A boat ride is the beginning of an exhilarating nature tour of Cousin Island. From the plateaus of a native forest to the top of Cousin Island, animated Seychellois wardens based on the island take visitors on trails for an intensive one-and-a-half-hour personal guided tour.
Taking care to avoid tripping over roots and guano or crushing slithering skinks and crabs on the forest floor, they point out numerous birds that provide an extraordinary soundtrack to the tour: the ground-breeding White-tailed tropicbirds watching warily from the bases of tree trunks, the White terns fluttering in the air above them, the Seychelles magpie robin shimmering black in the sunlight, and the Seychelles warbler darting from tree to tree looking for insects. They'll offer photo sessions with tortoises lumbering lazily across the island. Most visitors will leave the island having picked up facts and stories about the island, its history, and conservation success, and the island's environmental sustainability practices.
The Cousin Wardens receive visitors every morning from Monday to Friday
The Cousin Wardens guide visitors every morning from Monday to Friday. To validate their abilities and turbo-charge their skills, they received a capacity development course in guiding mid-October. The course was delivered by the Head of Programmes for Apprenticeship, TVET, and Inservice at the Seychelles Tourism Academy (STA), Maxime Lousie, who has decades of experience in the tourism industry, and veteran tour guide Gemma Jessie, and comprised of theory sessions covering a wide array of subjects including identifying visitor interests, attractions and hotspots, preparing and conducting a tour, visitor interactions, and health and safety. Both trainers illustrated all aspects with real-life examples from years of interacting with tourists. The training also covered the geography and history of Seychelles, presented the various types of tourism products, while explaining the reasons behind the country's popularity as a tourist destination, and articulated the importance of tourism for the economy. It concluded with a nature-based tour practical on Cousin Island.
I was glad to have the opportunity to see the rangers at work. They showed very good professionalism and dedication to their work. There is a very good sense of camaraderie amongst them and they are respectful and eager to learn. Keep up the good work boys. I am proud of you," Mrs. Jessie said.
The wardens all said that they found the training useful.
Tourists are given a personal guided tour of the island
"It has impacted my day-to-day interactions with visitors coming to Cousin, particularly dealing with different types of tourists. A special thanks to Mrs. Gemma Jessie for sharing her vast knowledge," said Dailus Laurence, the Chief Warden on Cousin Island.
"The tour guiding training was instructive and helpful towards improving the way I manage and communicate with guests, and provided a better understanding of ways to make the tours more professional and enjoyable for guests," reiterated Alex Souyana, a senior warden on the island.
"This refresher training was a breath of fresh air and advantageous to upgrade my guiding skills," said Laurence Hoareau, a former graduate of STA.
"I gained a lot of knowledge that will help me in my everyday exchanges with the tourists," said newbie warden to the island Christopher Rose, who is learning the ropes of tour guiding.
The training was timely given the resumption of tourism in Seychelles and was provided under the Government of Seychelles-UNDP-GEF Protected Area Finance Project.
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.