10
July
2015

My first week as a volunteer on Cousin Island

A report from Nature Seychelles’ International Volunteer program

 Tourists arriving on Cousin

I discovered Cousin Island Special Reserve whilst searching for a project which would allow me to get up close and personal with seabirds in the wild and I certainly found that on this special nature reserve. 

I set out for Cousin on the 14th June and after a long and tiresome journey with many delays, I found myself standing in Grand Anse, Praslin Island waiting to board the little boat that would take me to this tropical paradise. 

I managed to cross paths with another new volunteer called Willow who was travelling on the same flights as me so we both arrived together in the late afternoon and quickly had to set about putting up mosquito nets, unpacking our first food shop and hastily apply insect repellent! 

The first evening was spent sharing a lovely meal with all of the other volunteers plus our Chief Warden and one of the local wardens; it was a great welcome to the island.

 Sumer Rao (volunteer) taking photos of one of the many Giant Aldabra tortoise on the island

For the next two days Willow and I spent a lot of time settling down and getting used to the way the island worked and what jobs needed to be done such as remembering to pump water for the houses and recording the efficiency of the newly installed solar power system. 

We were also introduced to ‘SMR’ (Seychelles Magpie Robin) monitoring and invasive species removal which is crucial to ensuring the delicate ecosystem on the island remains in balance. One notable part of the island community that took some getting used to was the numerous Aldabra Giant Tortoise’s (Geochelone gigantean) that roam freely throughout the forest and across the beaches. 

On my first trip through the forest I was quickly confronted with a beautiful Fairy Tern (Gygis alba) that was tangled in the highly sticky seeds of the Pisonia grandis tree. This was quite a surprise for me and I quickly realised how much of my time I would spend handling these fantastic birds to remove all the seeds and give them another chance of survival.

 A white/fairy tern on Cousin

As the weekend drew near, three of the volunteers departed Cousin to return to their home countries and that left Willow, one other volunteer, myself plus a warden on the island. It was quite a surreal experience being one of only a very small handful of people left with the whole island there for me to explore.

The first weekend I spent here also happened to be a national holiday weekend so I spent my lovely long weekend reading, exploring the beautiful beaches and forest and, my favourite part, snorkelling in the idyllic waters that make up part of the reserve. 

As Monday drew near and my first week came to an end I realised how much I had already settled in and got to know everyone. Each and every person on the island made me feel welcome and there was always someone to go to if I needed any help or advice or just a chat. I now have seven weeks left on Cousin and hopefully when new volunteers arrive I can help them have an equally fantastic first week here!

By Emma Jones

Categories: Living on a nature reserve, Conservation, Volunteering, Nature People