These two islands, neighbors of Praslin, are definitely unmissable; Curieuse Island for its giant tortoise sanctuary and Saint-Pierre Island for being a great diving spot.
Several agencies in Praslin offer tours to explore them. So we booked a half-day one and made an appointment for the next day at 10:00 am on the beach.
- Departure from Praslin for a motorboat ride to Curieuse
- Visit of Curieuse’s giant tortoise sanctuary followed by a hike across the island
- Second crossing by boat from Curieuse to Saint-Pierre
- One hour of snorkeling
- Back to Praslin
The departure for a dream half-day!
We joined our guide, and after the formalities, we went to the sea.
A few hundred meters from the beach, we got around a tiny island, Bat Islands. It is private and houses a five-bedroom luxury hotel.
I think I know where its name comes from because we saw fruit bats circling above the buildings!
Curieuse Island in Seychelles
After about ten minutes, we arrived at Curieuse, a small island of 3 km² whose only inhabitants are the employees and researchers who work at the research and rescue center for Seychelles water turtles and giant Aldabra tortoises.
Our guide dropped us off at Baie Laraie. We agreed on a meeting time for him to come to pick us up at Anse José, paid our entrance ticket to the sanctuary at the small kiosk on the beach (around 15 euros) and headed impatiently for the famous tortoises.
No need to point out again that they were our main reason to come to the island!
The giant tortoises sanctuary
The sanctuary is a large shaded park surrounded by a few houses, the premises of the center. The giant tortoises were just in front of us, around 20 of them roaming free. They took refuge under the trees, as it was already hot in the late morning. They also like to cool down in mud pools.
One can walk among them without fear. Many were asleep, while others readily lent themselves to the ritual of petting.
These tortoises have a large neck that stretches out and allows them to eat leaves from tall trees. For the tallest tortoises, it can reach up to one meter.
So it was astonishing to see them extend their neck in an effort to get more strokes! They even stood on tiptoes to show us that they wanted more. I admit that their size then became pretty impressive.
During the dry season, tortoises are content with the water in the plants they eat. On the other hand, they quench their thirst during rainy days by drinking water from the puddles, interestingly, through their nostrils.
The tortoises in Curieuse
Giant tortoises were reintroduced to Curieuse between 1978 and 1982, having almost completely disappeared after the early years of Seychelles colonization. They then represented a vital meat resource for the sailors who docked in Seychelles.
The center houses a nursery where researchers keep the babies until they are five years old and then release them. The life expectancy of giant tortoises is 150 years.
Seychellois have a soft spot for them and consider them as pets. One can see them in some house courtyards in remote villages.
In one of these villages, during one of our walks, we witnessed this beautiful scene!
Curieuse is also a nesting place for water turtles
In 1910, when Curieuse was a private island, the owner built a dike in the water to form a pool where he kept full water turtles. As this farm did not achieve the expected success, the project was abandoned. The wall then served as a bridge to go from Baie La Raie to Anse José.
Today, due to a tsunami in December 2004, only a few ruins remain.
And a beautiful nature reserve
Curieuse is also known for its endemic species and is also the only place with the Vallée de Mai where we find cocos de mer.
Hike from Baie Laraie to Anse José, via Anse Badamier
Hike from Baie Laraie to Anse José, via Anse Badamier
We hiked the two marked paths on the island. It took us two hours to reach Anse José from Baie Laraie, including the round trip to Anse Badamier and a short swim on its magnificent beach.
It’s a beautiful hike, very close to nature, and Anse Badamier is a heavenly place.
As with all hikes, I recommend sneakers or walking sandals.
The hike in pictures
Here we go! It is impossible to miss the start.
The red mangrove tree is a native species of Seychelles. It grows in coastal saline or brackish waters, forming forests called mangroves. It absorbs fresh water and rejects seawater, and its many stilt roots help it absorb oxygen. The seeds germinate on the tree and develop the first long pointed root. When the fruit comes off, this root sinks into the mud and allows the new plant to grow. Mangrove wood was used for construction and is still used today for making fish traps.
An invaluable biome, the mangrove is a nursery for a large number of animal and plant species.
The nature was superb, the colors vivid, and a breathtaking panoramic view opened before us.
We reached the summit and began the descent to Anse Badamier.
After a short swim that we could not resist, we took the same path to the mangroves and then off to the doctor’s house.
A few direction signs were missing, but we were able to follow the rest of the path easily. One only had to slalom between the crabs!
The doctor’s house and the leper colony
Before reaching Anse José, where our boat was waiting for us, we took the time to visit the doctor’s house. We then discovered that Curieuse was for a long time a camp for lepers.
Its history in brief
Despite the opposition of Praslin and La Digue inhabitants, the leper colony was built in 1833 fully financed by the Seychellois government.
The first patients were African slaves working in Mauritius and then abandoned by their masters on different islands in the Indian Ocean.
In 1900, the government decided to close the establishment and transport the sick to Round Island, located a little further off Praslin. But in 1937, the sick were repatriated to Curieuse in new buildings, and the Round Island camps were shut down.
It was not until 1965 that the Curieuse camp was completely closed, and the last patients were transported to a hospice in Victoria, where they were cured.
Saint-Pierre Island in Seychelles
It is a tiny island, a rocky outcrop, and an incredible spot not to be missed if you like diving.
After confirmation from our guide that the currents were favorable, we jumped into the water and began to swim around the “big rock” to explore the seabed. The most beautiful part is on the other side of the island, where the water is deeper.
And there, no sooner had I put my head under the water that I realized fish literally surrounded us. I was so surprised that I had to come back to the surface to catch my breath and calm down. I must admit that I am not very comfortable with a mask and a snorkel. It was the first time that I found myself amid so many non-shy fish swimming within 10 cm of us. Unbelievable! There were hundreds of them, each more colorful than the other. We even saw a small shark swimming with its calm and confident demeanor.
A bit like in the cartoon “Finding Nemo,” when we discover the underwater city!
After an hour of wonder in water so clear and so warm that you could stay there forever, it was time to leave.
We began our last crossing to Praslin with magical images etched into our heads. Then all we had to do was enjoy a good meal and a well-deserved rest on the beach.
The final word
Seychelles is a beautiful archipelago with incredible flora and fauna, and the country’s involvement in maintaining all this beauty is exemplary. Even the country’s anthem created in 1996 reflects this state of mind: “Let’s preserve the beauty of our country – The richness of our ocean – A very precious heritage – For the happiness of our children.”
It was this wild, unspoiled and accessible beauty that touched me the most — our encounter with the tortoises, our hike on this uninhabited mountain, our discovery of the underwater life. I had the impression that the animals went on with their lives without fear of humans and that they allowed us to be there, quite simply, to be able to admire them.