“I have just one word that comes to mind after this adventure, amazing! I am so happy to have lived this experience. The program really met my expectations and the people I met are incredible,” says Charline Leroy who recently completed her four week stint as a Conservation Boot Camp participant . “It’s not just the conservation training but life on Cousin Island. The life on a natural reserve with animals absolutely everywhere.”
Cousin Island Special Reserve is the outdoors classroom where this intense four-week immersion program takes place. Cousin Island, now managed by Nature Seychelles, was in 1968 bought by the International Council for Bird Protection (now BirdLife) for the sole purpose of saving the Seychelles Warbler. There were just 26 of these endemic birds left in the Seychelles, with the only population found on Cousin.
Half a century, numerous researchers and scientists, hundreds of hours of rigorous restoration work, and several translocations later, the Seychelles Warbler is now over 3,000 individuals strong and is now found on four other islands. And it’s not just the warbler that has cause for celebration, other land birds, seabirds and marine species have also benefitted from the safe haven that this tiny little island offers.
“From the moment my toes squished deep into the white powder sand, I was hooked. Arriving on Cousin was like stepping through a portal to a time when the world was all wildlife and vegetation,” says Kenna Vales who completed the Conservation Boot Camp program in July 2017.
“Every time I was in the forest doing field work, I would have at least one Seychelles Skink crawl on my legs or shoulders. All you have to do is whistle in the forest, and the Seychelles Magpie Robins will fly closer, sometimes as close as less than a meter away from you.”
The Conservation Boot Camp program is suitable for aspiring young conservationists, those who want to try their hand at conservation, or people who simply want to feel like their travel experience is more meaningful than just sight-seeing and lounging on 5-star hotel beach bed. For those who want to learn hands-on-ecotourism, this is a perfect fit as the island boasts the longest running ecotourism program in the Seychelles.
“The thing about Cousin Island is that you lose track of time. Somewhere in between jam packed mornings of monitoring seabird breeding success, beach profiling, invertebrate pit sampling and guided tours; evenings of swimming, long walks, sunsets; and night skies heavy with stars, four weeks just fly past,” says Nikita Engineer.
“A month of conservation on Cousin is exactly like a boot camp – with not a moment unamused, I grew to be inspired by all that was happening around me. The longer I stayed on tiny Cousin, the larger it seemed to me, the more I wanted to discover, the more I wanted to learn, and the more I did not want to leave.”
Jedida Oneko, Communications Manager, Nature Seychelles