Felicité Island and Curieuse Island, Seychelles

From Leprosarium to Giant Turtles Home

Tight Snorkeling
House in the Jungle
The Happiness of Snorkeling I
Indian turquoise
Little Camouflaged Bird
The Happiness of Snorkeling II
Another Trail
Aldabra II tortoises
Catch of the Day
Doctor's Balcony
Mason's Crew
The Closest Shelter
the mangrove
Monumental Tropical Granite
Couple at Doctor House
Doctor's House
In the middle of the XNUMXth century, it remained uninhabited and ignored by Europeans. The French Ship Expedition “La Curieuse” revealed it and inspired his baptism. The British kept it a leper colony until 1968. Today, Île Curieuse is home to hundreds of Aldabra tortoises, the longest-lived land animal.

Finally, after completing a long journey of collecting passengers, we arrived at the scheduled dock.

We boarded a large catamaran and settled in, receptive to the tropical sun, still in the morning.

Shortly afterwards, over a calm and translucent Indian Ocean, we confirmed that the day would unfold much more pleasantly. than it had started.

The "Catalina” – that’s what the sailboat was called – heads east and towards Felicité, an island with its southern two thirds occupied by the Ramos National Park.

It is another area where authorities protect Seychelles' unique ecosystems.

We docked off the north coast.

There, we started snorkeling for the day, in a turquoise sea, overlooking the typical combination of coconut trees and amphibious granite blocks characteristic of the archipelago.

The underwater fauna quickly reveals itself, abundant and bright.

As is typical of these tourist excursions into the tropics, the crew catches the fish needed for lunch in three moments.

We reembarked, refreshed by Felicité.

From Île Felicité to Île Cocos, in Snorkeling Mode

The next scale was in plain sight.

It was Île Cocos, part of another national park that integrated two neighboring islands of the same tiny archipelago, with its rocks and vegetation standing out from an even more crystalline sea, habitat of the endangered hawksbill turtle.

We repeat the formula.

We entertained ourselves by chasing apprehensive schools and specimens that sometimes appeared, sometimes disappeared, in the coral amalgam that welcomed them.

Vasco da Gama's Pioneering Passage and Portugal's Estrangement

Back on board, while we catch our breath and dry our skins until they become toasted, we approach a historical aspect that intrigues and will forever intrigue any Portuguese discovering the Seychelles:

the fact that Vasco da Gama passed through there, in 1503, on his return from his second trip to India, on a less usual route.

And probably having named them Admiral Islands.

And the other fact is that they were disregarded, in colonial terms, more concerned with reaching, safely, first the Ilha de Mozambique and, at the culmination of a new long and adventurous epic, Lisbon.

This and future alienations opened the door to subsequent occupation and complaints by French rivals.

We headed west, pointed north of Praslin, the second largest island in the Seychelles.

Disembark on Île Curieuse and its Giant Turtles

We anchored in a so-called Laraie Bay, from where we went ashore.

In addition to a coral reef and white sand resulting from its erosion, we come across Anse Papaie beach, the gateway to a complex conquered from the forest, due to another of the Seychelles' unmissable attractions, its giant turtles.

There we found them, dragging themselves along and in their incredible antiquity.

When the strangers arrive, a pair of keepers are in charge of offering them their favorite vegetable snacks and thus activating them.

Favored by the slowness of the creatures, a few visitors collect leftover pieces.

Expose us.

They can move and stretch their necks somewhat extraterrestrially and, with due allowance, competitive.

Aldabra Turtles: from Danger of Extinction to Spread across the Indian Ocean

From the moment European discoverers crossed their lost domains in the Indian Ocean, the Aldabra Turtle was at the mercy of Man.

During French and British colonial times, they were slaughtered by the hundreds, to satisfy their dietary needs and because of their bulky shells.

This systematic slaughter proved to be even more harmful because it was a species with a special nature.

The Aldabra Turtle is the largest on Earth. It can reach more than 1.20 meters and up to 300kg.

A specimen named Jonathan and which lives on the island of Saint Helena where the governor's residence lives, was born in 1832.

At 191 years old, it is considered the oldest known land animal on Earth.

Several of the giant tortoises that inhabit La Digue, Curieuse and other islands of the Seychelles supplant the century of life.

This longevity comes from its particular evolutionary process, with at least 180 million years passed, largely in the Triassic geological period in which the Seychellois archipelago was part of the compact Gondwana.

From the Great Aldabra Atoll to the Remaining Seychelles Islands

As the name suggests, the Aldabra Turtle originates from the atoll of the same name, the largest atoll in the world, dry, somewhat inhospitable, fought over by more than 150.000 specimens against a mere eleven or twelve human residents.

This number of turtles makes for a problematic overpopulation.

This is the main reason why global preservation efforts for the species have involved transferring it to other Seychellois islands, but not only.

The ones we admired on Curieuse Island also came from Aldabra.

They shared it with other native animals. The crabs, in particular, seemed to have become accustomed to living alongside the large, slow-moving reptiles.

When we tried to photograph a turtle up close, we noticed that one of them was crawling as far as it could between the reptile's legs and under its head, as if demanding protection.

Distracted by that peculiarity of wildlife, we lost track of time.

The guide gives what we had for the Turtle Sanctuary at the end.

In Search of the Doctor's House

The second and final point of interest on Curieuse Island was on the south coast.

It was about 40 minutes away, on foot, along a trail that passed by the beach, went into the forest and crossed mangroves.

Now, shortly after we opened it, one of the afternoon boats that irrigate the tropical Seychelles hit us.

We arrived soaking wet at the wild entrance to Anse Saint José.

As had been the case for nearly a century, the Doctor's local home proved a providential shelter.

To explain what was happening there, among turtles, crabs and other fauna and flora, it is necessary to go further into the history of the archipelago.

266 years had passed since the sighting of Vasco da Gama.

The Seychelles Dispute between the French and British

As we described, the French were interested in the Seychelles. They settled with weapons and baggage, in towns, fortresses and plantations.

In 1768, they commissioned a crew to recognize and map the more than one hundred islands that made up the archipelago.

The superior purpose was, in reality, to guarantee French sovereignty, in a colonial era in which the British asserted themselves as the main enemies.

The expedition was led by Marion Dufresne, a navigator and explorer, aboard a schooner called “La Curieuse".

The main discovery on the island, at least for the French, was the Seychellois origin of sea coconuts, types of coconut that sailors of different nationalities found floating in the ocean.

It is said that especially around the Maldives and Sumatra, where the currents dragged those who had fallen into the sea.

Praslin Island, Sea Coconuts, Seychelles

Specimens of sea coconuts exposed in the Vallée de Mai nature reserve, where the palm trees that generate them continue to grow.

For a considerable hiatus after Marion Dufresne's study, Curieuse Island remained uninhabited and wild.

In 1811, the British took over the Seychelles.

The Rare Sea Coconuts and the Island’s Conversion into a Leprosy

Later, the British administration of Victoria encountered the spread of leprosy among the settlers. She found herself forced to isolate lepers.

At the time, there were already leper hospitals, at least, in Diego Garcia – today, the site of a controversial British military base ceded to the United States – and in Providence. Curieuse turned out to be a case in point.

The story goes that George Harrison, a Civil Agent, greatly valued mythical sea coconuts, exclusive to the Seychelles.

Now it occurred to him that turning the island into a leper colony would protect them from intruders.

Harrison implemented the plan.

From 1883 onwards, Curieuse received buildings, partly dedicated to housing lepers; the rest, the employees and workers.

The Seychellois leper colony moved to other islands on several occasions.

Curieuse welcomed lepers again in 1938 and until 1968. In that year, patients were sent to be cared for by their families.

In Curieuse, the airy “Doctor's House”, built in 1873, in wood, for a newly appointed doctor.

It is one of the national monuments of Seychelles.

Less ancient than most of the giant tortoises in the archipelago.

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Monumental Tropical Granite

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Praslin, Seychelles


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On board the Malagasy TGV

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Got2Globe Photo Portfolio
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Winter White
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UNESCO World Heritage
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Correspondence verification
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