The Idyllic Tropical Isle Imagine an idyllic Tropical Island where white sandy beaches are fringed by coconut palms, their fronds swaying gently in…
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The Idyllic Tropical Isle
Imagine an idyllic Tropical Island where white sandy beaches are fringed by coconut palms, their fronds swaying gently in the breeze, where warm blue waters lap softly on the shoreline and nearby coral reefs teem with brilliantly coloured fish. To complete the scene, there should be tropicbirds floating gently overhead and Fairy Terns tame enough to nest on a branch not far above one’s head!
This picture of paradise is not a fantasy but reality amongst the string of islands that dot the Indian Ocean to the east of the African continent calledSeychelles. With good to excellent accommodations, some superb food and mostly easy birding, this tour counts as a real ‘holiday’. We will not only have enough time to look for all 31 of the endemic landbirds and the seabirds of the islands but if it interests you take an extension to swim, snorkel or soak up the atmosphere of these pearls of the Indian Ocean. As a consequence, this is also a trip a non-birding partner would enjoy.
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Arrival - MaheThe tour begins in the morning when when we land on the island of Mahé, the largest in Seychelles and has the world’s smallest capital city, Victoria. We take the ferry to the island of Praslin. Praslin is sparsely populated and is the epitome of a tropical island paradise. This afternoon we shall visit the beautiful Vallée de Mai National Park where stands of the unique Coco-de-Mer, which produce the strange double coconut that is the largest seed in the plant kingdom, occur alongside other endemic palms. The main birding interest is provided by the very distinctive endemic Seychelles Black Parrot.
La DigueThe small island of La Digue, only a short boat trip from Praslin. This quiet island with its scattered settlement is the home of the most beautiful of the endemic birds of the Seychelles, the Seychelles Paradise Flycatcher. The males are a rich, velvety blue-black and have improbably long tail plumes which stream out behind as they flit amongst the shady takamaka trees. La Digue also has one of the few known Seychelles breeding colonies of Seychelles Swiftlet and we may be able to climb up to their cave to inspect the diminutive nests that cling to the bare granitic rock. Seychelles Sunbirds are particularly common here and introduced Common Waxbills are frequently encountered. Breakfast - Lunch included
CousinWe will take a short boat trip to the wooded island of Cousin. This tiny uninhabited isle only a kilometre across is a BirdLife International reserve which safeguards one of only four populations of the Seychelles Warbler. Once considered to be critically endangered with a world population of only 30 individuals, the species has now increased to a stable population of around 2500 birds. We will also be looking for the Seychelles MagpieRobin, the most endangered of the Seychelles endemics with a total population of only about 170 individuals. The magpie-robins are currently the subject of a BirdLife International conservation project to try to ensure their future. The Toq-Toq or Seychelles Fody is quite numerous here and its catholic diet not only includes fruit, seeds and insects but seabirds eggs as well! Some of the Madagascar Turtle Doves here may be pure-bred Seychelles race. Seabirds will be a feature of the day and we can expect to see White-tailed Tropicbirds, Brown and Lesser Noddies, and Bridled and Fairy Terns. Wedge-tailed Shearwaters nest in cracks in the granite boulders and although they only fly into the colonies at night we may be fortunate enough to see a few individuals even in the daytime. The island is also home to some introduced Giant Aldabra Tortoises, which we should find leisurely chewing on some vegetation or lumbering slowly through the more open areas of forest. Breakfast - Lunch included.
ArideWe will also make a boat trip to the seabird island of Aride, looking out for Wedge-tailed and Tropical Shearwaters during the crossing. The rocky hills of this small island are covered in woodland which provides nesting sites for a variety of seabirds. The island is owned by the Royal Society for Nature Conservation and has some of the largest colonies of tropical seabirds in the Indian Ocean. Pride of place must go to the quarter of a million nesting Sooty Terns, closely followed by twenty thousand White-tailed Tropicbirds. The largest colony of Lesser Noddies in Seychelles is found here as well as smaller numbers of Bridled Terns, Brown Noddies and delightful Common White Terns. There is a spectacular roost of both Greater and Lesser Frigatebirds on the island. We may be fortunate enough to find one or two vagrant seabirds such as Brown Booby or Red-footed Booby. The experience of the sight, sound and smell of such vast numbers of seabirds at such close range is quite overwhelming and will provide a host of unforgettable memories. Breakfast - Lunch included.
MahéMahé has beautiful beaches, mangrove swamps and extensive areas of mountain forest on the central ridge which rises to 1000m. Some of the peaks are covered in cloud forest which harbours endemic tree frogs and chameleons. The main avian prizes of Mahé are the endangered endemic Seychelles Scops Owl, which currently appears to have a stable population of 80-160 pairs, and the endangered endemic Seychelles Whiteeye. The population of the white-eye on Mahé is thought to be only around 30-40 individuals and may still be decreasing, although fortunately a population of about 300 birds has now been found on the uninhabited islet of Conception. The majority of the other nine bird species endemic to Seychelles occur on Mahé and as we explore the mountain forests we will easily find Seychelles Kestrel, Seychelles Blue Pigeon, Seychelles Bulbul and Seychelles Sunbird. The white-eye and the scops owl will probably require a bit of effort to locate. Among the introduced species that occur here are Madagascar Turtle Dove, Zebra Dove and Madagascar Fody. Western Cattle Egrets and at the coast we should see a selection of shorebirds, including Grey Plover, Eurasian Whimbrel and Ruddy Turnstone. Breakfast included.
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