The Seychelles is made up of 115 islands and is famous for its pristine white-sand beaches, turquoise ocean, and year-round sunshine. However, there is so much more to the archipelago, not least some of the world’s most unique and stunning wildlife. This exciting wildlife is everywhere, from up in the sky in the form of sensationally diverse birdlife, right down to the sea bed in a whole bustling ecosystem living amidst the protected coral reefs. Here is a summary of some of the top wildlife experiences to enjoy across this tropical paradise.
Giant tortoises on Curieuse Island
Curieuse Island is located north-west of Praslin Island, and is a protected bio-reserve and marine park. The island teems with rare flora and fauna, but what’s most impressive and attractive about it is the locals, the Aldabra giant tortoise. These animals are so charismatic and have so much personality! They absolutely love attention from humans, out-stretching their necks and standing up tall, just begging for a neck tickle. The tortoises range freely all over the island, but there are a large number of adults and tiny babies at the ranger’s station as part of a conservation effort to help increase the population size. There are very few populations of giant tortoises worldwide, let alone opportunities to touch, stroke, and even lie down in amongst them – it is a truly incredible and memorable experience.
Snorkelling with turtles
This is an absolute must when in the Seychelles. The water that surrounds the islands contains some of the finest and most thrilling marine life in the world. Exploring the waters off the beaches is a simply sensational activity, featuring giant shoals of vibrant fish and fascinating coral, all in crystal-clear turquoise waters. Some snorkelling areas provide visitors with the ultimate gift, the chance to see and sometimes to swim with turtles. Hawksbill and green turtles are found in the surrounding waters and are the most fantastic sights. It is truly mesmerising to watch these beautiful creatures. Some turtle hotspots include Anse Lazio on Praslin Island, Grande Sœur Island, and Bird Island, but the graceful reptiles are found in most of the waters within the archipelago.
The Seychelles is a birdwatcher’s paradise, boasting a number of species found nowhere else in the world. On some islands, there is such a high biodiversity of birds that people flock from all over the world just to marvel at them. For example, the islands of Aride and Bird (clue is in the name) are world renowned for their bird populations, but even the larger and more populated islands have some brilliant birdlife, offering experiences such as the bright-red Madagascar fody eating out of your hand on the island of La Digue. One of the ultimate bird sightings is the National Bird, the Seychelles black parrot. Praslin is the only place in the world where these birds are found, so visitors should head to the island to try to spot the (actually brown) parrot hiding amongst the statuesque coco de mer trees.
Vallée de Mai
Vallée de Mai is a UNESCO World Heritage Sight of hundreds of coco de mer trees, situated on Praslin Island. The trees themselves are awe inspiring! There are only two populations in the entire world – this and a smaller one on Curieuse Island – and the huge forest population within the valley of Praslin is simply breathtaking. The enormous trees and characterful nuts are also host to a number of species found only within these forests, such as the bronze-eyed gecko, black parrot, and coco de mer snail. No binoculars or powerful zoom camera lenses are needed, however, as the animals can be sighted from the forest floor all the way to the tips of the leaves of the trees.
Diving on Praslin Island
For those wanting to dive a little deeper into the Seychelles’ extraordinary marine world below the calm surface, Octopus Dive School on Cote d’Or on Praslin Island is the place to go. This dive school caters for people of all abilities, whether you haven’t even snorkelled or are a highly experienced diver. The guides take you down to the sea floor and to the best wildlife spots, amongst armies of fish, huge rays, sharks, sea horses… the natural marine world in all its glory. The warm Indian Ocean water is some of the clearest in the world – don’t be surprised if you gain a new appreciation for nature when you get to see it this close and personal!
Julian Carter-Manning is a Co-founder and MD at Yellow Zebra Safaris. Yellow Zebra Safaris is an award-winning luxury and adventure travel company specialising in ‘Safari Africa’.
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