Love at First Sight
Kate Morfoot is enchanted by the beautiful Bird Island in the Seychelles
A 30 minute flight from the main island, Mahé lies Bird Island, the most northern magical atoll within the 115 archipelago. It’s a site to behold. My bird’s eye view from the Twin Otter sees the 250 acre verdant estate surrounded by the sapphire-coloured Indian Ocean, illuminated by the purest white sand.
“Mind your head! Welcome to Coconut Terminal!” Roby Bresson, the Conservationist greeted me off our aircraft like an old friend. He beams an almighty smile and my bags are whisked away. This is my kind of airport, a grass runway with only a short walk to my wooden chalet, just steps from one of the top beaches in the world.
Looking up, white-tailed tropicbirds dance against the blue sky backdrop like angels. Is this what heaven is like? It’s my kind of heaven. Collapsing in the hill-billy style chair on my wooden veranda, I overlook the sweet scented flowering Frangipani trees and coconut trees. The bird sounds are striking, my eyes are already tuning into the abundance of life around me. On Bird Island, it feels like the wildlife and birds that reside here welcome you to their domain and are seemingly unaffected by visitors.
There are no natural predators, no cats, no rats. Humans to them are not hunters, as they have never been harmed on this island, therefore the birds are not frightened by people and many species nest on the ground. Back home you need binoculars to have any sense of being close to wild birds, which is why Bird Island is unique.
A Brown Noddy hasn’t moved from its perch on the veranda since I arrived and a chirping Madagascan Red Fody has popped in to see me, hopping over to sit by my feet. It’s drowned out by the other bird calls and the sound of waves rolling in from the famous West Coast beach which is intense, but somehow deeply relaxing.
This extraordinary island was acquired by Guy Savy in 1967. Formally a coconut plantation, Guy, 73, and his late wife turned it into one of the finest nature reserves in the world. His sons Nicholas and Alex are now the custodians of this island paradise. The family has welcomed nature lovers and those who want to experience remote island life since 1973, sparked by the quick and direct flight from Mahé to Bird Island.
However, not all species have been welcomed with open arms. Oliver Reed was ‘chucked off’ by Guy Savy while filming Castaway for being a ‘total pain,’ because of his raucous behaviour. Welcomed to the island are the Roux family, in particular Michel who enjoys fly fishing and is due to return very soon.
The sea is the bluest, the sand is the whitest.
A short stroll from my chalet I have a welcome swim, to cool off, in one of the most untouched beaches in the world. I’m ensconced in the world of birds. Above my head, the White Fairy Terns are dancing and the Sooty Turns and Brown Noddy birds are skimming the surface fishing for food for their chicks. You feel a deep realisation that you are in their world and it’s a privilege to be part of this natural wonder. It is good for the soul and a sight for sore eyes.
On the ground, there’s more to see. There are currently 121 Hawksbill Turtle nests that are now and endangered species, 39 Green Turtle nests and 27 resident Giant Tortoises. Roby gives me a tour of the island where I see a Seychelles Blue Pigeon sporting a bright red cap and a White Tern feeding her chick almost in touching distance. In addition, there are ground-nesting White Terns with chicks and White-Tailed Tropicbirds flying overhead. There is a small brown Sunbird searching for spiders to eat in a brightly coloured bush, Plovers that have popped in to rest at the island while on their way to Alaska and Swallows on their holiday before heading over to the UK.
Just before dawn, we head over to the north of the island. Roby has saved the best for last, a spectacular finale performance of nature at its best. I see a colony of hundreds of thousands of Sooty Terns flying high in the sky with their sparkling reflections from the ocean together with a sprinkling of Frigate birds riding high gliding on the thermals. The sound of the birds in the sky is like being in a noisy stadium it’s an unimaginable sight and a wonderful experience.
There are now 850, 000 pairs of Sooty Terns on the island, a story which Sir David Attenborough reported for the BBC in his documentary, The Life of Birds, Terns being one of his favourite subjects.
My walk back gives me one more gift of the most dramatic sunset, the sky is an artist’s painting with every colour celebrating another day.
Bird Island is the home of the Guinness Book of Record’s, heaviest tortoise Esmeralda, weighing in at 308 kilos. He is reported to be the oldest living tortoise in the Seychelles and has become something of a phenomenon.
You can walk around the island in an hour along stretches of pristine white coral sand. On the way I met a Lesser Crested Tern and stop to take a moment to say hello which gives me an opportunity to take a deep breath and to realise how utterly stunning my natural surroundings and wildlife neighbours are.
The restaurant serves a buffet of excellent home cooked traditional Creole food. Red Snapper is the fish of the day, caught just that morning, served with an abundance of home grown fresh vegetables and coconut rice. The ‘Back in Time’ bar has a great drinks list and some original cocktails. I enjoy a Bird Island Passion over at the bar before heading back to my king sized bed for a songful night’s sleep.
Facts: 24 chalets: King-size bed with mosquito net, Shower, Toilet & complimentary WIFI
Getting There: Bird Island operates a charter service to the island on a daily basis using an Air Seychelles aircraft, departing from the Seychelles Domestic Terminal at the Mahé International Airport.
Flight Times: Depart Mahé at 10:30am (check-in 9:30am), Depart Bird at 11:20am (check-in 10:50am) with arrival into Mahé at 11:55am. 15kg Luggage allowance. Other Suitcases can be temporarily stored at the airport. £323 per person from Mahé to Bird Island return.
Bird Island is one of the most affordable private islands to holiday in the Seychelles.
1-6 nights £301 per chalet including all meals, a nature tour, use of snorkeling equipment, excluding drinks