Approaching cousine, the first thing the eyes register after recovering from the sight of the island's blinding white hem of sand is the sky. Or rather not the sky, but the vast numbers of seabirds diving and wheeling overhead. Over 100,000 of them roost on this 25-hectare island one of the 115 that make up the Seychelles.
Having spent the better part of the 20th century as a coconut plantation, Cousine was declared a reserve in 1968 and reborn as a haven for avian life, turtles, tortoises and a maximum of eight human visitors at a time. Ideal for birders and naturalists who have had enough of vacations under canvas, Cousine offers four spacious (175 sq m) villas decked out in colonial Seychellois style, with steep roofs, wide verandas and antique wooden furniture. Right outside your front door, giant Aldabra tortoises lumber down sandy paths, and snowy white fairy terns emerge from the pisonia trees, fluttering excitedly until you leave their territory.
In addition to the terns, thousands of noddies, shearwaters and tropic birds rear chicks and roost en masse along low-hanging branches, in the nooks of tree roots and smack on top of massive pink granite boulders. Out on the gorgeous, empty beaches, the footprints you come across are more likely to belong to a turtle or a crab than to another person. This is one of those rare places where nature's great spectacle overwhelms anything man-made, and yet luxurious comfort, fresh fabulous cuisine, all manner of aquatic activities, a great library and gracious staff remain on hand, 24/7. If all that isn't enough, 100% of the resort's profits go back into the island's conservation. See cousineisland.com for more.