The mosquitoes were a little aggressive, the wardens were welcoming and the Seychelles magpie robin extremely smart. The seabirds were loud and the skinks always underfoot. It was tiring, but fun.
A typical work attachment involves all aspects of work
For one and a half months, two 18-year old students of the Seychelles Maritime Academy, Ervin Ally, and Jean Philip exchanged their relative cosmopolitan life on Mahe for the remoteness of Cousin Island Special Reserve for work attachment. They lived, breathed, and worked with nature alongside the conservation officer and island's wardens. It was a first-time exposure to conservation for both teenagers. But within no time, they were part and parcel of the beating heart of the island.
A typical work attachment involves all aspects of work on the Reserve, which includes monitoring and management of wildlife and their habitats, beach clean-ups, clearing nature trails, and keeping invasive species at bay. But working on Cousin really pushes a young person's boundaries as they not only undergo training in new things but also have to take care of themselves.
The choice to do his work attachment on Cousin was an easy one for Ervin. He has longed to work on the island since he was a child. So happy is he with his attachment that he hopes to work on the island in the future.
Ervin has come a long way from the smartphone-clutching youngster who got off the boat after a short ride from Praslin. Uncertain at first at the reception he would receive, he was pleasantly surprised to find himself among friends within minutes of his arrival.
"After a while, it felt as if we had known the wardens a long time. We played football and went swimming and canoeing together. And at sunset, we went up to the viewpoint."
A certified scuba diver, Jean Philip said going to Cousin was something new as his experiences beforehand were linked to diving. "I really enjoyed it, because I learnt a lot about conservation, the island and the birds and all that's being done for their preservation. I am now thinking about getting involved in marine conservation."
Hiking up to Cousin Hill to watch the sunset
The two boys said the experience has been a preparation for a future of work, teaching them about punctuality, teamwork, and commitment to a task.
They also had to cook for themselves and keep their accommodation clean. Although challenging at first, they said they adjusted their expectations and made sacrifices.
Nature Seychelles has been partnering with the Maritime Academy for many years to enable students to work on Cousin on work attachments and as volunteers as part of the NGO's EnvironMentor Program. It has also recruited wardens from the institution.
"This is an important aspect of our work," says Nirmal Shah, Nature Seychelles Chief Executive. "We are giving young Seychellois a chance to prepare for life outside of school. We are showing them that new horizons await on the islands beyond Mahe, Praslin and La Digue.”