Cousin Island: a life of its own
A report from Nature Seychelles’ International Volunteer program
A Hawksbill Turtle heads back to sea after laying on Cousin Island
‘Fill your life with adventures, not things. Have stories to tell, not things to show.’ As my two month adventure volunteering with Nature Seychelles on Cousin Island comes to an end, this quote has never been more appropriate.
Cousin Island Special Reserve is a place like no other, and promises to turn everyone into a storyteller. When I got the opportunity to leave a job I was jaded with, to live on an island with one of the highest densities of nesting hawksbill turtles in the Seychelles for two months, it was a no-brainer.
As long as I can remember, I have been obsessed with sea turtles. Having studied tropical biology, I was lucky enough to have certain aspects of my degree focused on sea turtles which included experiencing nesting populations of Green turtles on islands off the coast of Malaysia.
Hawksbill turtle hatchling instinctively heads for the ocean
Coming from Sri Lanka, an island in the Southern Indian Ocean, which is visited by five of the seven sea turtle species in the World, conservation of marine animals unfortunately, does not take precedent. A key drawback in Sri Lanka and the conservation of nesting turtles is the fact that most of the country’s beaches are densely populated. This not only creates a large adverse human impact but also substantially increases predator risks from those such as dogs and other domesticated wildlife as well as the usual crabs. In contrast, nesting turtles on Cousin Island thrive.
On Cousin Island, a wildlife management strategy of allowing the wildlife to flourish in its natural habitat with no human interference while primarily focusing on data collection and monitoring of its turtle, seabird and land-bird populations is implemented.
A core objective of Nature Seychelles’ scientific data collection on live animals is to ensure no undue stress is caused to the animals during collection procedures. All volunteers go through a thorough training period before work on Cousin begins. This involves guided turtle patrols around the island as well as tours through the forest which provides a hands-on training to familiarize the volunteers.
Stunning sunset on Cousin
During the nesting season, I was fortunate enough to not only have more turtle encounters than I have ever experienced before but also tag a previously untagged turtle so that in the future, when she nests, the data collected will show that she has previously nested on Cousin.
Days spent on Cousin are days well spent. Minimal living is exemplified. From starting the day with turtle patrols, seabird monitoring and invertebrate samplings to winding down with afternoon snorkels and breathtaking sunsets, Cousin will make you never want to leave. During my time here, I was fortunate enough to meet volunteers from around the World. The friends you make here truly add to the experience.
This adventure is one that will stay with me for the rest of my life. From sipping coffee on the beach with the company of giant tortoises, to swimming with turtles, lemon sharks and stingrays and monitoring the most characteristic seabirds, Cousin Island truly has a life of its own.
By Sherani Ruberu (text & photos)