"It is an important aspect of our work; we are giving young Seychellois a chance to prepare for life outside of school. These are after all tomorrow's conservation and tourism leaders." Says Nirmal Shah, Nature Seychelles Chief Executive.
"In my biased opinion Cousin Island Special Reserve provides a classroom like no other. Students get the full package. They experience nature first hand and are involved in conservation and tour-guiding. But so that they do not get the idea that all is rosy in the real world we get them into the "down and dirty work" which is part of running the island. And they have to live on the island - cut off from family and friends." Says Island Coordinator, Ian Valmont.
A typical internship involves all aspects of work on the Special Reserve. There is the conservation -monitoring of species and surveys. There is the tour guiding - where participation requires a knowledge of the island and what it offers. Tours are offered in two languages - English and French, so both language and presentation skills are tested. And a certain level of maintenance is needed even for a nature reserve. There is raking leaves and clearing overhanging branches along tour paths, keeping invasive species at bay, cleaning water troughs and filling them up for the animals, and beach cleaning.
Once you get past the reality of an island lifestyle, however, you start to appreciate what the experience can do for you, Valmont is quick to add. Michael, a Seychelles Tourism Academy student currently on internship on the island, says of his experience:
"Through my school I got an internship on the Special Reserve. During the briefing I was told life on the island would not be easy. It can be difficult. However, once you have adopted it's a piece of cake. For me it began well and it gets better every day. Life on the island starts with the impressive Bond-like boat landing followed by smiles of co-workers that make you feel welcomed. It will be such a shame to leave after the end of two months."
Most important is that students and volunteers leave with an appreciation of the importance of Cousin Island Special Reserve. And most do.
"I have seen many of the birds I had heard about. But I was shocked to see the warbler; I couldn't believe that such a small bird turned an island into a reserve. It has been the best experience of my teenage life and a good start for my future career plans." Michael says.