Having worked in several overseas territories, predominantly on environmental projects, I had got to know an amazing group of enthusiastic scientists who valued the special nature of the small islands they conserved. A group called the UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum had been established which brought these specialists together at a conference every couple of years to talk about their successes, their trials and tribulations. As well as people from the OTs themselves, many of the agencies that helped them out were involved too. This included some big players that are well known in the UK, like the Durrell Foundation, the Royal Society for Protection of Birds and the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. When I had been in the BVI, I was give the chance to go with a large delegation to one of these conferences in Bermuda. Flying via New York, we arrived on the island in the middle of the night. It being March, I was amazed what a different climate it was from Tortola – most of the time it was dull and misty, and fairly chilly! Despite this there were plenty of coral reefs and palm trees around and I was confused by the mix of tropical and temperate signals I was getting.
As well as the conference, the field trips around Bermuda were fantastic, especially to Nonsuch Island. Bermuda is one of the most urbanised of the OTs, and predominantly expensive properties which gave it the air of looking like Surrey but with fringing reef. Surrey with the fringe on top, as it were.
Several years later, with me back in the UK, I was approached by members of the forum to present at another of these conferences in Grand Cayman. It was to be about the Ascension Island work and I was pleased to have a place to talk about the stuff Edsel and I had done. Moreover, I was delighted to be able to meet up with so many familiar friends from around the OTs and it would be fantastic to get another chance to explore Grand Cayman properly after the curtailed trip the previous year.