Participating in this special volunteer project means to be able to actively contribute to nature and wildlife conservation on the magnificent Seychelles island of Cousin. As a volunteer in this species conservation programme, established in 2017, you receive essential conservation knowledge due to your involvement in various projects and tasks, and acquire valuable skills in implementing research methods and conservation measures. Together with your team of international volunteers and instructed by long-term experienced conservationists you dedicate yourself to endangered sea turtle and seabird monitoring, take part in wildlife censuses, support important restoration activities and, in this way, contribute to protecting and preserving the island’s pristine flora and fauna.
Within the Western part of the Indian Ocean, 1000 miles off the East African coast, lies the Seychelles archipelago, an unspoiled paradise and home to countless species on our planet. West of the second largest island Praslin you can find the small island of Cousin, a nature reserve for endemic animal and plant species, and location of the project. Despite its size of only 27 ha, Cousin boasts a diversity and abundance of species and habitats. The plateau area, used as a coconut plantation from the early 1900s until the late 60ies, is now dominated by mapou (Pisonia grandis), Indian mulberry (Morinda citrifolia) and bwa sousouri (Ochrosia oppositifolia) forests. Wetlands are home to various insect, bird, reptile and amphibian species. Furthermore, five of the Seychelles’ eleven endemic land birds can be found on Cousin Island.
The project usually starts on the first Monday of the month. We advise you to book your flight straight to Praslin. Please make sure to arrive the weekend (Sunday) before the project starts and book a room near Grand Anse, Praslin. The project’s programme coordinator picks you up on Monday morning at a certain meeting point and takes you to the harbour of the island. There you will go on a boat that takes you straight to Cousin. After your arrival on Cousin, you can meet the team, familiarize yourself with your accommodation and the area and get an introduction to the project’s work and goals.
Your volunteer tasks focus on protecting endangered sea turtles and sea birds, particularly by intense monitoring activities. In general, your tasks are dependent on the season.
Turtle nest monitoring takes place from September to March. It is the intense part of the year as patrols need to be done six times a day all around the island. This means noting down all turtle tracks, observing them on land until they lay eggs and leave the island, measuring the animals’ carapace and counting eggs when possible, identifying each stage of nesting, tagging if the turtle is untagged and marking the nest site. At the end of a patrol unit the data needs to be entered in the computer data base.
Sea bird monitoring takes place from February to October. Sea birds can provide us with valuable information regarding the health and status of marine ecosystems. Data, gathered through population and/or chick censuses, can help to identify certain changes which necessitate the development of certain conservation measures.
Removing invasive plants, performing wildlife censuses for other animal species, cleaning the beach, helping with beach-profiling and supporting maintenance work on the island are further volunteer tasks among your involvement in seabird and turtle monitoring. Moreover, you gain an insight into ecotourism by interacting with tourist groups while they are waiting for their guide to start the tour. You will also have the opportunity to lead a guided tour seconded by a warden your instructors feel that you are ready for this adventure.
During your time on Cousin Island you are accommodated in a field house together with other volunteers. The house has three rooms (with single beds and bunk beds), a bathroom, a kitchen, a living room and a patio. The toilet stands next to the house; it is an ecofriendly long-drop/pit toilet instead of a western style toilet. Each volunteer is responsible for their cooking and laundry (handwash). Linen, mosquito nets, fans, and mosquito repellent coils are provided. In order to be able to contact friends and family at home, you should bring your cellphone and purchase a sim card on Praslin or Mahé. This way you can make national and international calls and, if you top it up, use the internet as well. Once a week, usually on Mondays, volunteers can join a scheduled boat trip to Praslin for shopping, cooking gas, fuel and water supply. As energy is provided by solar power and water is a scarce resource on the island, you are expected to be very conscious and minimal with your water and energy usage.
Everybody interested in volunteering abroad should be able to adjust to entirely unfamiliar standards of living in their future host country. Therefore, we would like to point out the importance of being flexible and adaptable regarding the accommodation and sanitary facilities provided by the project. Those are very basic and – depending on the project – cannot be compared to European standards. The equipment and furnishings are limited to a minimum; air conditioning is not available. Depending on your host country occasional power blackouts or water outages are quite common. Please contact us if you have further questions about your accommodation. We are pleased to provide you with comprehensive information since we would like you to feel entirely prepared for your time abroad.
Weekends and evenings are usually off. Leisure time activities takes place mainly out in the open. On the island offers the opportunity to relax at the beach or to go on nature trips. Cousin’s fascinating underwater world is ideal for snorkeling – so don’t forget to bring along your snorkel equipment and take part in organized group snorkeling sessions. Another favorite volunteer activity is star-gazing after dinner as the night sky above the island is simply magnificent.
The Seychelles archipelago is home to a variety of endemic and unusual animal and plant species. Coconut plantations up to the 1970s had a serious impact on the natural environment and put native species under pressure. In 1968 Cousin was bought by the International Council for Bird Preservation in order to protect the last tiny population of the Seychelles Warbler, a near extinct endemic bird species. In the mid-70s the island and its surrounding waters were declared a special reserve. Since that time, intense efforts have been implemented to restore the island’s original flora. In order to finance these renaturation measures, the responsible nature conservation organisations are combining nature conservation with ecotourism. As part of different nature and species conservation projects volunteers now work hand-in-hand with locals to protect the natural environment of the Seychelles.