The Outer Islands of the Seychelles is one of the most remote and untouched areas in the world, making it the perfect destination for unique bird-spotting experiences, expertly arranged by Blue Safari Seychelles. Blue Safari Seychelles concept is aimed at promoting conservation of the outer atolls through low-impact eco-tourism projects to conserve and protect abundant natural resources.
Blue Safari Seychelles enables discerning travellers to experience the most untouched Edens that are the Outer Islands of the Seychelles. Cosmoledo, Farquhar, The Alphonse Group of Islands, and Astove are some of the most ecologically pristine and undeveloped places left in today’s world and are an ornithologist’s delight. The remote oceanic islands are havens for seabirds, of which are in abundance. The Seychelles is often described as the ‘Galapagos of the Indian Ocean’ for the number of endemic species that cannot be found anywhere else on earth.
The ornithological sanctuary also attracts many migratory birds that stop in the Seychelles on their journey south for the winter, including the rare wading species that breed in North Europe. Blue Safari Seychelles is a haven for birdwatchers as it offers many opportunities to view rare and unique species alongside expert ecologists throughout the Alphonse Group of Islands, Astove, Cosmoledo, and Farquhar.
Cosmoledo Atoll is considered one of the most important places in the Seychelles for nesting birds and is the only place outside of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Aldabra to have nesting Greater Frigate birds and be able to witness their full breeding display. Cosmoledo was known as the most important unprotected place for nesting birds in the Western Indian Ocean as it provides breeding habitats for some of the last remaining populations of various species of seabird in the Seychelles.
One of the most impressive sights is the male Frigate birds with red throat sacs inflated during the full courtship display in a desperate attempt to attract a mate. With a wingspan of over two metres, Frigates are slow-producing birds and do not reach full sexual maturity until they are eight to 10 years old. Every chick relies on its parents for food for at least 18 months after fledging meaning they only reproduce every three to four years. Formerly a popular choice for poachers, the Cosmoledo Frigate population dwindled as they were caught for meat and the eggs for paint production. However, after Blue Safari established a presence on the atoll, poaching stopped, and the magnificent birds can thrive.
Cosmoledo is renowned for its population of Red-Footed Boobies, the largest colony in the Seychelles with over 15,000 pairs, having the last remaining breeding Brown Boobies in the Seychelles, and breeding Masked Boobies on Grand Polyte and Wizard Island. Wizard Island also hosts a truly impressive ornithological gathering – every year up to a million pairs of Sooty Terns descend on the island to nest on the open ground, creating a sea of small black birds. Guests visiting the atolls in late February will never forget the cacophony as millions of birds return to the island in the evening after many months of fishing and foraging. Cosmoledo Atoll also plays host to the Bridled Tern, Greater Crested Tern, and the Dimorphic Egret – all of which rely on the undisturbed nature of the island. Cosmoledo hosts some rare and endemic species which are of particular interest to seasoned twitchers; the beautiful buchenorum sub-species of the Souimanga Sunbird is only found on Cosmoledo and Astove, the Madagascar White-eye is endemic to the Aldabra group with the sub-species menaiensis only found on Cosmoledo, the Madagascar Cisticola is only found on Cosmoledo and Astove in the Seychelles where it breeds year-round.
The Wedgetail Shearwaters are one of Alphonse Island’s greatest conservation success stories which can be seen on guided evening walks. The medium-sized deep-diving birds build burrows in vegetation above the beach crest where the fluffy grey chicks grow until they fledge in April but are vulnerable to introduced predators, such as rats and cats. By 2017, the population was at the point of extinction, however, concentrated efforts by the ICS to install rodenticide stations and habitat restoration resulted in the population bouncing back and continues to increase – there were over 100 successfully fledged chicks in 2022 compared to zero in 2017.
Whilst the seabirds are impressive enough, the Alphonse Group also has the highest number of migratory bird species recorded anywhere in the Seychelles- which is mainly due to the amazing job of the conservation team and their daily bird patrols, but also because of the unique geographical position of the islands on the migration route of many European nesting species. Some species of wading birds such as Whimbrels, Ruddy Turnstones, Sanderlings, and Green Shanks spend their whole over-winter migratory period on the island, but other species stop on their migration journeys to the south and east Africa to rest for a few days. As there are a huge number of different species of bird migrating from Europe and the Middle East to southern Africa you never know what is going to show up on the islands which can be a treat for bird enthusiasts; exciting sightings include the European Bee Eater, European Roller, Jacobin Cuckoo and Amur Falcons.
ST FRANCOIS ISLAND
A short 30-minute boat ride from Alphonse Island, St Francois Island is one of the last remaining uninhabited islands in the world with no human disturbance. In 2019, a pair of Red Footed Boobies returned to St Francois Island to breed after years of poaching and disturbance disrupting nesting sites. Since 2019, the pair has successfully nested every year in the same tree and have encouraged four more pairs to do the same. With the ongoing protection of the Atolls, this upwards trend will likely to continue and make St Francois the fourth Red Footed Booby nesting colony in the Seychelles.
The Alphonse Group has the highest number of migratory bird species recorded in the Seychelles due to the incredible conservation work and the unique geographical position of the islands. An exceptionally rare migratory bird that wades in the shallows of St Francois lagoon is the Crab Plover. The St Francois aggregation is the largest in the world outside of their nesting areas and is protected as an Important Bird Area (IBA).
New to the Blue Safari Seychelles portfolio for 2022 is Farquhar Atoll. A haven for birdwatchers, this atoll will only allow 220 guests to experience this pristine paradise per season which runs from the beginning of October until the end of May 2023. Black Nape Terns nest on the beach crest in healthy abundance whilst the Red Footed Boobies nest very high in the treetops which is not normal for the species- thought to be a learned behaviour to avoid predation and poaching.
The Seychelles is one of the most exemplary countries in the world for protecting its natural heritage and is implementing the Seychelles Marine Spatial Plan stating that 30% of the territorial waters of the Seychelles will be legally protected from exploitative activities by 2023. Islands sitting in the protected waters are also set to become nature reserves under this policy. Furthermore, the expansion of conservation activities to many of the Outer Islands will hopefully lead to greater improvements in the birdlife including potential reintroductions – the new conservation centre on Astove and Cosmoledo is investigating to see if the endangered Aldabra Rail and Comores Blue Pidgeon can be reintroduced to Cosmoledo.