值的回应,岛屿甚至正在重新开始椰子油压榨。

 

 

就如同它的名字所暗示的,鸟岛的野生动植物仍然是最大的亮点,其中乌燕鸥的数量不断壮大,从1976年仅有的20,000对增加到今天的几乎一百万。岛屿甚至也正在开创把GPS定位器用于某些乌燕鸥,从这个实验得到的数据将极大地有助于我们了解这个几乎都靠翅膀度过一生的非凡物种的运动。也有大量的燕鸥仙,常见的和较小的燕鸥和热带鸟,并且近些年也看到有美丽的蓝鸽和太阳鸟的引进,这为鸟岛壮观的万花筒般的鸟类增色很多。

 

在岛屿四周的海水里,海龟随处可见,游客能够跟礁石里的各种绿海龟和玳瑁一起游泳,而这在40年前并不是这样,这是通过一个保护计划来帮助实现的,从而能够识别和保证海龟筑巢,确保孵化的存活率更高。

四十年了,鸟岛持续沿着自己独特的道路演变,这挽救了曾经受伤的生态系统,并走在完全恢复的路上。今天,鸟岛享受着世界各地自然爱好者的追随,令人羡慕的是,寻找星球上最纯的自然体验的回头客比率很高。

 

然而,鸟岛保护的远不只是它的生态。在这儿,世界的边缘,生命依然受控于自然的节奏,生活方式的全部都受到保护:塞舌尔岛民,真正传统的灵魂,塞舌尔的岛屿生活。