Zoe and Alanah, two students of the Seychelles Tourism Academy (STA), left the comfort of Mahe to live on Cousin Island Special Reserve during a six-month internship, which the girls describe as exciting and memorable.
Alanah and Zoe take visitors on a tour of Cousin Island
"I knew it would be an interesting experience," says Zoe, who only heard about Cousin Island from their head lecturer moments before she applied for her internship there. "I chose Cousin Island because I wanted to learn about conservation and ecotourism. I also wanted to become independent and to see how I would feel working on an island, and how really different it was from Mahe, Praslin, and La Digue." Alanah, however, already knew about Cousin and Nature Seychelles from TV and the internet, from reading books about the endemic birds in Seychelles, and from family members that had visited the island.
Armed with this basic knowledge, the two girls jumped on the boat to discover the renowned nature reserve for themselves. Despite being only 15 minutes from Praslin, life here is quite different. You live surrounded by nature. As a matter of fact, nature can be pretty intrusive, with toktoks (Seychelles fodys) and lizards trying to share your every meal, and nesting seabirds watching your every move while sheltering their young. In addition, the island has the bare necessities; it has no shops to dash to when you need something, and it has minimal infrastructure to reduce human impact.
But living on Cousin was not that tough, Alanah asserts. "You learn how to wash your own clothes, cook your own food, and how to manage yourself financially," she says. Zoe agrees. "I always heard stories about the toilet being outside and washing clothes by hand, but it was a wonderful experience notwithstanding the mosquitoes. Working on Cousin felt like paradise. I was always surrounded by nature."
A favourite activity was Hawksbill turtle monitoring
The girls were soon immersed in the island's work program, which focuses on conservation and ecotourism. Their visit coincided with turtle season. "I love that I got the chance to experience the turtle nesting season," says Alanah. Zoe says she too liked the turtle patrols the most as "it is really rare to see a turtle and turtle hatchlings heading to the sea up close." She also enjoyed beach cleanups and seabird censuses at night. "Not only do you get to experience nature during the day but also at night!" she exclaims.
And what skills did they pick up? "As I am studying tourism and tour guiding my main focus was dealing with clients who come to the island," Alanah says, while Zoe says she learnt more than expected about conservation. "I also felt more confident about the course I’m studying, and it also feels nice to educate other people about Cousin and what Nature Seychelles is exactly about."
The two girls also remarked that the staff was supportive. "They were all welcoming and always ready to help."
Nature Seychelles is proud of their achievements and wishes them all the best for the future.