9 A journey to paradise

We had decided to go to Cousin Island on a day trip. As the island's name was French we didn't know how to pronounce it until we heard it from Seychellois.

Travel agents picked us up from our hotel on Mahe island at 6:45. I asked the driver about how local people treat flying foxes. He said because the bats were not protected by laws anybody could catch and eat them or keep them as pets. In the Northern Mariana Islands the animals were a real treat on special occasions, but according to him, in the Seychelles some people eat flying foxes just as part of their normal diet.

To get to Cousin we first had to fly to Praslin, (another island which we did not know how to pronounce) by a propeller plane. The DHC-6 for 20 people was familiar to us as we flew one many times to Minami-daito Island. We were handed large yellow plastic cards when we completed boarding procedures instead of boarding passes. The card color showed which flight we could take. This is a good way to avoid confusion as the country consists of many small islands and there are many flights towards the different islands from Mahe Airport. A short bumpy flight took us to Praslin.

We met a local travel agent at Praslin airport. As far as we knew there was only one Japanese travel agent in the country and the other travel agents didn't understand Japanese. We were going to Cousin Island by boat from here and we would return to Praslin just before noon. We arranged that after the cruise we were to be picked up at the shore and take to Vallee de Mai National Park which is situated in the center of this island.

The landing place was on the opposite side of the island from the airport so we shared a taxi with the other passengers.

the cruiserThe cruiser was moored several meters from the shore so a small boat had to take passengers to the cruiser several times. There were about 25 passengers most of whom were in swimming suites and sandals which were more practical as we had to take a boat from the shallow water. But my husband and I wore long pants and walking shoes with rain gear, binoculars, cameras and picture books as we wanted to watch birds. We and another couple were the only Japanese tourists, and all the other tourists were French.

The cruise got bumpy when we went away from the island. But the pitching of the high speed cruiser was like flying in the air, and that motion was OK for me even though I am prone to get sea sick. In general, pitching was better than rolling. The sea was so wild that sometimes the cruiser had to lower its speed to let the raging waters go past. Shearwaters were flying over the sea surface.

After 40 minutes of cruising we got to Cousin Island. The whole island is a reserve for wild birds. People other than researchers are not allowed to land on it except for the tours which are held twice a week. Furthermore, the tour participants are not allowed to walk wherever they wish and have to follow a guide. Cruisers are not allowed to berth directly on the shore in order to avoid the introduction of mice because the island is a haven for Tropic Birds and Terns which build nests on the ground. So our cruiser anchored tens of meters from the shore and all passengers had to move to a smaller boat that could hold only six people.

they had to wait another big wave to float the boat againThe boat stopped and waited for a while several meters from the beach to avoid the waves hitting the boat on the side to prevent rolling. When the sea became calm the boat ran straight towards the beach without showing signs of lowering speed even when it got near the beach. No sooner than I thought " Wow, is it going to run onto the beach?" it struck the beach hard and ran aground on it. As the beach was covered with fine sand the impact was not that big but it was a really wild landing. They had to wait for another big wave to float the boat and push it back into the water. After this process was repeated several times finally everybody had landed.

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