We visited the protected Curieuse Marine National Park on an organized day trip from Praslin. We were particularly interested in seeing the giant Aldabra tortoises that roam free around Curieuse Island.
The boat tour was organized via our Resort and a small minivan picked us up at around 9 am from our apartment to take us a mile down the road to a small beach where our tour boat was anchored and waiting for us. Our tour crew consisted of another dozen people from various different resorts around Praslin, our boat Capitan, and one crew. After boarding the boat we were told what our day was going to be like, and all information was given both in French and in English. The boat ride to Curieuse Island from Praslin was a very pleasant ride of only about 20 minutes.
We first arrived in this little granitic island at Baie Laraie where we jumped out of our boat into the silky soft, white, sandy beach and immediately walked towards the park rangers headquarters. The giant tortoises were lazily walking around or just relaxing on the ground and some were being fed by the day visitors. The giant tortoises were moved to this Island from Aldabra Island in the late 1970’s as part of a conservation project. There were originally giant tortoises on most of the Seychelle Islands but they were killed off by generations of visiting sailors for whom the slow moving tortoises were just an easy source of fresh meat on their long voyages. Those on Aldabra Island were the only ones to survive this plunder and are being used to replace their less fortunate cousins on the other islands. We were advised to stay 45 minutes to 1 hour exploring around here, to spend time with the giant tortoises, and to visit the small information centre and conservation area where little baby tortoises are hatching and being looked after.
The Island is also an important hawksbill and green turtle nestling site , the inaccessibility of its beaches make it perfect and safe for the turtles to lay their eggs, which is good news for these almost extinct sea turtles. There is no overnight stay in the Island, since there are no hotels or camp-sites. Only a handful of rangers live and work here on conservation projects.
Curieuse Island was so named after a French ship called La Curieuse. The Island is also home to the Coco De Mer, in fact Praslin and Curieuse are the only two places on the planet were this giant palm tree grows naturally.
After spending a pleasant time exploring Baie Laraie we decided to start the 45 minutes walk that was going to take us to other side of the Island, Anse St. Jose. We followed the trail via a surreal and amazing mangrove forest, granite rock and such lush vegetation that we felt like we had landed on some sort of Jurassic Park world, and although no dinosaurs here the giant crabs did scare me a little .
A rocky trail took as to the Island’s Summit with spectacular views of secluded beaches bathed by the Indian Ocean. Only a few visitors are allowed on the Island making for a very peaceful place. We did meet other people walking the trail, but we were also alone for most of the time. We did ask a fellow tourist to take this picture of us(below) at a beautiful view point. The weather was fabulous, warm and sunny with just a light breeze to keep us from cooking in the sunlight.
We walked via a board walk for some of the way through the mangrove forest, where apparently there are at least 8 different species of mangrove in the island; we were fascinated by it all.
The Island was once a leper colony, from 1833 until 1965, and you can still see the ruins of the leprosarium crumbling among the vegetation as the jungle reclaims its territory.
The Doctor’s House is located at Anse St. Jose and is now an educational centre and museum. We managed to visit it just before devouring a delicious barbecue that was cooked for us by our trip hosts. The house is a charming Creole colonial style architecture, and inside the small museum documents the Island’s history as a leper colony. The Doctor it was named after was in fact Scottish, so Brian spent a long time reading the various boards inside the museum charting Dr. William MacGregor’s travels round the world, and his pioneering work on the island
Right next to the doctor’s house there was a large seating area where we enjoyed a BBQ lunch. We sat together with our tour group at one of the large picnic tables. Included in our fish and meat barbecue meal was also a selection of salads, bread, condiments and soft drinks. In our group there were various different nationalities, but most people were able to speak some English and we had the opportunity to chat with the others in our table, the conversation was flowing well. I soon found out that the girl sitting next to me was from Portugal, she was visiting the Seychelles with her husband, also Portuguese and they were both staying for few days in Praslin.
After lunch we had more leisure time in the island and some people chose to go for a swim off the beach. Brian went for a nap on the veranda at the doctor’s house, while I sat on the sand. The sea looked so inviting with its crystal turquoise clear water, but I just sat on the shade and chatted to a Portuguese couple that I met during the BBQ lunch. The beach offers views across to the north-east coast of Praslin with its exclusive Raffles Praslin Seychelles resort in the distance.
Soon it was time to head for our snorkelling spot near another small Island called St. Pierre, but it was a little rough there so we headed back to near Curieuse again to a quieter spot where we could all go in for some snorkelling. The water was lovely and warm, and we did see few shoals of colourful fish but I was a little disappointed not to see more pretty fish and corals (think we’ve been spoiled by the Red Sea!).
After the snorkelling, it was time to head back again the way we had come, though on the way back we diverted into the bay by Anse Lazio so we could see this stunning beach from the sea side, and it was just as breathtaking from this vantage point. Then back round the beautiful coastline, taking in the huge granite boulders separating impossibly green jungle from the impossibly blue sea. Passing Anse Georgette and the Lemuria Resort, before cutting in through the reef to the lagoon on the South West of Praslin where the Captain dropped us at the beach right in front of our home – and we just said our Goodbyes to all, stepped into the sea, and walked the few metres to our apartment. Perfect ending to a wonderful day.