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Would you take up this challenge?


“The opportunity to spend two years working as nature reserve wardens for the Island Conservation Society on Aride Island, Seychelles, ………… first appeared in an email. For three years, it remained nothing more than a dream. I kept the message in my inbox, just in case, opening up the advert once in a while and imagining what it would be like. Never did I think it would ever become a reality.”


So begins Sally Mills’ latest book about Aride Island, following and complementing, just a year on, the publication of her wonderful memoir ‘Island to Island - From Somerset to Seychelles’… and yes, it did become a reality.


This latest book is presented as a photograph collection, encompassing the beauty of the breath-taking land (and sea) scape, capturing the everyday existence of the abundant wildlife and telling the story of the numerous challenges, which Sally and her partner, Melvyn, encountered, when looking after this exquisite, granitic chunk of tropical paradise.

Many of the photographs are simply entrancing. They introduce us to a magical array of Aride’s wildlife inhabitants as in the chapter Living with Skinks - at least one skink per square metre of island, the endearing and descriptively-named blue-cheeked bee-eater (bird) in the chapter Wailing Wedgetails and Nodding Noddies and, my six-year-old granddaughter’s favourite chapter, Bulldozers on the Beach, featuring distinctive hawksbill turtles and their much bigger, even more impressive and beautiful cousins, green turtles. So much to see here, so much to learn.


Intermingled are photographs, which portray perfectly the challenges of and adjustments to island life in the middle of the Indian Ocean: the only running water provided by heavy rain (no taps here), evening meal-cooking by the light of a head-torch - thanks to generator failure… and the well-nigh-impossible launching of boats through the surf during the southeast monsoon.


Just in case we are lulled into thinking of this beautiful island as a tropical idyll, the darker side is also here: a much too close and far too scary encounter with illegal octopus-hunters by day and the nerve-wracking patrolling for poachers of sooty tern eggs on the island by night.


I first met Sally many years ago, when my class and I were privileged to be involved in a large-scale conservation project at Ham Wall Reserve on the Somerset Levels. Sally (RSPB) and Melvyn (English Nature) gave my lively and eager pupils the opportunity to sow, grow and plant reeds to form part of an extensive and natural reedbed, now happy home to a wealth of bird and animal life.


Sally and Melvyn have not only been instrumental in conserving the wildlife of our native local reserves but have also clearly risen to the challenges of conservation work on Aride Island, improving conditions for wildlife – including some of the rarest animals on the planet – as well as for future nature reserve wardens and for the many visitors to the island.

And so, these beautiful and compelling photographs leave us with a long-lasting impression. One can almost hear the crashing of surf on Aride Island’s south-facing beach and the cries of thousands of sea-birds - frigates and terns, from the viewpoint high up on Aride’s rocky hilltop.


Although the captions throughout this photograph collection provide us with much fascinating detail, it is invariably Sally’s excellent imagery which “speaks a thousand words”.


Thank you, Sally. Thank you, once again, for caring for this precious island and nurturing its precious wildlife… and thank you also for sharing your extraordinary time there, through these stunning photographs, with us, your readers.

Sheila Hamilton

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