By Nils Holm
Exciting, educating and impactful. These were three of the adjectives that I wanted to focus on when I was looking for voluntary activities to take part in this summer. These alone are hard to find combined in a project, but when a very limited time frame before studies begin in October has to be kept in mind, it almost seems impossible to find an enjoyable and informative project in time. Gladly, I found out just in time that Nature Seychelles also offers two-week stays!
As someone who has always adored the beauty of nature and especially the beauty of birds, I was excited to discover the Conservation Bootcamp on Cousin Island, organized by Nature Seychelles. The idea that I could stay on an island that literally belongs to the birds and that tourists can only experience during the visiting hours from Monday to Friday, whereas I could stay there the whole time really blew me away. So I booked my stay in the CBC, the flights to Mahe and Praslin and the accommodation for the first day on Praslin only a few weeks before the start of September, and on the 2nd of September I suddenly found myself getting absolutely splashed by the waves on the small boat finding its way to Cousin Island on Monday morning.
Upon exiting the boat, I immediately realized how lively this island really is, even at the beach you can hear and see numerous birds of different kinds engaging in various activities, such as collecting nesting material or fishing. I am very glad to report that my hope of getting to know all these kinds of birds during my stay on Cousin was fulfilled!
I was also excited to see a big amount of the activities during the week focused on the monitoring of very interesting species of birds, one of them being the Seychelles magpie robin, an endemic bird which I got to spend a lot of time observing during my stay. This and the monitoring of the breeding success of the Lesser and Brown noddies in particular were my favourite activities to take part in on the island. For me, it was very interesting to learn about how these birds behave and how they are being protected and monitored by the conservationists on Cousin. The breeding success monitoring of the Lesser and Brown noddies was especially interesting because you had to work like a detective. Chicks will regularly move around, get attacked by other birds or their parents will be away for some time and you will have to identify which chick belongs to which parents and nests, which is a lot of fun, especially because you experience how different the personalities of the birds are in reality, compared to the opinion of many that “birds are just all the same”.
Besides that, sometimes Mother Nature just wants to show you how beautiful she can be in just one night. As we were on our way back to our field centre from an adrenaline-pumping seabird census next to steep cliffs, a warden stopped us and told us to take a look at the first turtle nest that had been found this year! And just a few minutes later we had the honour of experiencing a tortoise laying her eggs in a carefully dug out chamber and gently covering it with sand.
I am very thankful for the opportunity to experience such a lively ecosystem which is vastly different from the one I am used to seeing back home. In particular, I would like to thank Nature Seychelles and the program coordinator Yan for trying to fit in as much as possible for me to experience in such a small amount of time, in which they succeeded wonderfully. If you have got the time, a four-week stay will provide you an even deeper insight into the daily work of conservationists and this wonderful island, but don’t hesitate to apply for two weeks if you haven’t got the time, because it will certainly be equally as educating and fun! I encourage everyone with an interest in nature and birds to take part in this amazing experience, one that you certainly won’t forget.