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Cousin Island Special Reserve, Seychelles
Tough but gratifying conservation work

It is difficult to highlight one thing that stood out for us from our time on Cousin Island Special Reserve as there were so many aspects to our volunteering experience that made the island special. Yes, it is a Special Reserve but our experience was another kind of special. To be able to work so closely with the turtles and birds was truly an experience of a lifetime.

Which is not to say that the work was easy, it was not. During turtle season you don’t arrive on Cousin, do your two or three hours of work and then go spend the rest of the day lying on the beach or snorkelling. Days can be long and coupled with the fact that the weather was very hot and humid, the work is tough. It is always difficult to gauge when people say that the work is gruelling because everyone has a different base of reference when it comes to hard work.

We say that the work was tough but nothing that we couldn’t manage, after all we are from South Africa and not afraid to get our hands dirty and do some hard graft. That said, it is highly rewarding work and when the patrolling felt a bit much all we needed to do was remind ourselves of the bigger picture and the conservation value of what we were doing.

Something that also made the ‘patrols’ memorable was checking up on the newly hatched fairy terns and tropic birds and watching them grow with the passing weeks. Being able to work with the turtles and other wildlife on Cousin Island truly was a privilege and an experience we will never forget.

Everywhere you look on this tiny island, new life!

Island living was very basic but that was to be expected given the nature of the special reserve. We were however eternally grateful for the fridges and fans. The research house was comfortable to live in and became our home for two months. We shared the house with the other volunteers, which was great as it provided ample opportunity to socialise with the other volunteers and a few of the wardens on a daily basis. Many a cup of tea and coffee was drank on the patio bantering, learning more about people and their experiences from all over the world and mainly just enjoying each other’s company.

When we were not patrolling we tried to make the most of our time off, whether it was breaks between patrolling, evenings or days off. It could definitely be said that we had two favourite past times during our time off on the Island. Firstly, given the fact that Cousin is a Special Reserve, including the surrounding sea, means no fishing near the island and as a result, the sea life surrounding the island was in abundance! We would go swimming just in front of the research house and literally within 50m from the shore we would see numerous different types of fish, and often the odd turtle just carrying on with its business. That was truly special and there wasn’t one day in our two month stay on Cousin that we didn’t go for a swim.

Our other daily ritual was to go sit on the beach and watch the sun go down and just enjoy being two of about sixteen people sharing this tiny island in the Seychelles. Usually this would involve just going out onto the beach, or when we were feeling adventurous or had the energy we would go watch the sun from the viewpoint or high point. This made for spectacular sunsets and interesting walks back through the forest at night which proved to be a bit tricky at times but was well worth it! These sunset outings were when we would just enjoy and marvel what the island had to offer, that was truly amazing as we sat and watched the birds coming in to roost and the odd bat fly above us.

We absolutely loved our time on Cousin as it is such a special and unique place that has been conserved for wildlife and humanity. We would like to thank Nature Seychelles for affording us this wonderful opportunity to take part in the conservation work which will stay with us forever. Furthermore, the people involved played a role in making our experience what it was, and we would like to thank the Science Coordinator Cheryl, Chief warden Sam, and the other volunteers Emma, Simon, Liwia, Terry, Michelle, Chris and Nia for making our stay so memorable. We will never forget you guys!

Kimberly Joscelyn and Adrian Rheeder