Ecotourism in Seychelles

Praslin © T. Joly
Seychelles islands are not only offering wonderful beaches. Their fauna and flora feature rare or unique species that can be discovered while protecting them.

[ Practical ]

Getting there
Air Seychelles and Emirates flights from €800.
Nature Seychelles
Mission of at least 6 weeks.
Accommodation provided.
www.natureseychelles.org
Marine Conservation Society Seychelles
Mission of 4 weeks minimum.
€400 per month including accommodation and food.
www.mcss.sc
Boasting white sandy beaches lined by rocks beautifully sculpted by erosion, turquoise waters and seabed inhabited by colourful fishes and whale sharks, the Seychelles archipelago is the perfect cliché of tropical paradise sought after by newlyweds and people in search of seaside activities. However, the country also has equally attractive lesser-known facets.


Cousin island © T. Joly
 Thousands of birds
Dominated by a mountainous massif reaching 900 m of altitude covered with luxuriant vegetation, the island of Mahe has everything to please hikers while national parks and reserves are home to a remarkable fauna and flora offering nature lovers multiple opportunities to marvel. Sea turtle coming ashore to lay their eggs during day time and not at night as elsewhere else, coco-de-mer palm trees known for their 25 kg coconuts with callipygian shapes that made fantasize generations of sailors, giant tortoises reaching 200 kg, islands inhabited by thousands of birds giving the sensation of plunging in the heart of Hitchcock’s film and so on.
A true Garden of Eden you can discover for a small fee by joining NGOs working for its preservation as an eco-volunteer. No specific knowledge required to apply, motivation and enthusiasm are enough.



© T. Joly
 Patrolling along the beaches
Thus, it is possible to stay and work on Cousin island, a reserve managed by Nature Seychelles where are living giant tortoises and tens of thousands of sedentary or migratory birds.
Tasks are varied. Tag birds, monitoring the progress of bird nests, patrolling along the beaches to spot the turtles laying eggs on the island between October and April, tag them if it was not made previously, list the nesting sites by their GPS coordinates, ... "Without interfering with nature," says Cheryl Sanders, the NGO's scientist. Due to this principle, volunteers leave the innumerable lizards to feast on bird eggs and do not help chicks getting to the sea after hatching. "We just make sure no one remains buried under the sand," says Emma Jones, a young English volunteer who also acts as guide for tourists visiting the island each morning.



© T. Joly
 Protecting turtles
On Mahe, the largest and most populous island in the country, Marine Conservation Society Seychelles NGO has made a name for itself in the monitoring and survey of whale sharks. But for 3 years they are rare in Seychelles waters and the program has been temporarily shelved. "We will do it again as soon as they return," says David Howat, its founder. For now, activity focuses on protecting and recording marine turtles on 14 beaches of the South of the island. Since they are not within the boundaries of reserves, volunteers make sure tourists do not disturb egg laying or hatching. By their presence they also discourage the poachers who hunt this animals for their carapace and their flesh, a favourite of some Seychellois.


© T. Joly
 Coral regeneration
Housed in outbuildings of the Banyan Tree Hotel, one of the NGO’s sponsors, they also study two rare species of freshwater turtles found in a wet area located within the hotel compound. "We have an operation centre where the turtles are examined with X-rays and treated if necessary," says Mary Rolfes, an American volunteer. The NGO is also active on the island of Cerf, in the Marine Park of Sainte-Anne, where it takes care of the protection of the marine environment. Once again in partnership with hoteliers. Volunteers clean beaches, alert against illegal fishing, regenerate corals, carry out marked snorkelling and sea kayak routes as well as moorings to reduce damage to the reef.

July 12, 2017
Thierry Joly