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Aldabra Diary

Extracts of this diary were published in Discover Africa (October 1998)

Copyright FutureWorld and Wolfgang E. Grulke, July 1997 - All Rights Reserved

 

Monday: The Settlement and a walk with sharks

Tuesday: Johnny’s Channel and birds in the mangroves

Wednesday: Channel surfing

Thursday: Red Book Day

Friday: Cosmoledo - Booby prize on West North Island

Saturday: Astove Island - Traces of Man and wall-to-wall friends

Sunday: Assumption Island - after the guano, the rockcods and the first human

 

The Aldabra Group includes some of the last virgin islands in the world whose terrestrial and marine environments represent an almost untouched ecosystem. It remains the only refuge of the Indian Ocean giant land tortoise in the wild. Aldabra itself is the only one of the western Indian Ocean's elevated coral atolls that has not been exploited for guano due to its formidable natural defences against all but the most determined visitors.

(Map of Aldabra, Assumption, Astove and Cosmoledo)

The Aldabra group consists of four main island clusters (see map above). These limestone islands are named Aldabra, Assumption (the westerly group), Cosmoledo and Astove (the easterly group). The maximum elevation is not much more than 10 metres above sea level and they are located between Madagascar and the main Seychelles islands. Aldabra is 1150 km south of Victoria, the capital of the Seychelles Islands, on the island of Mahe. It is closer to Africa (640 km) and Madagascar (400 km) than to its own capital.

The islands are of volcanic origin and are estimated to have risen out of the sea only 50 000 years ago, a mere moment in geological terms, and all life has arrived or evolved here since. The atolls rise from ocean depths of more than 4000 metres suddenly, as if from nowhere. These steep ocean walls provide some wonderful opportunities for divers, especially on the Astove atoll.

Its geological youth, remoteness and the unique fauna have earned Aldabra the name 'Galapagos of the Indian Ocean'. The United Nations has proclaimed Aldabra a World Heritage Site. It is managed by the Seychelles Islands Foundation (SIF), which is sponsored by the Royal Society and the Smithsonian amongst others. The atoll is virtually off limits to visitors unless special permission is granted through the SIF.

The Aldabra atoll is the world's largest raised coral atoll and is made up of a chain of more than a dozen islets. Together they are about 35 km wide and enclose a huge tidal lagoon so large that Manhattan could fit comfortably into it. The land itself is so low that King Kong could easily step over it. Its shoreline is mainly fossilised coral limestone undercut by the relentless wave action. When you look around from the centre of the lagoon at high tide you get the impression of being out in the middle of a very calm ocean. At low tide more than 80% of the area of this lagoon is completely dry. Water covering almost 100 square kilometres has to drain every low tide and re-enter with every high tide.

The islets of Aldabra are separated by deep narrow channels which form the only way that water can enter or exit the lagoon with the tides. Within these channels lie many mushroom-shaped coral outcrops undercut and shaped by the constant erosion of the tides rushing in and out twice a day.

The main channel into the lagoon (the Grand Passé) resembles a large river flowing out to sea, except for the fact that it flows inland about half the time! The main channel is actually a branching network of channels extending 6 km into the lagoon at an average depth of about 20 metres. About 60% of the volume of water in the lagoon drains out through this one channel. At the peak flow at ebb tides the water has been measured flowing through here at more than 6 knots, breathtaking when you're in its flow!

The uplifted reefs that make up terrestrial Aldabra consist of solid and partially fossilised corals which have been raised several metres above sea level. Primarily, the ground is hard coralline limestone eroded by the sea and rain to form sharp-edged potholes. There is little or no soil. What soil there is is derived from guano, coral and other marine detritus. Vegetation on the eroded and severely pock-marked surface of Aldabra is alternately sparse and so thick with scrub that a man can be lost in it within a few steps. It supports a unique flora and fauna that includes more than 150 000 giant tortoises.

These are islands of tortoises and turtles; endemic birds, giant crabs and fruit bats; dolphins and rays; turquoise seas and brilliantly beautiful marine creatures of every persuasion....and the almost complete absence of man.

"It may be one of the ends of the earth writers have in mind when they use that cliché" Athol Thomas

 

Monday: The Settlement and a walk with sharks

From here the white coral sand beach looks just like that on any tropical island. Sparkling turquoise water, palm trees and brilliant sunshine complete the picture. But something’s wrong! Where are the tourists? Where are the tropical cocktails? This is not your typical tropical island, it’s Aldabra, about as far from the tourist beat as you can get. The beach too is misleading. It’s one of the few expanses of sand along a coastline of more than 100 kilometre. The rest is craggy inhospitable raised coral that has been eroded into sharp spikes by the relentless sea. That’s probably why ‘The Settlement’ is exactly here – and that’s where we’re going this morning.

Calling this ‘The settlement’ is putting too fine a word on it. The last time I was here, five years ago, it was nothing more than a cluster of extremely weather-beaten tin shacks that were home to the island manager and his few staff. Now many of the shacks have been replaced by wooden huts (thanks to an international grant). Although the Sonimanga sunbird and the Aldabran fody still flit through the palms that fringe the beach and the giant tortoises still clip the vegetation around the settlement to the state of a brush-cut lawn the quality of life for the few residents and the odd visiting scientist has improved substantially.

I remember that during the day the settlement was dominated by huge water storage tanks for capturing the rain water that is the only source of fresh water for the island. At night my dominant memory is of the robber crabs that swarmed over everything in their persistent search for anything edible. In that sense nothing had changed.

The island also has a new manager, Patrick, who has been working on the island for 9 years – surely one for the record books. In fact, today is Patrick’s Day, not this Patrick, but St. Patrick. When we woke this morning I saw that the dramatic clouds above the Aldabra lagoon were tinged underneath with a deep green. I knew this was in celebration of something!

The reason for the unusual green colour is in fact due to the reflection from the greenish water in the lagoon and it is said to be one possible source of Aldabra’s common name. Aldabra was first mentioned on maps in 1511 and referred to as Ilha Dara and Alhadra. The name seems to have been a corruption of the Arabic word 'Al Khadra' meaning 'the green'. The first recorded sighting of Aldabra was by Captain Lazare Picault and Captain Jean Grossin in 1742 (during the voyage which discovered the Seychelles). They reported that its large lagoon produced a green reflection in the sky above the atoll that they could see for many miles out to sea. So it was today.

Today our second objective was to walk through the shallows of the lagoon at low tide. We chose an area of the lagoon just inside the West Channel. Here the water was extremely shallow at low tide and we would quite likely come across all sorts of marine creatures trapped in the shallows by the retreating tide.

Although in many areas the water didn’t even come up to our knees occasionally we would come across deeper areas where it was easy to observe the marine life at close quarters. In these pools various species of anemone played host to a variety of shrimps including the peculiar popcorn shrimp that seems to be carrying a single puff of popcorn on its back! Juvenile angelfish and small rays darted everywhere. Schools of triggerfish fed in water far too shallow to accommodate their deep bodies and at times the water was a flurry of small triangular fins thrashing through the surface of the water.

And then of course there were those fins of a slightly more ominous nature slicing through the water! Imagine the situation: walking through a bed of turtle grass in water about 30cm deep when suddenly four or five fins emerge from the water around you and start heading towards you. Thankfully when the fins came within a metre or two I realised that these small black-tipped reef sharks (one to one and a half metres in length) were not interested in my legs at all but appeared to be feeding selectively on schools of small fish! To the sharks my legs must have appeared like hairy mangrove trunks – (hopefully) not very appetising. The sharks came so close that I ended up having to use a wide angle lens on my camera to photograph these sharks fishing in the waters around my legs!

Despite the fact that there was never any fear involved in this crazy encounter I must say I am quite relieved to be on dry land writing this!

 

 

Tuesday: Johnny’s Channel and birds in the mangroves

Whatever else they are, the Aldabra atolls are a haven for sea birds. When we approached the Aldabra atolls from the sea we noticed the boobies fishing before we saw the atolls themselves. The first thing that struck us was that avian bullies follow the boobies wherever they go – the large dark frigate birds. They appear almost like elegant vampires – much larger and, as you might expect of such ‘evil’ creatures, are dressed in black.

The boobies are articulate hunters and determined swimmers. The frigate birds on the other hand are not! They are great flyers but can’t swim at all and cannot even get wet! If they do land on the water their feathers get soaked and they cannot fly again. Doomed – they await their inevitable fate. If you live off fish but you can’t go near the water, how do you feed?

The frigatebirds and boobies have developed a very successful symbiotic relationship. The boobies catch enough fish for the frigatebirds and for their own families.

Seeing this process at work, I must say it does not appear totally voluntary on the part of the boobies. When, having fished, a booby emerges from the water it is often confronted by an aggressive bully – the swooping frigatebird. Frightened, the booby disgorges its fish in mid-air. The frigatebird exhibiting all of its brilliant flying skills catches the ‘booby prize’ before it hits the water. The booby itself soon returns to the fishing chore.

The boobies are a spectacular part of the Aldabra environment. Their day-to-life is in itself a story of pathos, triumph over adversity and a spectacular example of coexistence. Today we visited the largest of the sea bird colonies on Aldabra, in the huge mangrove forests just inside the lagoon through Johnny’s Channel.

Here the frigatebirds and boobies nest side by side on the mangroves. In fact Aldabra is the only breeding location for the greater and lesser frigatebirds in the Indian Ocean.

Today we took a small inflatable boat through the brilliant blue shallows of Johnny’s Channel (I believe the name is a corruption of Gionnet) and drifted quietly past the mushroom islands of spiky raised coral. Further inside the lagoon these barren islands are surrounded by mangroves and on their surface the guano and marine detritus had provided a base for rough vegetation to develop. On almost every available branch boobies and frigatebirds rested and nested together, so different to their adversarial attitudes out at sea. In the cool shadows under the arching mangrove branches egrets and herons hunted for tropical fish and invertebrates. In the water schools of triggerfish and parrotfish fed above the coral rubble ground up by the constant flow of the tides rushing in and out of the lagoon. The occasional sting ray dashed silently beneath the boat. A slight tip of its wing emerging from the water often the only evidence of its presence.

We turned the boat out towards the middle of the lagoon. We anchored away from the busy birds and had a few cocktails while we watched the sun set on this spectacular scene. Above us storm clouds were gathering. The black frigatebirds looked ominous against the dark clouds. A champignon or ‘mushroom island’, in a way the trademark of Aldabra, was silhouetted perfectly against the deep red of the setting sun. It was perfectly still. Life was good.

 

 

Wednesday: Channel surfing

It rained all night. It was really difficult to get into our wet wetsuits for the early morning dive. This was to be a dive on the incoming tide in East Channel, one of the four main channels through which tidal flows enter and leave the Aldabra lagoon. The dive plan was simple: catch the end of the in-going tide, drift gently along the bottom of the channel and emerge at the end of the dive in the calm water of the lagoon just as the tide was turning.

These channels are surely one of Aldabra's unique experiences for the diver. A roller-coaster ride down one the channels when the tide is flowing in or out, the most incredible drift dive imaginable. If you get the timing just right the speed of your ride will be perfect for viewing the other passengers along for the trip. If you enter the channel when the current is flowing too fast you'll simply be focusing on navigating and avoiding possible obstructions or the danger of being sucked into caves. In the channels visibility is often murky due to the strong currents. Somehow this only serves to add a touch of mystery to the ride. We knew that we would not be alone on our ride.

The centre of the East Channel has steep sides and a sandy bottom about 10 metres across. The sandy bottom has dunes shaped by each incoming and outgoing tide and as we were swept along by the rushing water we learnt that we could control our ride over each dune and down into the next valley just like apprentice astronauts on our first weightless flight. Flying over the top of a dune’s ridge you could even make an involuntary somersault as the front of your body dipped down into calmer water and your finned feet were swept on over your head.

Some fish travelled with us into the lagoon - all the time apparently stationary relative to us – at times the walls of the channel appeared to be the only thing moving. We saw many large rockcod, feathertail stingrays and large nurse sharks hiding in caves or behind rocks, away from the current. They appeared totally disinterested in us; we were apparently simply another part of the passing show that they saw twice daily.

I did however manage to startle a large humphead parrotfish when the current inadvertently prodded me too deeply into a large cave. He appeared to be over three metres long and half that deep – a real monster. His grotesque green-grey shape loomed up in front of me suddenly and squeezed his way past me into the channel.

Beyond the underwater dunes the channel flattened out, the current slowed and we drifted in formation – straight into a large school of eagle rays coming towards us, against the current, heading out to sea before the tide. They swooped gracefully over us creating magnificent silhouettes against the emerging early morning sun. Beneath them we must have looked quite a sight - struggling awkwardly with our diving gear and cameras to keep the eagle rays in view for as long as possible.

The plan worked! About an hour after entering the water at the seaward side of the East Channel our tanks ran out of air and we surfaced in the calm mid-tide in the Aldabra lagoon well out of sight of shore.

 

 

Thursday: Red Book Day

Today was ‘Red Book Day’. We wanted to try to find the only flightless bird left in the Indian Ocean islands since the much-vaunted demise of the dodo of Mauritius and the great elephant bird of Madagascar. One of the rarest and most endangered birds on the planet, a definite contender for World Wildlife Fund’s ‘Red Book’.

We took a small inflatable to the research station at the west shore of the East Channel. ‘Research Station’ is a real euphemism for it. It really is just a tin shack with some basic wooden bunks strewn throughout its interior. Its apparently used by (desperate!) scientists as an overnight base.

After a few seconds the ‘Research Station’ had lost its basic appeal for us and we started looking around for ‘the bird’. In the shallow shore waters we saw dimorphic egrets in both the light and dark colour forms. On the craggy overhanging raised coral shore herons peered into the clear waters below. Above us cruised tropicbirds and the occasional frigatebird. But ‘the bird’ we came to see? We could be here all day!

But Yaniv, our guide, had been through this before. He found two shells amongst the beach flotsam and jetsam and began banging these together. "Clack, clack, clack!" He was appealing to ‘the bird’s’ basic weakness – an insatiable curiosity.

It wasn’t ten minutes later that a small insignificant brown bird emerged sprightly from the thick bushes – so this was the fabled flightless white-throated rail! It might have been quite dull in coloration (apart from a small splotch of white on its throat) but it certainly was bold! It’s long legs carried it jerkily all around us, over and under the gaily coloured diving masks and fins that had been left in the pebble clearing. It was clear to see why these birds may not be able to survive well in an environment with aggressive predators. Its inquisitive nature would literally be its downfall.

Then came the biggest surprise! While we were still focused on its bold exploits a smaller (even duller!) member of the rail family had emerged from the undergrowth – a young chick that we estimated to be no more than one or two months old! Not quite as bold as its parent (yet) it did however leave us with a warm feeling about this particular family’s future! Until some fiendish bird collector gets to learn the "Clack, clack, clack!" trick?

 

 

Friday: Cosmoledo - Booby prize on West North Island

Cosmoledo is an atoll that today looks like Aldabra may look in another ten thousand years. The seas have almost totally eroded the land portions of this atoll leaving only small specks of land to indicate its oval shape at high tide.

One of the very small islands left by this process is a fragment of Il’e du Nord (we called it West North Island) island at the north west tip of the atoll. It is uninhabited and has never been inhabited. We had spent mot of the day diving on the reefs just off the island and had been able to see the profusion of birds from most of our dive sites. Late that afternoon we landed on the island and got a really close-up look at a huge booby colony.

‘Booby Island’ got us closer than we ever could have imagined to the private life of the boobies. They were nesting all over every tree on the island. Most nests had either an egg or a youngster in it. Many were on very low-lying branches and you could look right into the nests. The tiny black-faced youngsters would peek out from beneath their parent eagerly trying to get a good look at these new visitors – never before seen by them! When they got too enthusiastic and threatened to fall out of the nests the parent would simply stand up, shuffle the chick into the middle of the nest and sit on it! The youngster would disappear from view completely, making not a sound.

One can really approach these birds quite closely. There is however a point about one metre away where the adult booby gets quite twitchy about your presence and starts doing a rhythmic side to side movement, waving its beak through 180 degrees, presumably to shoo you away. Apart from that mild reminder the thousands of birds were quite happy to share their island with us for a few hours.

One booby obviously mistook me for a frigatebird. When I approached it flew down to my feet and regurgitated a fish right in front of me! He then gave me a look that seemed to say "Well here you are! Have the fish…now be off with you!" I guess I must have received a booby prize!

On our way back to the inflatable we came across two red-tailed tropicbirds nesting under a bush within a few steps of the shore – a really rare sight on these islands. Booby island had delivered yet another prize!

 

 

Saturday: Astove Island - Traces of Man and wall-to-wall friends

Our welcome to Astove was of turtles mating in the shallow water between us and the beach. When we came closer to the white beach that runs the full western reach of the island we saw what appeared to be tank tracks running at right angles to the sea for as far as e could see. These however weren’t tanks – these be turtles! They had left traces of their egg laying imprinted in the sand. A strange sight, totally unspoilt by a single human footprint – until ours.

The story goes that a Scandinavian family established the coconut plantation on Astove. The head of the family suffered from a serious tooth infection for some months until picked up by a passing freighter. He died in the dentist’s chair in Mombasa, his body being returned to Astove some months later (to the shock of the family) and to be buried on the island. His grave is marked by a simple cross and only fragments of their stone and tin shacks remain. The land has reclaimed much of what they left.

The coconut plantation seemed to have thrived. Unattended, the coconut palms have continued to drop their seeds on top of each other year after year. The ground under each palm tree is matted thick with repeated season’s leaves and tiny coconut palms emerging from their dried out nut husks. What’s really surprising is just how few of these coconuts have germinated naturally.

We walked a short distance across the island from the deserted settlement to the muddy lagoon. Here was further evidence of Man’s impact. Firmly stuck in the sand we found several wrecked fishing boats, their wooden frames bleached by the sun and salt, with copper nails, oxidised to a mottled turquoise, hanging forlornly from broken struts.

Just a bit above the high tide mark we found the bleached shells of several green turtles, clearly discarded by poachers after a meal. ‘Poachers’ in our terminology, perhaps they just thought of themselves ‘fishermen’. Just seeing the turtle shells silhouetted against the still misty horizon of the enclosed Astove lagoon I could just imagine Jacques Cousteau’s visit in the late 1950s where they too hunted turtles and regularly enjoyed ‘turtle and celery stew’ (although exactly where they got the celery from after months at sea I will never know). My how times and attitudes change. Perhaps the wrecked fishing boats belonged to our ‘poachers’ too. Perhaps they never made it off the island – although we saw no bones.

The mottled brown outer layers of the shell had long since dried and peeled off, the shell skeletons cracked dramatically. A robber crab had made its home in its burrow right underneath one of the bleached turtle shells – a stylish shady veranda on a hot desolate beach –nature in her own inimitable style recycling whatever is available.

Sunset tonight was a dream! The sea calm, clouds dramatic and the fading sunlight tinting the darkening blue sky with shifting hues of pink and orange. The full moon rose quietly just as we were gearing up for a night dive on the Astove Wall.

Astove is regarded by some as the perfect atoll. Its lagoon has only one major access channel to the sea and the atoll appears almost horseshoe-shaped from the air. On the eastern side the reef slope drops off slowly and exhibits a beautiful mixture of hard and soft corals interspersed by sandy patches. The western side of the island is characterised by dramatic sheer drop-offs and walls that extend the full 5 km length of the island. The 500m line is at times less than 500m from shore. This certainly is the most dramatic sea wall in the Indian ocean.

Not only sheer dropoffs but overhangs starting 2 metres below the surface. Caves and arches. The rough terrain makes for some amazing shapes. You don’t need too much imagination to see the grotesque profile of ‘the Witch’ and various other evil spirits as you look up at the shape of the rock formations silhouetted against the moon-lit sky. The terrain itself makes it worth the exploration but the marine life on, and off, this wall is truly spectacular.

Used to diving with the reef below you – here it is in front of you! Especially on night dives this vertical reef can be quite unnerving. Hanging ‘up straight’ in the water, with a hundred metres of blue water below you, it’s almost as if you are walking down the aisles of a marine natural history supermarket as you check out life in the nooks, crannies and caves in the wall. In a shallow cave we found a sleeping hawksbill turtle, totally disinterested in visitors. In another hole an aggressive moray eel sharing its hole with cleaner shrimps and crabs. Cramped onto the ceiling of its lair were a school of tightly-packed writhing goldies, the goldfish of the sea. It was almost like having living wallpaper on the ceiling! And, how convenient to have your prey all lined up and ready for you.

The sheer extent of the Astove Wall and its prolific untouched life is awesome. It is totally engrossing. As we were studying the life on the wall we often had to remind ourselves to look behind us at life in the deep blue water behind us! There, on previous dives, we saw silvertipped reef sharks, the large dominant relatives of the small whitetipped reef sharks so common in the Maldives, hammerhead sharks, guitarfish, small schools of barracuda and the great barracuda, the huge lone hunters of the deep water. I knew they were out there somewhere tonight. I was sure they could see us and our torches swathing the dark water, while they stayed just out of sight.

Tonight ‘Scarface’ tapped me on the shoulder again. When I felt the tap I thought it was Alberto, my dive buddy. I took a casual look behind me to find two huge eyes looking straight back into mine! My heart stopped. There was that inquisitive rockcod again, dwarfing me in size, with eyes the size of golf balls, intently watching my every move, his face no more than a few centimetres from mine. I wondered just how long he had been there. We had met before on earlier dives and I had noticed that he had a white battle scar on his bottom lip. ‘Scarface’, as our inquisitive friend became to be known, was a constant companion on several of our dives.. When he wasn’t there the question was always: "Where’s Scarface?" He has become an integral part our diving family. I think I’ll sketch him in my dive log tonight. (Note: I didn’t, I fell asleep)

 

 

Sunday: Assumption Island - after the guano, the rockcods and the first human

The island of Assumption has been abused for as long as Man has found it. Initially attractive because of the generous deposits of guano, the island was also the one to be ‘mined’ the longest. The island’s natural assets including most of the plant and bird life were simply wiped out. When the guano folk left tropical storms and erosion did the rest. The island today is flat, bare and desolate, scarred across its width by a basic airstrip.

In contrast to the terrestrial environment, it’s amazing that the marine environment has been left almost totally untouched through centuries of abuse on land.

When Jacques Cousteau visited Assumption he wrote that in all the world he had "not seen anything approaching the scenes that Assumption reef offered to the human eye". Their stay here was extended from "an afternoon" to "forty days" so did they enjoy their stay. During this period the rockcod of Assumption became so friendly and used to their routine that they had to imprison a few of them in an underwater cage just to keep them from interfering with the filming.

Today was our third dive on the reefs in front of the crumbling (and only!) jetty. As we entered the water we were welcomed by several manta rays, some 4 – 6 metres across. This seems to have become our routine here at Assumption – the mantas have been here to meet us on every single dive so far.

Today we saw a large and small rockcod slowly swimming around each other near a sandy drop-off at the edge of the reef. Although never really touching they were tumbling gracefully, is if trying to tie imaginary knots! I have found ages ago that there is no point in swimming up to a large rockcod, no matter how friendly your countenance! The rockcod will simply turn and swim away. The best thing to is simply hang around near them and eventually their insatiable curiosity will invariably get the better of them.

Watching their delicate movements, I hung in mid-water over a crisp white sand chute that seemed to drop inevitably into the deep blue between two massive reef outcrops. A few minutes later my buddy swam up to me to say that he was cold and would return to our inflatable that I could now see at the surface about 15 metres above us. I signalled that I preferred to stay here for a few minutes to watch the rockcods.

Almost as soon as I was alone the two rockcods broke off their dance and appeared to diverge into the distance. Still hanging almost stationary in mid-water I turned casually to keep the larger of the two in view. He too turned to look at me. I didn’t move. Almost imperceptibly at first he began to move towards me until eventually he was an arm’s reach away. We must have been quite a sight, the two of us facing off underwater. Still he came closer. It was a real eyeball to eyeball. His length must have been about the same as my height, his lips substantially larger than mine! Now these huge lips seemed to be just 10 centimetres away from mine. I reminded myself that this might not be such a good idea as I had seen a rockcod much smaller than this one swallow my entire Nikonos V camera with just one violent suck! Luckily it still had a bulky flash unit attached to it which stuck clumsily out of his mouth at an awkward angle. This luscious comical mouth was not to be trifled with!

Still I didn’t move. I couldn’t believe it, Mr Rockcod was coming even closer, extremely cautiously. Then he angled his entire body slightly and opened his lips a fraction. Expecting a huge suck at any moment that would rip my mask off my face I was not just still, I was rigid! Softly, ever so softly, I felt the rockcod touch my nose with his lips. Through the thin silicon nosepiece of my diving mask the sensation was of a mildly sensuous ‘kiss’! He did this several times, gently rasping his teeth on the silicon and then, as suddenly, stopped and slowly reversed away from my face (and my totally rigid body!). With the first deliberate motion that he had exhibited he turned away and disappeared into the blue water below me. I was stunned and still. Inexplicable emotions flowed through me.

When I finally clambered back up into the dinghy on the surface I seemed to have lost touch with reality for some time and found it quite difficult to speak. Today I had really close intimate contact with a totally wild animal. Perhaps I was his first human. I hope he doesn’t get the wrong impression and think we’re all like this!

 

Copyright FutureWorld and Wolfgang E. Grulke, July 1997 - All Rights Reserved

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