All nature moments in Cousin are special to us. Some more so than others. Here are the favourites of staff, volunteers, Conservation Boot Camp (CBC) participants, and tourists.
Close-ups with Aldabra giant tortoises
Tourists rave about the gentle ancients, whose population of nearly 80 can be found roaming the plateau. Perhaps it's because of their ET-like faces, their gentle demeanour, and their willingness to make friends. George is certainly the most loved. Visitors enjoy rubbing his wrinkled neck and taking photos with him. "I could never forget old George, possibly the friendliest tortoise in the world. He never shies away from a neck scratch and you don’t have to venture far from the field centre to find him," says Charlie, a former CBC participant.
We often hear tourists saying, “It’s a bird paradise here!" Yes, it is! Cousin is one of the best places for avifauna in Seychelles. "I was impressed by the number of birds flying over my head, and sitting in nests on the trees and on the ground," says Alina. Whistling for Seychelles magpie robin or tracking the growth chicks tops the list of the most liked activities by staff and volunteers. The cute, but cheeky, Seychelles fody that hops towards your plate whenever you sit down for a meal is also worthy of an honourable mention!
Hawksbills on land and sea
Come upon a Hawksbill turtle, nesting on land or gliding in the ocean, and you will never forget the experience. Tourists who have stumbled upon hatchlings making a dash for the ocean during a morning visit describe the experience as indescribable. "I felt so free and happy while drifting with a turtle through the crystal clear turquoise water of the Indian Ocean," says Annike, another CBC participant.
Staff are often treated to a dolphin sighting in the Marine Protected Area (MPA) of Cousin Island. Everyone scrambles to find their cameras and snap a photo. Dolphins are regular visitors and can be seen hunting, playing or surfing some of the waves offshore. They also often sea lemon sharks and rays close to the beach.
The Cousin Hill and viewpoint
The top of Cousin is a magical place and is loved by everyone as you have a 360-degree view of surrounding islands, but the viewpoint slightly below it is the place to be. It's the spot where residents relax in the evening or celebrate meaningful events such as birthdays. A marriage proposal was once made here!
Swimming, snorkelling, and surfing
The work on Cousin can sometimes be gruelling, especially on hot and humid days. During the turtle season, long hours are not unusual. The reward is the boundless nature you can enjoy at the end of the day. And what's the best thing you can do after work? Jump in the warm ocean and swim! Or Snorkel. Or Surf. Because Cousin is an MPA and fishing is not allowed, the variety of fishes you see here is incredible. "Every time I went for a snorkel I discovered new fish that I have never seen before," says Marvin, a former volunteer, who also learnt how to surf from Alex, a senior warden who loves the sport. "After I took my first few waves I really got addicted to it, he says.
The management of Cousin Island Special Reserve is being supported by WWF Belgium through a grant to allow it to continue to conserve endangered species and critical habitats during the financial crisis caused by COVID-19.