On one of the most unique islands on earth, two students from the Seychelles Maritime Academy (SMA) learnt conservation, independence, and work and life balance during a 5-month work attachment.
Saddiqua (L)and Naomi (R) on Cousin Island where they did their work attachment
One of the main goals of Nature Seychelles is to help equip young people with hands-on in-the-field skills that they need for their future careers. Through its EnvironMentor program, students in local colleges can participate in conservation work and tourism activities while embedded on Cousin Island Special Reserve, which is run by the NGO. Cousin has received tens of local students through this program over the years.
5 months ago, it was Saddiqua Fanny Al-Abdulla and Naomi Moncherry's turn to go to the island. Both were on work attachment from the SMA. Their initial plan was to stay for 3 months. But as soon as that period ended, they requested an additional 2 months' stay. So hardworking and well adapted to the work program were they that their request was immediately granted.
Naomi taking biometrics of her favourite bird the Seychelles magpie robin
At their debriefing after leaving the island, Naomi affirmed that she had enjoyed her stay and that the attachment had been a most valuable experience for her. She says she made a deep connection with nature, particularly when carrying out her most favourite conservation activity - the monitoring of the Endangered Seychelles magpie robin (SMR). "You get to watch them closely," she says of the charismatic endangered endemic bird. "You whistle and they come. You see them eat and interact with each other. And the way they hop around is quite fun. When you go deeper into their territories in the forest it's like going on an adventure!"
Naomi also said she had always admired tour guiding and was quite delighted when she got the opportunity to meet and interact with tourists and even lead her own tour around the island.
She enjoyed the independence the island gave her. "It is a place where young minds like myself can come and live independently away from the comforts of home. I chose Cousin Island, not just for the work experience, but also to gain life skills."
Likewise, Saddiqua says that her stay on the reserve has been quite rewarding. "From walking barefoot in the forest to learning how to cope with the wildlife. Working with animals has been great and I simply enjoyed learning more about them every day. Being surrounded by nature on this beautiful island is peaceful and relaxing."
The pair conducting beach profile monitoring
Her preferred activities were beach cleaning, SMR monitoring, and Seabird breeding success monitoring. "Beach cleaning because a clean environment leads to a healthy life for the animals on the island. SMR monitoring because I get the chance to study the magpie robin behaviour and learnt about their history, and during breeding success monitoring, I was able to study different types of seabirds and their chicks as they grow through different stages," she says. She said she chose the island because she hopes to pursue a conservation career in the near future, and would like to come back to work on the island.
Their advice for students seeking attachment on the island is to give themselves some time to get into its tempo. "It was most definitely not what I expected, but I adjusted. Afterward, it was a breeze. For me it has been a dream come true to have been part of this award-winning special reserve and team," Naomi concludes.