‘Natives’ & The Lindblad

Lindblad Explorer 10th April 1970. 

Another heavy grey day. A mighty shout rang up from the beach at 9.30am as she was sighted – enormous and scarlet with tiers of cabins above sea level, steaming in from direction of Seychelles. 100 tourists aboard.  At about 13.00 they came ashore in droves, Aldabra has never seen so many cameras. They photographed the cells, the kitchen, the wooden church, and the babies. I felt as a South Sea Islander must have felt at the invasion of Captain Cook. Were we, the natives going to be friendly?

The test came when two foreign gents wandered up to my door to look at my tortoise skeleton. A worried, much repeated enquiry as to whether they were all dead like this or could they see any alive and then “Is there anywhere on this island we can buy beer?” I patiently explained that we were not that sort of an island and that we were coming aboard his ship in a minute to buy beer. 

Jan craved a professional hair do so George arranged for we 3 ladies to go aboard at 3pm for a series of hair do’s and stay on for the shower we had talked about for so long and the dinner dance. Jan went first. I followed in an hours’ time when she was having the last hair combed into place by an optimistic little Italian-Israeli hairdresser who seemed not to have caught up with the fact that the deck of a ship is a windy place. Another woman sat in curlers, we made conversation. 

“Have you enjoyed your cruise?”

“Not very much. I haven’t been ashore at all until today” (and this was 2 days off the end of the trip) “I haven’t even been out on deck. I can’t stand the sun.”

I suppressed a gasp. This cruise cost upwards of £600 from Britain and a deal more from her native U.S. 

“Today was the first day cool enough for me to go out and I went ashore looking like Klu Klux Klan with cream all over my face.”

She had walked it seemed, a few hundred yards though the settlement and been rescued. 

“I was bitterly disappointed” she continued “I came all this way to see a giant tortoise, this was the climax and I didn’t see one”

I suppose she thought we kept them tethered as garden pets. 

We assured her she would see real wild tortoises at Anse Mais on the morrow but she didn’t know whether she would venture ashore again. 

Jan left and it was my turn. I had washed my hair after my 4 1/2 hours in the rain the previous day and cut it to my complete satisfaction a few days before. I remonstrated with the hairdresser and patiently explained that I wanted a tight, wind worthy style but she knew only one method, rollers. She combed mine into a waveless, shapeless fuzz and wrote “Set – 3 dollars” on the bill. I mourned my former crowning glory. I went to the hospital shower where I undid much that was done. My first hot wash in 4 months. The three men had joined me in the changing quarters when Kath arrived. Her husband’s greeting was eloquent, “Kath, what on earth have they done to you?”

Showered and changed into my ‘best’ eight year old dress, I adjourned to the lounge…I dined with 3 charming elderly Americans, who had accompanied Harry and Charles to the turtle pool. They were genuinely interested and fully understood why a hundred strangers a fortnight (already fully booked for the next 34 weeks) could not be taken into the bird colonies. At 9.15 we adjourned to the lecture room. A map from of Aldabra was left on the blackboard from the previous nights lecture. Across the top someon had written “Now we know why man never settled here”.