A MAGICAL ENCOUNTER WITH NATURE
Even the Aldabra tortoises on Cousin know that theirs is a magical existence
As you step off the boat onto Cousin Island, you know you are about to get a taste of paradise as your senses start to appreciate the sights, sounds and smells of this protected nature reserve. Numerous birds painted in the skies above, fluttering and singing as if to welcome the many visitors to the island and some perched on trees as if poised for a photoshoot. Lizards scurry into the forest undergrowth or behind fallen leaves, while the resident Giant Aldabra tortoises expectantly wait for a stroke on their uneven but enthralling faces.
Cousin Island Special Reserve offers visitors a magical interaction with nature. As you walk through the charming forest, you will no doubt have a chance to observe the stunning Seychelles Magpie Robin, with its’ striking black and white plumage, as it forages on the forest floor unflinching as you stand gazing at it for several minutes, even as you click away on your camera for the best shot.
Fairy tern and chick by Steve Hazell
White terns with their pure white plumage and navy blue beaks delicately hanging onto branches, sometimes with their fluffy grey chicks beside them, are picture-perfect with the vibrant vegetation backdrop. When their wings are spread in flight, they live up to their other name, fairy terns.
The lesser noddys are anything but lesser birds; slimmer noddys with long narrow bills. The brown noddys, a larger version with their grey caps, lay their eggs on bare rocks on predator-free islands such as Cousin. Just but a few of the many birds you will spot on your Island tour.
But this was not always the case. It now seems unreal that Cousin Island was once a coconut plantation impoverished of any meaningful biodiversity, plants or animals. That is, until the warbler an endemic species to the Seychelles attracted the attention of conservationists with its beautiful song. A handful of its kind remained and were at the precipice of extinction. The island was purchased by BirdLIfe International, a conservation charity to save the warbler.
This tiny bird saved a whole island
After years of restoration work, the Island and the waters around it are protected by law and now managed by Nature Seychelles, BirdLife International partner in Seychelles and is one of the world’s great conservation success stories. Marine life, birds and terrestrial creatures are free to flourish as nature intended. What’s more, the success of the conservation efforts allow for visitors to experience nature in its pristine state. Through eco-tourism, the continued protection of Cousin Island is ensured.
Whether on a cruise ship, family visit to Seychelles or as a couple wishing to add color to your holiday, Cousin Island offers the perfect spot to be awed by nature. At only five hundred rupees per person, the wardens will give you a tour of the island, complete with its history and detailed description of the wonderful biodiversity of the island. If you are on a group tour and wish to have an exclusive experience outside the normal hours of operation, that too can be arranged. The fees you pay are used exclusively for the management of this unique nature reserve and for conservation.
The Island is open to visitors from Monday to Friday between ten in the morning till noon. But you want to arrive at least half an hour early as the boats start collecting people at 9.45 am so that the tour can begin by 10.00am. To ensure the island and the waters around it remain protected and free of introduced alien species, Cousin Island has its own boat which it uses to pick visitors off their boats or ships to take them to cousin. You may get wet on the transfers so protect your equipment. The island is an authentic wilderness area and may be hot and humid and in wet seasons may contain mosquitoes. Please take adequate precaution and have enough water and mosquito repellent.
Wildife on cousin Island are protected and therefore safe to thrive
Apart from the bilingual wardens on the Island, Nature Seychelles has an international volunteer program which means that you can also have your tours not only in English and French, but sometimes also in German, Swedish, Italian and so forth.
Spending your holiday tucked away in some five-star hotel with spas and five course gourmet meals is all very well. But you haven’t lived until you stepped into the paradise world Cousin Island is, and transported yourself back in time to what it must have been like to live in the Garden of Eden. The magical encounter with nature on Cousin is priceless.