My second family on a beautiful isolated island
A report from Nature Seychelles’ International Volunteer Programme
Christmas tree, cousin-style
Volunteering with Nature Seychelles on Cousin Island Special Reserve is not always the easiest job around. Having lived here on this beautiful yet isolated island for over four months this year I have missed out on many family oriented holidays. For example Christmas and New Year’s with all of my family in South Africa is always a time for many celebrations and festivities. To top it off, today it’s my birthday.
Many people would assume this to be a very sad thought. To be without all of your friends and family on this island, where, when you arrive you know no one and there are so few people. Volunteers are often scared that they will not fit in during their ten weeks here. However, the people on this very small island become like a second family very quickly.
Shortly before Christmas in 2014, I was welcomed to cousin for the first time. This was also the first time that I spent away from my family during the holidays. However, it was very quickly, quite clear that I had no reason to be frightened or lonely.
On Christmas day we all awoke to a lovely sunny day, we ventured out on a few scheduled turtle patrols and then came back to the research house where one of the volunteers had prepared a selection of delicious cakes.
Nature Seychelles Staff and Volunteers on Cousin form fast and lasting bonds
We had also arranged a “secret santa” between all of the volunteers on the island. So, we opened up some rather amusing gifts that ranged from barbie dolls to a beautifully home-made picture frame. It was a day of fun, celebration and food. For the evening we all contributed to a communal meal that included such a large range of dishes. Not the traditional Christmas dinner I am accustomed to, but what a treat! For New Year’s Eve there was even more of a party, many festivities and a beautiful sunset from the viewpoint.
Today, as I am greeted with a fantastically delicious cup of coffee made by Tom Hiney, Nature Seychelles’ Chief Warden on the island, I feel fortunate that he has been like an older protective brother to me in the weeks that I have been here.
I then venture out with several other volunteers to do some beach cleaning along the beautiful shores of Anse Fregate. Then it’s on to monitoring the breeding success of white terns. Watching the terns throughout almost all of their life cycle, from when the egg is laid all the way through to when they fledge is my most enjoyable activity on Cousin.
I was very lucky to have spent the weekend prior to my birthday on exploring La Digue on bicycles, with its beautiful beaches, second only to cousin and filled with very amiable people. I was ecstatic to have seen the Seychelles flycatcher, beautiful and regal. Even more exciting was all the turtles, lion fish, trumpet fish, peacock groupers, angel fish and many more that I saw while snorkelling.
This is my second stay on Cousin, and although I am really looking forward to seeing my family and friends, I will be devastated when I’m leaving in a week’s time. Can I please come back?
By Kate Robinson