Cleaning up Seyal Island

Originally published in Business Monthlys June 2018 issue.

The article is a continuation of Swimming with Dolphins.

After a magical experience with the dolphins, we sailed northwest to begin a whole new adventure. The main purpose of the four-day trip was to clean Seyal island, one of three islands off the coast of Hamata.’

The island is under the protection of the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA), which prohibits visitation to protect its delicate ecosystem. However, the cleanup initiative was organized in cooperation with them and our visit was monitored by a member of the Wadi el Gemal National Park Authority, which operates under the umbrella of the EEAA.

Approaching Seyal, we passed its two neighboring islands, Mahabes and Shawareit, which offered a spectacular view of sky-blue water surrounding white elevated planes. Of the three Hamata islands, Seyal is the only one with a sandy beach and thus the only requiring cleanup.

Two hours after leaving Satayeh, we began hearing what seemed like thousands of birds and moments later we had arrived at a picturesque view that was better than the famous Microsoft Windows screensavers. Right in front of us were stretches of turquoise water, shifting almost seamlessly into crystal-white sand before turning into strong yellow tones covered by a thick layer of bushes. Above the island hovered a wide variety of birds, including osprey and several species of egrets.

Docked at one end of the island, we first were dropped off by the zodiac for one last snorkel at the outer tip of the oval island, where the tide lightly pulled us toward the yacht. I got to completely relax and watch brightly colored fish maneuver even more spectacularly bright reefs. The Red Sea is known for its beautiful variety of fish, but Seyal is another level completely. At one point a green broomtail wrasse at least half my size passed right under me, probably examining the foreign creature exactly as I did her. The water was so clear I could see meters into the sea, with a huge variety of birds right in flight above.

About an hour later, we went back onto the boat, traded our snorkeling equipment for packages of plastic bags and swam to the shores of the island. Accompanied by one of the children of nearby locals, we split into four groups of three and were assigned an area to clean up.

As we stepped onto the island, I couldn’t help but lose focus. It was so beautiful, the sand was covered with tiny crabs hiding in their shells and under the bushes were holes where turtles buried their eggs. Everywhere were things I had seen only in photos. However, we needed to hurry as we didn’t have a lot of time on the island and were surrounded by a lot of plastic trash.

A couple of hours and 35 garbage bags later, we were out of options for transporting the trash off the island. Abdel Rahman Nasser, the trip organizer, explained that all the plastic had drifted onto the island from mainland Egypt and Saudi Arabia. It may seem like a small decision to throw a bag of chips on the ground, but on Seyal we discovered how huge these acts actually were.

We used the zodiac to transport all we could carry back to the yacht and bid the slightly cleaner island and wonderful adventure farewell.

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