A tropical Indian Ocean setting provides an idyllic backdrop for this focus on the special flora and fauna of the Seychelles Islands. On Mahe, the largest island, we’ll enjoy the pristine white beaches, turquoise seas and wooded hills which harbour an exciting variety of endemic flowers, birds and reptiles. During 5 days on Praslin, we’ll look for the island’s endemic Black Parrots and Coco de Mer palms, and use it as a base from which to visit the islands of Aride, Cousin, Curieuse, St Pierre and La Digue where a wealth of seabirds awaits, plus five endemic bird species including the Seychelles Magpie-robin and Seychelles Black Paradise Flycatcher. On the appropriately named Bird Island, we enjoy a 3 night stay in a comfortable hotel which lies amidst a profusion of seabirds, especially Sooty and Fairy Terns.
The Republic of Seychelles is composed of a scattered archipelago of wonderful islands in the equatorial western Indian Ocean. Although the combined land area of the islands is small (only 455 square kilometres), they hold an exceptional and incredibly diverse natural history, and the larger granitic islands have a rugged and often precipitous relief that accentuates the appeal of this unique country.
On Mahe, by far the largest island, a sinuous 30-kilometre spine of verdant peaks rises spectacularly to 900 metres, above idyllic bays of clear, turquoise sea, beaches of shining white sand and delightfully old-fashioned coconut plantations. High on the winding and panoramic Sans Soucis road, and in the Morne Seychellois National Park, a rich flora includes the strange, carnivorous Seychelles Pitcher Plant and Seychelles Wild Orchid. Wild ginger, cardamon and philodendron vines grow in the ditches and up the trees here, and in the mountain mist forests we may chance upon the endemic Seychelles Bulbul, the dazzling but highly endangered endemic butterfly, the King of the Seychelles, or the elusive Tiger Chameleon. Our exploration of Mahe will also take us to lovely beaches, past Creole-style houses and tea plantations, and over the reefs at nearby Moyenne Island. A roost of endemic Seychelles Fruit Bats is another highlight on Mahe, while on the mudflats of Victoria many species of migrant shorebird congregate, among them the striking Crab Plover, Pacific Golden Plover and other waders. By day there will be the chance to roam among spices such as Cloves, Patchouli and Nutmeg, enjoying their exotic scents to the full, while at night we will search for the island’s interesting nocturnal inhabitants, among them the Seychelles Scops Owl.
On Praslin we find an environment that is utterly unique. The Valle de Mai is the last relict of an ancient palm forest that once covered much of the islands. Walking along the narrow trails here induces a profound sense of timelessness, augmented by the relative absence of bird song. A variety of palms and the bizarre palm-like pandanus create an eerie, though fascinating environment. Only the occasional flock of endemic Black Parrots, weaving their way through the palm crowns, reminds us that we are in a modern and not prehistoric age. Along the Glacis Noir Nature Trail, Takamaka Trees, Santol and the vulnerable Coco de Mer are among the vegetation of interest; the latter produces the largest seed in the world and, until the true source of the seed was discovered in 1768, it was believed to grow on a mythical tree at the bottom of the sea!
Praslin will serve as a base from which to visit the smaller granitic islands which shelter vulnerable but still surviving populations of rare species such as the Seychelles Black Paradise Flycatcher and Seychelles Fody. From Praslin we will visit the islands of Aride, Cousin, Curieuse, St. Pierre and La Digue. The former rises impressively from the sea, cloaked in rich woodland with a fertile coastal plateau on the south side and it is the picture of an idyllic tropical island. The wildlife here has remained undisturbed for centuries and the island is, arguably, the most important bird reserve in the Seychelles. It is host to more than 750,000 pairs of 10 breeding seabird species, including several thousand Greater and Lesser Frigatebirds, and five species endemic to Seychelles, amongst them the very rare Seychelles Magpie-robin. La Digue is the fourth largest of the granitic islands and famous for its unique Seychelles Black Paradise Flycatcher, which can be seen in the Veuve Special Reserve.
Owned by the conservation organisation Nature Seychelles, the tiny island of Cousin has provided a sanctuary for the Seychelles Warbler and efforts to protect this species have certainly resulted in saving it from extinction. Some 250,000 birds nest on the island each year, most of them seabirds, but among the others are Seychelles Fody, Seychelles Sunbird, Seychelles Warbler and Seychelles Turtle Dove. The reserve is also home to a wide range of other fauna, including skinks and giant tortoises.
There will be opportunities for snorkelling for those who wish, and among the exciting potential underwater delights of these islands is the critically endangered Hawksbill Turtle, which nests in the Seychelles.
On Bird Island the emphasis is on leisure and wildlife in whatever blend you fancy! White-tailed Tropicbirds and Common Noddy nest on Bird Island in large numbers and, thanks to careful management practices, the island has seen a return of vast numbers of Sooty Terns — about a million pairs at the last count! Fairy Terns, Lesser Noddy and Green-backed Heron are all seen here, and Bird Island is also home to Esmerelda, the largest tortoise in the world!
Together with the warm hospitality of the people and delicious seafood, this relaxing yet rewarding holiday in these enchanting islands is sure to fulfil and exceed all expectations.
+32 71 84 54 80
Présente le lundi, mardi de 8h30 à 15h30 et jeudi de 8h30 à 15h00
10th Sep -23h Sep 2023 - 6265€
- Flights from London
- Accommodation: We stay in comfortable hotels with private facilities throughout.
- Food: All food is included in the price.
* These tours are operated by Naturetrek (ABTA Y6206) for which Nature et Terroir acts as agent.
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Please note that the itinerary below offers our planned programme of excursions. However, adverse weather & other local considerations can necessitate some re-ordering of the programme during the course of the tour, though this will always be done to maximise best use of the time and weather conditions available.
We depart this afternoon from London (or regional airport) on an Emirates flight to Mahe, via Dubai.
Days 2 – 3
Following a change of aircraft in Dubai, we arrive into Mahe early this morning where we will be met by our tour leader and transfer to our first hotel. There should be ample time in the afternoon to begin familiarising ourselves with some of the common birds and insects of the granitic Seychelles.
Our stay on Mahe will be split between two nights at the start of the tour and two at the end. We will plan our daily activities carefully, according to subtle changes in tidal and weather conditions during our visits, and will incorporate an investigation into as many aspects of the natural history of the island as possible.
Birds and botany will be the main natural history focus during our time on Mahe and we will likely begin by taking a tour along the winding Sans Soucis road, situated at a height of about 300 metres. We will follow this remarkably scenic route until we reach the base of Trois Freres, a mountain with a summit of nearly 700 metres. Here we will have an introduction to some the island’s endemic flora such as the Seychelles Pitcher Plant and beautiful Seychelles Wild Vanilla Orchid. Mahe’s mountainous regions are the most likely place for us to spot the attractive Seychelles Blue Pigeon.
A variety of tidal shorebird and waterfowl inhabit Mahe, and we will visit mangrove woodland and beaches on the east coast, especially in the vicinity of Victoria. Here we should see Cattle Egrets, Grey and Green-backed Herons, several other species of familiar wading bird, together with unfamiliar ones such as the extraordinarily delicate Crab Plover, Greater and Lesser Sand Plovers, Pacific Golden Plover, Red-necked Stint, the delightful Terek Sandpiper, wintering Saunder’s Little Terns plus Crested and White-winged Black Terns. In the luxuriant gardens and plantations of Mahe, we will look for a very small endemic falcon, the Seychelles Kestrel, plenty of Malagasy Turtle Doves and the curious Barred Ground Doves – originally introduced from Indonesia. The noisy Seychelles Bulbul, Seychelles Sunbird, Common Mynas and Madagascar Fody are all species we’ll be hoping to see on Mahe as well.
Overhead, especially in the vicinity of the mountain caves and crags on Mahe and – later in the tour – La Digue, we should frequently encounter small parties of the Seychelles Cave Swiftlet; these sometimes flutter like insects in comparison with those lumbering giants, the Seychelles Fruit Bats. In complete contrast, the supremely graceful White-tailed Tropicbirds can be seen gliding overhead almost anywhere in small numbers.
At some point during our stay on Mahe, we will also visit the Saint Anne Marine National Park for leisurely exploration by catamaran and the opportunity to enjoy some fabulous snorkelling over the reefs. Although always optional, snorkelling is usually a real highlight for many during their stay in the Seychelles, and the reefs support a host of spectacular fish species and many other beautiful marine creatures, including Hawksbill Turtles, though we’d be very lucky to see one.
We may also make a couple of early morning starts and an optional evening excursion to search out two elusive endemic Seychelles birds which can be seen nowhere else in the world: the Barelegged Scops Owl and the Grey White-eye.
Days 4 – 8
Praslin – Island Visits
We will be based on Praslin for next five nights, enabling us to make relaxed visits to the worldfamous bird reserves on Aride, Cousin and Curieuse Islands. We’ll also visit the fantastic Vallee de Mai forest, plus the Takamaka and Badamier woodland of the Paradise Flycatcher Reserve on the island of La Digue. As on Mahe, we will plan our daily trips around Praslin and out to neighbouring islands according to the prevailing weather, tidal conditions, and the opening days of Aride and Cousin nature reserves.
On Praslin we will thoroughly explore the almost prehistoric palm forests within the secluded Vallee de Mai, allowing plenty of time to admire the six endemic palm species that constitute this forest including, of course, the stupendous Lodoicea maldivica, the Coco de Mer. This species alone ensured that the site was awarded World Heritage status. The Vallee de Mai is a tiny, but magnificent forest in the middle of Praslin and the Coco de Mer is a relict from the age when Madagascar, Africa and India were still joined together as part of the huge landmass called Gondwanaland. The forest is administered by the Seychelles Island Foundation and forms a refuge for not only the giant Coco de Mer but for a whole community of plants and animals, some of which are unique to the Coco de Mer forest! There are four endemic species of Pandanus (Screwpine) in the reserve and this is also a good place to see the owner of some incongruously loud whistles – the Seychelles Black Parrot, though we will need to stretch our necks to see it, as it tends to remain up in the canopy! The Seychelles Sunbird and Seychelles Blue Pigeon are often seen in the Vallee de Mai, too. There are endemic reptiles and amphibians here, including seven species of gecko, one species of skink, a chameleon and a tree frog, plus two species of endemic snail, though some of these species are largely crepuscular.
We will aim to find time during our stay on Praslin to investigate the Glacis Noir Nature Trail. A variety of endemic birds can be seen along this trail, such as sunbirds, Blue Pigeon, bulbuls and Black Parrots. Swiftlets and Kestrels can also sometimes be seen.
There are some exquisite beaches on Praslin and bathing in the clear, warm waters of the island is a real joy; by contrast some of the shallow muddy creeks and sand flats are popular at low tide with migrant shorebirds and we should see a good selection of these. We will spend half a day visiting the reserve of Curieuse, where we can stroll along a raised boardwalk through the mangroves.
From Praslin we will also visit Cousin and Aride. Together these two tiny, forested islands hold the greatest concentration of breeding seabirds in the granitic Seychelles. Although their total area amounts to less than one square kilometre combined, they support huge colonies of Brown and Lesser Noddy, Fairy Tern and White-tailed Tropicbird; at night they are thronged with Wedge-tailed and Audubon’s Shearwaters which we will be able to observe when they assemble a few hundred metres offshore as dusk falls. Bridled and Sooty Terns also breed in very large numbers.
Cousin is owned by the conservation organisation Nature Seychelles, and is the scene of a conservation success story – that of saving the Seychelles Warbler from extinction. Until 1988 Cousin was the only place where Seychelles Warblers survived. Now, thanks to the focused and dedicated actions of the International Council for Bird Preservation (now Bird Life International), Seychelles Warbler populations are established on three small islands. Cousin is justly famous for its endemic land birds and is the best place to find true red-headed Seychelles Turtle Doves, as well as the Seychelles Fody. Cousin also holds an introduced population of the Seychelles Magpie-robin.
Aride rises impressively from the sea and is cloaked in natural woodland with a fertile coastal plateau on the south side. A palm-fringed beach, beautifully clear waters and a rich coral reef complete the picture of an idyllic tropical island. For centuries the wildlife here remained undisturbed. After the island was colonised in 1851, the forests were felled, coconuts were planted and seabirds and their eggs taken in their thousands. Despite all this, due largely to the absence of rats on the island, the seabird colonies have survived. Nowadays, all the animals and plants on Aride enjoy full protection, including the turtles which come ashore here to lay their eggs.
Aride is, arguably, the most important bird reserve in the Seychelles. It hosts more than 750,000 pairs of 10 breeding seabird species, several thousand frigatebirds and five species of landbird endemic to the Seychelles, including the very rare Seychelles Magpie-robin. Among the highlights of our visit to Aride will be a barbeque lunch and a chance to swim and snorkel in the lovely waters surrounding the island.
The partially restored woodland covering Aride and Cousin reveals how the islands must have looked to those first humans that came to settle here in the Seychelles just two centuries ago. Seabirds abound in the trees and overhead, and the lumbering Giant Tortoises add to the impression of being in a time and landscape that mammals have yet to discover. Aride no longer has Tortoises but an October roost of up to 2,000 frigatebirds on the precipitous North Slope invokes similar sensations of timelessness as they wheel around the cliffs. The northern side of Aride is a good place to see turtles in the afternoon, and we will keep a sharp look-out for White-tipped Sharks, giant Whale Sharks, courting pairs of Spotted Eagle Rays, Bottlenose Dolphins and other ocean delights.
From Praslin we will also take a trip to the fourth largest of the granitic islands, La Digue. La Digue is most famous for its Black Paradise Flycatcher population, which can be seen among the cool green woods of the La Veuve Special Reserve. This is one of the few reserves in the world designed specially to preserve a single species. La Digue is a wonderfully old-fashioned and serenely peaceful island of great aesthetic interest. It has breathtakingly beautiful beaches and a pace of life which has remained unchanged over the centuries, giving the island a unique charm. Soaring Fruit Bats, skulking Chinese Yellow Bitterns and of course the gorgeous Black Paradise Flycatchers will be the main attractions here, although a visit to see the traditional and very colourful painted wooden Creole houses or the boat-building sheds is a pleasurable distraction even for the most avid naturalists.
Days 9 – 11
Finally, we must bid farewell to Praslin in order to spend three nights at the lodge on Bird Island, an idyllic island paradise surrounded by sparkling white beaches and crystal blue waters. Lying 100 kilometres north of Mahe, Bird is a coral island more akin to those other island groups in the Seychelles (Amirantes and Aldabra) which lie to the south of the granitics. The trip from Mahe by Twin Otter takes just over half an hour and one can already see some of the half a million Sooty Terns swirling like a cloud of midges over the far end of this tiny islet well before landing on the grassy airstrip. Deeper waters lie only a short distance north of Bird, which is on the edge of the Seychelles Bank. Consequently there is the chance of seeing some of the oceanic seabirds such as boobies, now a rare sight in the granitics, coming to roost here. Birds are totally protected on this island, and therefore extremely tame, which means there are wonderful opportunities for photography. Other birds we can expect to see on the island are: Fairy Terns, tropicbirds, Common Noddy, Cattle Egret, Lesser Noddy, Green-backed Heron and Whimbrel as well as many other shorebirds.
The Sooty Terns arrive to nest on Bird Island in April and May each year, and laying begins in June; at its peak, the colony is home to 700,000 pairs of terns, plus young! Though many will have fledged by the time we visit (the last of the juvenilles will have fledged by the end of October), there are typically still huge numbers and visiting the colony is a real sight to behold. Bird is also a very good place to see wintering northern European shorebirds, which will just be starting to return in October, and, being on the north-west edge of the entire Seychelles archipelago, it regularly plays host to lost migrant birds that have wandered beyond their traditional routes into north-eastern Africa.
Esmeralda is another star attraction of Bird Island. He is currently the heaviest tortoise in the world and it is claimed that he is the survivor from a French ship, wrecked offshore in 1808. Coconut palms, coral reefs which offer easy snorkelling during the heat of the afternoon, and nesting turtles (Green Turtles nest from June to September, and Hawksbill Turtles nest from mid-October to February) are among the other delights to be found here and it is an ideal place in which to spend a relaxing few days!
Days 12 – 13
Today we will fly back to Mahe where we will return to the same hotel for the final two nights of our holiday, continuing our exploration of the island and perhaps enjoying some more snorkelling to finish off our holiday.
We will transfer back to the airport early this morning for the departure of our Emirates flight to Dubai, and onward connection to the UK.