30
March
2016

Adventures with giant creatures, birds and the big blue

I just finished my bachelor thesis about a conservation project in Germany. Now I need hands-on experience in conservation to complete my degree. That’s what brought me to Cousin Island Special Reserve as a volunteer, the beginning of an adventure.

When I looked out of the window on my first morning on Cousin, something immediately got my attention, a giant Aldabra tortoise. And their name does them justice because they really are giants. This one that was roaming around in front of the research house was George. He is a very friendly tortoise that comes to visit us often. I enjoy George’s company very much and he likes to be petted on his long neck. There are many tortoises all over the island, yet after one month on Cousin, I still do not tire of them. It is always special to see them.

Another thing I noticed right from the beginning was the constant sound of seabirds. The high number of seabirds nesting on the Island is very characteristic of Cousin and a result of conservation work. We are currently monitoring the breeding success of the white tailed tropicbird and the fairy tern. It is a new experience for me and what I enjoy the most about it is watching the chicks grow. This week three of the tropicbirds that I am monitoring hatched. I was almost as excited as if they were my own eggs.

I arrived on Cousin in the middle of February which is just the end of the turtle nesting season. But I was very lucky to have seen a Hawksbill turtle building her nest on my second day. It was raining, very windy and cold but we stayed with the turtle for two and a half hours and saw all the different stages of nesting: the body pitting when the turtle is searching for the right spot to nest, the actual nest building, the egg laying, the clutch covering and the camouflaging. It was a beautiful experience. 

The sea turtle is one of the animals that gained a lot from the conservation work on Cousin and the population flourished since the island became a protected area. It is hard to believe that this island used to be a coconut plantation. Now there is a tropical rainforest with native plants and natural beaches that move with the seasons and the change of the current. For me it is interesting, inspiring and motivating to see a conservation project that turned out so beautiful and successful. I am enjoying contributing with my tasks here. 

But apart from the professional experiences that I gain here, I also get to see and try so many other new things like climbing a coconut tree or tasting fresh tropical fruit like the delicious passion fruit, tiny sweet bananas and sun ripened pineapple.

I love the colors of the sea here. The different shades of blue and turquoise change all the time. When it is sunny on the island but raining in the distance the sea starts to glow and when it is sunny all over, the beautiful light blue and the shining white sand are most inviting. Every morning after getting up I dive into the blue. For me there is no better way to start the day.

I am very thankful for this opportunity and I am sure I will take many impressions, inspirations and a lot of new knowledge and experiences away with me. 

by Anna Dal Maso

Categories: Living on a nature reserve, Turtles, Conservation, Volunteering, Seabirds