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Cousin Island Special Reserve, Seychelles
Stepping back in time for conservation

As one of eleven people living on Cousin Island Special Reserve, I feel privileged. After an eventful boat ride with a saltwater shower, we arrived on the beautiful long stretch of Cousin’s main beach. Walking up the beach the first thing I see is a vast number of birds flying overhead and dropping down into the forest. I quickly see the island is made up of only beach and forest, and understand why the birds choose to be here.

In many ways, being on Cousin is like stepping back in time. There is no hot water, an outside toilet and no need for locks on the doors. I have left the materialistic world behind. Instead I step into a small community that relies on solar power, a water pump, boat trips to Praslin for food and drinking water, and of course, each other.

Taking this journey gives me an opportunity to reflect and appreciate where I am and what I am contributing to – conservation work at its finest. I feel closer to nature, connected to the island, and most importantly, a part of something truly special.

In my time here I have worked closely with Cheryl and Yan, two very important Nature Seychelles staff working towards maintaining and improving the ecosystem on Cousin. Cheryl is the Science Coordinator and Yan is the coordinator for the new Conservation Boot Camp program.

I have been heavily involved in the field work on Cousin. I have done turtle patrols, excavated turtle nests and helped protect hatchlings as they make their way to the ocean. I have helped to monitor the breeding success rate of the White-tailed Tropicbird and White Tern and assisted with the land bird census.

I have been given the opportunity to learn so much from very experienced people but also been given the responsibility of working independently. I have worked closely with the Magpie Robins, exploring potential causes for health issues and monitoring their territories. I have enjoyed seeing the Brown Noddy, Lesser Noddy and the Wedge-tailed Shearwater begin to fill the island ready for the breeding season.

When I walk to the viewpoint to watch the sun go down, I am never alone. I sit on the rocks and see an uncountable number of birds fly around me, all chattering in their own unique calls. From this position, it is almost impossible to photograph the sunset without at least one bird in view.

For such a small island there is so much activity, so much to discover, so much to contribute to, and in return, I got so much back. After experiencing eight of Seychelles islands, and having the opportunity to spend four weeks volunteering with Nature Seychelles, I can safely say Cousin Island is a favourite.

Claire Waters