It could be said that Abi came to the Seychelles via Australia, for it was on Ningaloo Reef that she first encountered a whale shark, ‘the best thing in the ocean’. She was in Australia between completing her BA in art and studying to be a secondary school teacher, and while learning to scuba dive she developed a love for the ocean. During the following years as a teacher she spent her evenings poring over marine-related books and documentaries and her holidays diving – and looking for whale sharks.
It was Abi’s enthusiasm for these giant, spotted sea creatures that first brought her to the Seychelles, as an intern on a whale shark-monitoring programme with the Marine Conservation Society Seychelles (MCSS). She worked another two seasons on the programme and then led three whale shark-monitoring expeditions in Djibouti before returning to university to study for an MSc. For her placement she set up the ‘Academy by the Sea’ in the Seychelles and developed this marine education programme over the next 18 months.
Five years after first setting foot in paradise, Abi feels very lucky to call the Seychelles home. Comprising approximately 115 islands in the Indian Ocean, the country relies heavily on marine resources – and they are at risk of serious depletion because they are not used sustainably and because the general public is not sufficiently aware of their importance. As Abi sees it, education is an essential tool in efforts to conserve the Seychelles’ marine environment and resources, and her skills as an educator and her knowledge of the ocean can help to make a difference in the country.
She now manages the SOSF Lekol Zil Sesel – Island School Seychelles marine education project. In the close-knit family community of the Seychelles, young people play an influential role on their parents and extended family members, and as their knowledge and interest develop they become the voice of marine conservation within their community.