Aride Island is a granitic island of the Seychelles that is located 10 kilometres north of Praslin Island. It is 68 hectares in area, 1.6 kilometres long and 0.6 kilometres wide. The island is a Special Nature Reserve under Seychelles law that has been managed by the Island Conservation Society of Seychelles since 2004. The only people who reside on the island are the rangers and conservation officers and two volunteers.
Known as the Seabird Citadel of the Indian Ocean, Aride Island has been a reserve since 1967. In 1973, Christopher Cadbury bought it, and prior to that time, many of the endemic land and sea birds no longer existed on the island.
Since then, the seabird population had grown and five endemic land birds have returned to the island after having been wiped out by humans. Eighteen species of native birds breed on the island. Almost the entire island is native woodland which is also protected. There is one threatened plant that is endemic to Aride Island. The plant is Wright’s Gardenia or Rothmannia annae. It produces a delicate white blossom with pink spots. A species of peponium is also protected on the island.
The reserve extends 200 metres offshore, which protects the coral reefs and the marine life that depends on the reefs. Since the reefs were bleached in 1997 and 1998 by the warming of the ocean water, the reefs are showing signs of recovery.
Today, the island is owned by the Island Conservation Society UK, which is a UK Registered Charity.
The Bird Population
Aride Island is second only to the pristine island of Aldabra in importance as a nature reserve. Aride has more breeding species of sea birds than any other island in the area. It is also the only breeding site for the red-tailed tropicbirds, roseate tern and the only sooty tern colony in tall woodland in the world.
More than one million seabirds annually breed on Aride. The colony of Lesser Noddy and colony of Tropical Shearwater are the largest in the world. A huge number of frigatebirds come to the island to feed, but they go back to Aldabra to breed.
In 1988, 29 Seychelles Warblers were introduced to Aride from Cousin Island, and today the population is more than 2000 pairs, which is the world’s largest. In 2002, the Seychelles Fody was also re-introduced to Aride from Cousin along with the Magpie Robin that was transplanted from Fregate Island. Two species have returned to Aride naturally including the Seychelles Sunbird and the Seychelles Blue Pigeon.
The Reptile Population
Aride has a dense population of interesting reptiles including three species of non-poisonous snakes. There are a number of species of skink and three of gecko. The endangered green sea turtles also visit the island as do the critically endangered Hawksbill Turtles.
How to Visit Aride Island?
Aride Island is a Special Nature Reserve that is also an eco-tourism site. The island has never been developed for tourism and has been a nature reserve for decades. This is the main reason it has remained a wild and beautiful place.
Only the vessels of the reserve are allowed to land on the island. Visitors must disembark from the vessel that brought them to the island on to small boats for transfer to the island. This is sometimes a wild ride and visitors often get wet. Keeping boats that arrive from other islands away from Aride is to prevent any possibility of rats and other pests from accidently entering the island. Rats can multiply quickly and harm the birds that have their nests on the ground.
From Sunday through Thursday the island is open in the morning. On Friday and Saturday it is open by appointment only. There is no overnight accommodation on the island.
Excursions to the island can be booked through customer service staff in hotels on other islands. There are also boat owners who will take visitors to the island. Boatmen can arrange a barbeque lunch on the beach prepared with fresh fish and fresh fruit.
It is recommended for visitors to book a tour of Aride early during their holiday in Seychelles, and also book an alternate date. This is because the island is sometimes closed because of bad weather. The tour fee should include the island entrance fee.
There is a landing fee that includes a guided walk as well as a different fee for professional photographers and another fee for filming. Children between the ages of five and 14 are half the adult fee and children under five years are free. All the proceeds are contributed to the conservation efforts on the island. Aride is closed during the south-east monsoon, which is from May to September and during stormy weather.
Visitors should arrive on the island by 10 a.m. When they leave the island, the boat operator may take them on a ride around the island. At this time, the birds may start to roost, so it is requested that visitors remain a quiet as possible while circling the island especially on the north side where the sensitive frigatebirds roost.
The Natural Sights
Visitors who take the walk to the top of the island enjoy the hundreds of birds and their chicks that are not afraid of humans. The birds come up close to people, which is a real thrill for children. The knowledgeable guides also take visitors to the small settlement where there is a garden.
On the top of the granite cliffs, visitors can sometimes see hawksbill turtles and dolphins in the water below. After returning to the beach, visitors can swim and snorkel over the reefs and see some of the 450 species of brightly coloured reef fish in the area.
Aride Island is considered a jewel of the Indian Ocean. It is one of the most important nature reserves in the world with flora and fauna that has not be disturbed by human beings for half a century. Visitors take a full day to relax and enjoy this small bit of paradise.