ALDABRA – THE REMAINING GARDEN OF EDEN ONCE AGAIN OPEN FOR VISITS
(Posted 16th January 2015)
Aldabra! The name alone inspires those who ever heard the name to dream and scheme about a visit there. Often described as the remnant of the Garden of Eden, and in many ways outranking the Galapagos Islands, except, and thankfully, for visitor numbers that is, has the Aldabra Atoll remain a hidden gem, tucked away over 1.100 kilometres from the Seychelles’ main island Mahe and left by and large alone, ensuring an intact environment with only a few scientists and researchers permanently stationed there.
Much written about here in the past, in part welcoming the low visitor numbers and in part lamenting the lack of opportunities to visit, but always admiring the natural beauty of the atoll, were news much welcome the other day when a source from the islands wrote that organized visits are now finally possible again.
Visitors ready to pay for the privilege to spend time on Aldabra, have three options to choose from.
A conventional sailing trip of up to 15 days, there and back again, is the, in terms of time, the longest option available. Leaving by boat from Mahe does the journey include stops along the way on other of the outer islands before reaching Aldrabra, where visitors then can spend up to three full days, but not nights, exploring the atoll.
Overnight accommodation has to be on board the ship as no visitor accommodation is available on the atoll other than for the scientific team based there.
Silhouette Cruises, based in the Seychelles, has now, according to information received, commenced regular trips to the outer islands inclusive of Aldabra with an approximate cost of 500 Euros per person per day, plus various surcharges and fees for visiting islands along the way. At least two ships participate in each cruise and the next journey is due for the end of February, perhaps enough time for the more adventurous travelers among my readers to get on board. The two vessels, google them for added information, are the 43 metre long ‘Maya’s Dugong’ and a two master, the ‘Sea Bird’ with an overall length of 36 metres. Both offer adequate accommodation and all meals while on board.
The other two options of doing the trip in just 8 days are a combination of cruising and flying. Such shorter trips either start with or end with a flight to or from Assumption island which is just a couple of hours from the Aldabra atoll and the nearest airfield to it. Travelers either join the cruise from Assumption or else end it there and fly back to Mahe.
(Picture courtesy of Wikipedia)
Aldabra is home to the largest population in the world of the giant tortoises, numbering as many as 100.000, a multiple of the tortoise population of the Galapagos islands and over two thirds of the entire global population of this species. In addition are a number of endemic birds found on the atoll and a marine life second to none, attributed to a complete ban on fishing around Aldabra and strict regulations for visitors, who, when on the atoll must be accompanied by one of the Aldabra staff. The inner part of the atoll is by the way large enough to accommodate the largest island of the Seychelles, Mahe, giving an idea about the extensive size of the atoll which is the second largest in the world.
The atoll is one of the two UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the Seychelles, the other one being the most visited attraction on the second largest island of Praslin, the Valle de Mai, home to the famous Coco de Mer. Both sites are managed by the Seychelles Island Foundation (www.sif.sc) and added information can be accessed through www.aldabra.org