"I absolutely loved it"
Lindsay Hickman, from the UK, joined for 2 weeks in February 2019
The island is incredible, even from the first moment when they pick you up in the boat the experience is absolutely amazing. The program is mostly set up as a ‘Conservation Bootcamp’ aimed at given people the experience they might need for a career in conservation. This means the program is very structured and full. The first few days it was perhaps a little too busy, while we are still adjusting to the climate and the mosquitoes, but now I wouldn’t have changed any of it. The ‘bootcamp’ style is also intended to get you working autonomously as soon as possible, so within a few days we were doing solo turtle patrols, or working on tasks in small groups with longer term volunteers/PHD students. This means you learn loads and get to experience the island and it’s wildlife on a really personal level which I absolutely adored.
I was there at the end of the turtle season and the start of the sea bird breeding success season, so got a really nice variety of research work. On turtle patrols we would walk the beach and if we found a turtle nesting would take her details and count her eggs to feed into the turtle data. For the sea bird breeding success project we had to find sea bird nests across the island and record the location for monitoring over the next 3 months. You are able to get so close to the birds and wildlife. I left my binoculars in the room for most of the time, as they just weren’t necessary.
I think what made it so special for me was the autonomy you get. it was really lovely to spend time alone around the island. Equally, everyone was really friendly and lovely, so the time spent with others was great too. There were a few longer term volunteers/researchers there at the time which made a massive difference for me. They added a lovely energy and bought extra knowledge and experience to the tasks.
It was very hot to try and sleep at night. None of us slept the first few nights while we adjusted. I eventually moved to sleep in a mosquito tent on the beach (next to a Giant Tortoise) and would recommend anyone going to try to take their own mosquito tent, because this was definitely the best place to sleep!
I had been warned it [mosquitoes] would be bad but they were worse than I ever could have imagined. Despite the mosquitoes though, I absolutely loved it. In many ways it was one of the most challenging volunteer programmes I’ve been on, but I got so much more out of it because of that.
"I loved the project"
Georgia Smith, from Australia, joined for 4 weeks in November 2018
I loved the project. It’s well organised, the living conditions are great and it was well worth the money. The coordinator is great to work with. The program was very hands-on and provided many opportunities to work with turtles, seabirds, tortoises and invertebrates too. I went to the island already being quite experienced with working with turtles (my job in Australia) so it was a bit frustrating having to go through the whole training process – but otherwise this would be great for people who have never had this experience. And I completely understand why they do it.
I thoroughly enjoyed being given responsibility on the island, in regards to the field work. One thing that a few of us struggled with whilst we were there was how intense the days were. We all got used to it in the end. Often we would wake up before 6am and have to continue field work into the night. This wasn’t the coordinator’s fault – it’s an island where lots of work needs to be done! Other than that the experience was great, and I would recommend it to anyone.
"Incredibly educational experiences"
Tyche, from the Netherlands, joined the project for 4 weeks
Both turtle monitoring and the seabird monitoring were incredibly educational experiences. Observing a turtle whilst she’s nesting is definitely one of the most special things I’ve seen, and I have developed a real fondness for the seabirds and their chicks whose progress we monitored in the weeks after they hatched. (Cousin) inspires in a completely positive way a desire to preserve nature and wildlife that goes beyond an intellectual understanding.
"The grandest of my adventures in life"
James, from the UK, joined the programme for 4 weeks
Coming to Cousin Island has been by far the grandest of my adventures in life so far. With the challenges brought by the island, time allows you to acclimatise just fine and the rewards infinitely outweigh any struggle you might face. During my stay I’ve seen more species of tropical fish and birds than I dare to count and I have also done extensive fieldwork in a setting most only dream of.