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Cousin Island Special Reserve, Seychelles
Disconnect to connect

Freshly graduated from my undergraduate program there were a lot of thoughts and feelings to process. What next? Can I work in the conservation field? What am I actually interested in? There are a lot of decisions to make, and as a young biologist I felt lost. Life at home can get tiring as things have to happen fast, if not right away. There is little time to reflect, which is stressful and daunting.

Almost five weeks have passed since I boarded my flight to Mahe to volunteer with Nature Seychelles, with my snorkel equipment and explorer binoculars. I can already say that my views, thoughts and feelings have changed. Relocating into the middle of the Indian Ocean, swapping a phone, internet or computer with books, pencils and a scratch book can sound scary but it is liberating.

My first impression of the Seychelles and particularly Cousin Island is simply overwhelming. The flora and fauna is truly fascinating and there is so much to learn and observe. Through my volunteer work so far, removing invasive species in the forest, Shearwater night census, Seychelles Magpie Robin monitoring and white-tailed tropic bird ringing I learned valuable skills and information about the unique Cousin Island ecosystem.

As I arrived during the incredible Hawksbill turtle nesting extravaganza, I have spent a lot of time on patrols walking along the white sandy beach. It is a great privilege being able to work with these critically endangered turtles and collect important data. I find it incredibly enjoyable just taking a walk through the forest with my camera and waiting for the perfect moment, for the perfect picture.

Once a hard, but fulfilling work day has come to an end and the sun is setting there is plenty of free-time. It is hard to describe all the amazing moments spent with my Seychellois counterparts and other volunteers. For me, the most memorable activities are playing volleyball in the sunset, star gazing, epic snorkeling, and simply, having inspiring talks over a lovely meal.

This experience of my conservation work while volunteering with Nature Seychelles has made me realize that I want to pursue a wildlife conservation career. The work is personally rewarding because I am contributing to long term conservation impact. It is difficult to put this experience into words and I hope that my photos will be able to portray what I could not describe.

Julie Handler