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Cousin Island Special Reserve, Seychelles

What a joy to be part of such important conservation work

I’ve spent just over a month volunteering with Nature Seychelles on Cousin Island Special Reserve and I think it’s safe to say that it has been one of the best experiences of my life. When I arrived, the first thing that struck me was the noise.

The sound of the birds was overwhelming – I knew that this place was a haven for sea birds but I hadn’t quite realized how many of them there would be! I later learned that those birds are called lesser Noddies, and that they nest in trees; they’re not too good at building nests and the chicks often fall down to the ground, unharmed, which is quite funny.

One of the things I really enjoyed was catching and ringing the various island birds. The first bird I ringed was a white tailed tropicbird; they’re beautiful but feisty birds with really long tails, and when they bite you, it hurts! My favourite birds on the island are the white terns, or fairy terns as they’re also known. They have lovely white feathers and blue-ish beaks, and they tend to sit up in trees in pairs. I also really like the magpie robins, which we worked with a lot, and the little Seychelles sunbirds.

Other than ringing the birds, I also really enjoyed the beach patrols, where we have to walk right around the island and look out for nesting turtles and the tracks that they make in the sand. I was really excited when I saw my first turtle, and got to witness the entire laying process. We also watched her being tagged, and took some measurements. I loved being able to see firsthand all of the important conservation work that’s being done on Cousin, and it was great to be able to contribute even a tiny bit to it. Hawksbill turtles are not only really beautiful creatures, but they’re so important for the ecosystem here and so I think it’s terribly sad that they’re endangered.

I also have to mention the giant tortoises that live here. There are about 45 or so on the island, maybe more, and they all have names. George and Gandalf hang around the research house quite a lot, so we know them well. They are friendly, but have an annoying habit of breaking our water pipes, so we lose precious water. We had to go for a few days without any running water, which admittedly wasn’t as terrible as I had thought it would be.

The island is really stunning, and it was amazing to be able to work in such a beautiful place. In between work, we swam a lot in the ocean, and went for a lot of walks around the forest and up on the cliffs. There’s something really special about this place, and I’m going to miss it, and the people and wildlife on it, an awful lot.

Nina Short