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Cousin Island Special Reserve, Seychelles
Rewilding the mind

Cousin Island Special Reserve is a feast for the senses. A thriving carnival of colour and light, pulsing to the drum of the crystal-clear breakers that surround it, and festooned in a blanket of tropical heat. The island’s feathered tenants fill the air with their lyrics, and the earth tirelessly shifts, day and night, with life.

This natural fiesta is a wonder to take in; it creates a very healing environment. Your senses become taken up until there is no space for thinking. And with thinking adjourned, you can simply feel. It is possible to remain truly in the present moment, almost without effort. The ability to tune in and sense like this, and more specifically not to think, is a skill that so many of us have lost by choosing the frantic consumer culture we inhabit. Yet it is so vital for our wellbeing, and Cousin brings us wellbeing in spades.

There is no doubt that those of us privileged enough to come to Cousin for the Conservation Boot Camp have a common goal and interest; to contribute to the conservation of its wildlife. The unique ecology that occurs on islands, the rare species, and the abundance of creatures that are mostly unfazed by human company, produces an indulgent location for anyone wanting to observe, study and protect the natural world.

But there are many other reasons that bring people here too. A big part of my own motivation for applying to the Conservation Boot Camp was the opportunity to quietly surrender to the island’s wild nature, to disconnect from my devices, take off my shoes and mindfully absorb my surroundings. For me, regularly stepping into an all-consuming piece of wilderness is a basic need, a strategy for survival and good health. I balance my year around finding time for remote and natural places whether that is via work, volunteering, or the moments that I deliberately leave free.

It is easy to forget that not so long ago, humans were wild too. A few communities still live in harmony with their environment, and they are a useful marker for the rest of us. It is my belief that reconnecting with our natural selves is as important as brushing our teeth, and it will become more so as we speed up. We think of conservation as being about people protecting and repairing biodiversity, but I think people need biodiversity just as much as the rest of the planet.

Cousin Island provides a rare opportunity to step away. Decades of hard work by conservationists have restored a thriving oasis of wildlife that is finally allowed to be itself. We can take part in that work too, but why not let the wildlife teach us a thing or two at the same time?

I believe that anyone would benefit their wellbeing from four weeks on Cousin Island, no matter what takes them there. If you are lucky enough to land on those shores you will meet wonderful, skilled and like-minded people, you will undoubtedly gain fantastic CV-boosting experience and have a lot of fun, and you will have the chance to be nose to nose with charismatic and inspiring species. Do all of these things, but leave your phone completely behind, listen to the island and let your mind be wild and free.

Toria Hare participated in Nature Seychelles’ Conservation Boot Camp which helps individuals to bolster their conservation careers with much sought after in the field experience.