Seychelles – Aldabra Expedition

Tour Overview
We’re going on an Aldabra birding expedition in the Seychelles; home to 62 breeding bird species, of which 14 are endemic.  The outer islands boast spectacular seabird colonies, while migrant species from as far afield as the Arctic and Antarctic are regularly recorded. Three of the endemic bird species are confined to Aldabra, namely the Aldabra Drongo, Aldabra White-eye and Aldabra Fody.

The Aldabra Group is also home to many subspecies like the the last surviving flightless bird of the Indian Ocean, the Aldabra Rail. You will also find endemic races of Sunbird, Kestrel, Coucal, Bulbul, Blue-pigeon, Turtle dove, Nightjar and Madagascar Sacred Ibis here.
Another highlight is the spectacular seabird colonies which include three species of Boobies, two Frigatebirds, two Tropicbirds and six Terns.

Tour starts and ends in Mahé
Tour duration:  15 days
Next group departure date:  To be confirmed
This birding tour can be booked as a private small group tour.

Itinerary – Day tot day Summary:
Day 1:
Embarkation aboard the Maya’s Dugong at Mahé

Day 2:
Desroches Island

The Amirantes is a linear chain of coral islands and atolls west of the granitic with Desroches being the largest and nearest to Mahe, measuring 6 km long and 1.5 km wide. Shaded paths are concealed beneath coconut palms and endemic island vegetation. The island is surrounded by 14km of immaculate white sandy beaches, with crystal blue water lapping at the shore. Grey Francolin may be seen in the undergrowth.

Day 3:

The Alphonse Group consists of two neighboring atolls, Alphonse Atoll and St Francois Atoll, the latter comprising of two islands St Francois and Bijoutier. These are some of the most beautiful islands of Seychelles. Alphonse is shaped like an arrowhead, with trails of white foam flying out behind it as though it was skimming through the water. It was once a productive plantation, generating 100,000 coconuts a month but today this is an abandoned island. Migrants that can be seen here include Crab Plover and Saunders’s Tern

Day 4:
Crossing towards the Aldabra Group

Day 5&6:

Cosmoledo is comparable to Aldabra but in some ways, even surpasses this famous atoll in its extreme atmosphere of remoteness. The island is very rarely visited by the outside world.

Some of the unique bird species on Cosmoledo , include enormous seabird colonies with Seychelles’ largest populations of Red-footed Booby, Masked Booby and Sooty Tern. A race of Madagascar White-eye (named menaiensis) is unique to the atoll. It is the stronghold site for Brown Booby, extinct everywhere else except one other outer island.

The diving and snorkeling here are excellent, and the marine life is very rich. The corals have survived here more intact than elsewhere in the western Indian Ocean.  A highlight are the many turtles that can be seen here, including very young ones in the shallow waters of the lagoon, close to the main island of Menai.

Day 7,8 & 9:

Often called the Crown Jewel of Seychelles, Aldabra is the world’s latest raised coral atoll and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With an area of approximately 150sq km it comprises about one-third of the landmass of Seychelles but has no human population other than the Conservation Officer and staff of the Research Station on Picard. It is a tropical island wilderness, seen by only a few privileged visitors each year. It has the world’s largest population of Giant Tortoise, with around 80,000 of these prehistoric survivors.

The area boast many plants and birds not to be found elsewhere. This is also one of the world’s most important breeding populations of the endangered Green Turtle.  Birds include the Aldabra Rail, the last surviving flightless bird of the Indian Ocean and huge Frigatebird colonies. Many other endemic land birds can be seen ashore, together with Herons, Waders and Madagascar Sacred Ibis.

We will visit the Aldabra Research Station and the old settlement, cruise through the West and Main Channel and dive/snorkel at Passe Dubois, Polymnie, Anse Var, settlement reef, Anse Mais and Main Channel. This is a fantastic experience; being swept along by the shoals of various fish, observing both pelagic and reef fish in the shallow waters of the lagoon.
Aldabra is excellent for snorkeling and diving, especially in the channel areas there the tides fill and empty the lagoon.  This phenomenon attracts a lot of underwater life and many turtles can be seen, including very young ones.  We will also find different pelagic schools of rays in formations and coral fish amongst the corals or the roots of the mangroves.

Day 10:

Assumption was laid waste by guano mining around the turn of the 20th century. This was a fate that Aldabra escaped, wiping out seabird colonies including Abbott’s Booby, now restricted to Christmas Island. However.  The vegetation is now slowly recovering and there are plans for the rehabilitation of the island. Madagascar White-eyes have naturally started to colonise and other endemic races have been seen here on occasion.   This has the potential to become a mini-Aldabra in the future.

There is a small human population, connected by air to Mahé, though flights are few and far between. The long, beautiful arc of coral sand on one side of the island, offers a home to very rich marine life and the snorkeling and diving opportunities are excellent. Shoals of snappers, butterfly fish and angelfish flit between the corals in one of the most colorful and diverse reefs of the Seychelles.

Day 11:

Souimanga Sunbird (race buchenorum) and Madagascar White-eye are fairly common in this forest as well as around the settlement.  Madagascar Cisticola can be seen in grasses and low vegetation while Caspian Terns are present at the lagoon along with several species of wader.

Snorkeling is also excellent on the edge of the drop off. 

Ashore there are graves of shipwrecked sailors, bleached turtle bones and a small settlement.  We hope to see Madagascar Cisticola in the undergrowth.

A short walk across the island leads us to the shallow lagoon where Caspian Terns – rarely encountered in an ocean setting, dive for fish.
We will also stop to visit the old manager’s house and the incongruous Veevers-Carter house;  now renovated as a small guesthouse for fly-fishermen and an old chapel.  Afterwards we will cross the island to the lagoon and dive the West walls.

Day 12:
Crossing towards Bijoutier

Day 13:
Bijoutier (Alphonse Group)

If you were looking for a dream island, the uninhabited island of Bijoutier is it.   It’s a picturesque circle of white sand capped with bright green vegetation, fringed by purple reefs and turquoise sea. St Francois Atoll hosts populations of four Waterbirds with numbers in excess of BirdLife’s Important Bird Area criteria: Crab Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Saunders’s Tern and Black-naped Tern.  Counts for several other wader species here, are also the highest recorded in Seychelles.

Day 14:
St Joseph (Amirantes)

St Joseph Atoll and D’Arros island are owned and managed by the Save Our Seas foundation, this unique location includes the St Joseph channel.  This is home to aggregations of Manta Rays and at least 514 fish species.

St Joseph Atoll is the most important nursery area on the Amirantes Bank and critical breeding ground for Sharks, Rays and Turtles.  More than20,000 pairs of Wedge-tailed Shearwater also breed on the islands of St Joseph Atoll; by far the largest population in the outer islands.  This is also the home of a colony of about 300-400 pairs of Roseate Terns, the second largest in Seychelles, as well as a smaller number of Black-naped Terns.

Day 15:
Disembarkation at Mahe


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