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Cousin Island is a Special Reserve Island, just off the coast of Praslin, first taken into the care of Birdlife International to save one bird- the Seychelles Warbler (Acrocephalus sechellensis), when its numbers were reduced to below thirty. The major cause of this birds decline, was due to the changing of the islands habitat, when Plantation owners took up the native vegetation and planted coconut trees. The only reason this bird survived is because the island has a small, swamp-like area where the coconut trees could not be planted.
Now under the care of Nature Seychelles , the island is back to its original glory, with the natural vegetation allowed to grow back and repopulate, as well as success with various bird species, from both the sea and land. The Seychelles Warbler and the Seychelles Magpie Robin are the most notable of the birds species to be seen on the island, the latter being surprisingly easy to see on a guided tour. Just a whistle from the guide and they will be right in front of you.
A visit to the island can be arranged through most hotels on Praslin, normally as part of an 'Island cruise', the most common of which takes you to Curieuse Island and also the St.Pierre Islet for snorkelling, though if you cannot find details from your hotel tours you can always ring the Nature Seychelles office using the hotel phonebook. Prices vary, depending on who you go with, but there is a landing charge for the island, normally included in the price from your tour, but always check.
To reach Cousin Island , you will be treated to a dramatic speedboat ride from your vessel onto the island, a precaution taken by the island to prevent rats and mice getting onto the island, as the island is predator free. If you have valuables such as camcorders and cameras, make sure they are in a drybag to keep them safe. At certain times of the year you will be hit with a vast cacophony of noise, the sheer number of birds simply astounding and you will be gazing up at the trees in awe and amazement. Once on the island, (and after you have gathered your senses..) you will join a guided tour, don't wander off, though the island is not the largest, you could get lost but may also disturb the wildlife. Besides, with a guide you will see plenty, you can be sure of that. The tours are given in English and French, you choose which you would prefer to join and are normally in groups of around ten, though in peak times this can be as many as twenty-five. This does little to damage the experience however, everyone gets a chance to see whatever there is to see and ask questions. The tour lasts around an hour, so a good water supply is a must, though if you do not fancy such a long tour you can opt to stay at the Visitor Shelter and take a short stroll along the beach. Mosquitoes can be a problem, particularly from October onwards, so take repellent, though this must be applied before you head out on the island, as repellent is technically an insecticide which are banned from the island.
This island is a haven for the photographer, stunning photos are everywhere you look, from the birds to viously dithe plants, to the landscapes that vary throughout the island. The birds are quite used to humans and so you can get very close, but never touch or stay close if the bird is obviously distressed, normally the case if they are incubating an egg or with their chick. Be sure to take your camera!
If you visit the island from September onwards, through to late January you may be lucky enough to see a Hawksbill Turtle, coming up to lay a nest, an oddity with turtles as the Hawksbill comes up during the day, where most other species do so at night. The Hawksbill Turtle is listed as Critically Endangered globally, and Cousin Island is the most important nesting site in the Western Indian Ocean . October, November and December are the best months to see them.
Children and adults alike will love the Giant Tortoises of which around thirty roam the island freely. At times there are even baby Giant tortoises which will astound you as to how they grow so big. As with the birds you can get real close, even giving them a tickle under the chin which they seem to like!
If you get time at the end, after looking through the books and souvenirs on offer at the Visitor Shelter, (of which all proceeds go back into the island conservation) you can normally have a snorkel, and who knows, you could even see a Manta Ray which are seen around the island quite regularly.
The island is run by a team of wardens, all of whom live on the island and run the tours, as well as conduct turtle patrols, sea and land bird monitoring and maintenance of the island. They are more than happy to speak to you and answer your questions whether they are about the island or the Seychelles . Enjoy the island- it truly is a unique place.