My first month on Ascension
Vicky Knight, Terrestrial Conservation Officer and Park Warden
My dilemma; leaving a permanent conservation role in the UK to work on Ascension Island for two years. This was by no means an easy decision for me to make. I loved my last job. I had my family and friends all around me and lived a very comfortable and happy life in north Wales. Was I going to give all this up for a completely different and unknown lifestyle? Well the answer to this question turned out to be yes!
I have always lived by the motto “take every opportunity that comes your way, you regret the things you don’t do”. So here I am, a month into my new life in the south Atlantic nearly 1000 miles from the next spec of land.
Do I regret it? Hell no! Well, not so far anyway!
What am I doing here?
I’ve taken up the role of Terrestrial Conservation Officer and Park Warden. My new role on Ascension has already got me up close and personal with some incredible wildlife and given me memories I will cherish for a very long time. As park warden I’m part of a team whom aim to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the island’s Green Mountain National Park, six nature reserves and one sanctuary.
To do this we will be undertaking research, survey and monitoring, ensuring law enforcement, managing recreational sites and implementing practical conservation work. We will also be promoting the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of these places, through providing information, knowledge and advice to visitors and managing recreational activities.
Another big part of my role will be developing a biosecurity policy to try and stop the introduction of invasive alien species which the Island already has its fair share of.
The Island isn’t all about work and there is plenty of play here! For such a small island there is a lot to do, you just need to get out there and do it.
Being an outdoorsy person I think it will be very difficult to get bored here. With two active dive clubs there are endless opportunities to dive in the surrounding pristine waters. Already, I’ve been on several amazing dives and have signed up to do my advanced PADI diving course which I can’t wait to start.
Ascension’s landscape is like nothing I’ve seen anywhere before. The coast boasts many golden sandy beaches with inviting turquoise waters. Meanwhile the volcanic lava flows, domes and scoria cone create a dramatic contrasting back drop. Then there’s Green Mountain which is like nowhere else on the island with its lush vegetation and much cooler, damp conditions.
Scattered around the island are 42 ‘letterbox’ walks where upon completion visitors can sign a guestbook found in a letterbox and put a stamp in their own logbook. Of course, to get to these letterboxes you have to walk which is a great way to explore the islands varied landscape and is something I’m looking forward to completing.
As well as the letterbox walks a ‘hash’ is organised most Saturday afternoons. The hash’s are another great opportunity to get out and about exploring the island by foot and also a fab way to meet other islanders.
Being so isolated the Island has incredible dark skies. I have spent a few evening on the beach enjoying frequent shooting stars while playing with the long exposure settings on my camera. In just a few weeks’ time I will have the added bonus of being accompanied by the thousands of green sea turtles that visit the island to nest. Excited is an understatement!
The highlight for me so far has to be helping the bird team monitor the nesting seabird colonies at Letterbox Nature reserve. My first visit consisted of masked booby, brown booby, Ascension frigatebird, red and yellow billed tropicbird and black and brown noddy – a birders paradise and a very happy Vicky!
Nesting masked booby, Letterbox NNR. Copyright Vicky Knight
Making friends here is not a hard thing to do. The first thing I noticed when getting off the plane was how welcoming and kind everyone is. With a population of around 750 people everyone knows each other and there is a real sense of community on the Island. In such a short period of time I have attended many social events from themed nights in one of the four bars to sunset beach BBQ’s. Quizzes, dart competitions, skittle tournaments and football games are just a few of the other activities I also have my eye on.
I have been so pleasantly surprised by this amazing little island which already feels like home to me. There is so much more to come over the next two years and I can’t wait to experience it.