Ile Curieuse (from the name of the French ship who first discovered the island) is a small island north from Praslin. The island is also called Red Island, after the name of its colored soil.
Reaching Ile Curieuse
Many agencies organize day trips over there, and you should not miss the chance to visit one of the best spots in Seychelles. A 10 minutes ferry from Praslin port brought us to the island. On the boat, we could admire for the first time Praslin from the sea, with its beautiful combination of dark green vegetation and gray granite cliffs facing the ocean.
Exploring Ile Curieuse
The island is part of a National Park, and it’s completely uninhabited except the Rangers, and as soon as we arrived we had the first encounter with the main attraction of the site: a colony of 300 giant prehistoric tortoises is spread on the island, and we do mean giant!
The adult specimen can easily grow to more than 1.2 meters long and weigh more than 400 kilograms. Their movements are fascinating, a reminder of a prehistoric time where giant reptiles were dominating the planet.
It must be said, this population of tortoises is not endemic to the island. It’s been brought in 1982 from Aldabra Atoll, another island in Seychelles which is almost forbidden to non-scientific personnel, and they settled in quite well!
The only predator to this gigantic living fossil is the man, and the endemic population of the island was completely exterminated when the French (who were owning the Seychelles archipelago at that time) set the entire island on fire to start the production of the coco de mer. Thanks to the efforts of the Seychelles government, the species has been revived in the last 30 years, and we were lucky in being able to admire this unusual species in its own natural environment.
From the main pier (well, more like a repaired bay where the boat can drop the anchor and small rafts can safely reach the beach!), a walking path allowed us to visit the entire island without getting in contact with the fragile ecosystem.
The whole hiking takes about 2 hours. It explores the different scenarios of the island, from the mangrove forest on the southern side to the top of the Mont Curieuse, between the magnificent panorama of the bay and the remains of the fire set in the 18th century.
We left everybody else to go first on the tour of the island, waited half an hour in the bay and then started our own tour, alone. In this way, we were allowed to listen to the sounds of nature and merge together with the island. That was definitely a winning move, we had such a wonderful time exploring the place alone!
Starting from Baie Laraie, we passed through the dense mangrove forest, teeming with crabs hiding among the out of water roots and birds in the canopy, until we reached the high grounds on the island, where the trees leave space to giant cliffs of granite still showing signs of the fire. The wind and the rain acted as erosive agents on the rocks, and they formed fine structures along the coast.
The island has been used as a leper colony for the past 2 centuries, and remains of the constructions are still present nowadays, especially at the end of the path, next to Anse St. Joseph. Nature started to claim back its possession, with plants growing on the ruins of the houses. The result is magnificent, the blending of the landscape and the colonial architecture creates an extraordinary effect.
Visiting Ile Curieuse feels like going back to a prehistoric time when nature dominated the planet and humans were still to come.