The Lodge at World’s Edge
By Glynn Burridge
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.
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.
作者：Glynn Burridge 译者：李欢欢
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。
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。