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Curieuse is one of the Inner Islands Group of the Seychelles Islands. It is 2.86 square kilometres in area and is located north-west of Praslin Island, which is the second largest island in the Seychelles. Curieuse is a bio-reserve that is managed by the Marine Parks Authority of the Seychelles Centre for Marine Technology.
How to get there?
The island is a major tourist destination for day trips. It has not been developed for tourism or industry and is a protected island today. There are no hotels or restaurants on the island. The best way to visit is to take an organised tour from a hotel in Praslin or local tour operator. These tours often stop at other islands including Cousin and Couisine Islands and provide food and drinks. The tour organisation will arrange all the fees and paperwork for visiting Curieuse.
The island National Marine Park is open every day including public holidays. The ranger base is open from eight in the morning to five in the evening.
Those who prefer to travel on their own to the island in a private yacht or rented boat will be asked to pay a fee to enter the park and will need to anchor only in designated places to protect the coral reefs. There is also a fee for overnight mooring. People traveling privately should bring their own food and drinks, as nothing is available on the island.
About the Island
Because of the red coloured soil on this rugged island, it was named the Red Island. The name was changed to La Curieuse by the French in 1768. The huge giant tortoise population was totally destroyed with the arrival of Europeans. In 1771, thinking it would make harvesting the Coco de Mer nuts easier, sailors set fire to the island. This killed off most of the plants and the remnants of the burned area is still seen today more than 240 years later.
In 1833, the island was used as a leper colony and remained so until 1965. The colony was called Anse St. Joseph and the doctor’s residence, which dates from the 1870s, is a museum and educational centre today. There are also more than 500 tortoises walking around the island and eight different species of mangrove trees.
Curieuse and Praslin are the only places in the world where the Coco de Mer grows naturally. The plant holds three world records including the heaviest seed at 17.6 kilograms, the largest flower on any palm tree and the largest fruit so far at 42 kilograms. Today, it is a protected species and an ornamental tree. The fruit is used in Ayurvedic medicine and in traditional Chinese medicine. It is also used as flavouring for cooking in the Canton region of China.
What to see and do?
There are many unique things to see on Curieuse including the Coco de Mer, mangrove forests, Aldabra tortoises, takamaka trees, hawksbill and green sea turtle breeding ground and the Seychelles Black Parrot as well as much more indigenous flora and fauna.
Excursions can be arranged from Praslin or any other island in the Seychelles. The first thing visitors observe is the contrast between the green foliage and the red earth. After a 20 minute boat ride from Praslin to Curieuse Marine National Park, visitors go ashore at Baie Laraie. In the harbour, visitors see the hundreds of the local giant hump-head parrotfish that can be up to 1.2 metres long, and on the land, visitors see giant tortoises relaxing around the park rangers’ headquarters. Visitors can feed the tortoises.
Beginning at Baie Laraie there is a trail that goes to Anse St. Joseph, which is on the other side of the island. Visitors walk through dense mangrove forests, which are considered one of the most magnificent sights on the island and past giant granite cliffs. These cliffs are scrubbed by the wind and rain and form natural blue and red archways along the coast. The ruins of the ancient leper colony can be seen in the forest and has almost completely been taken over by vegetation. There is also a rocky trail to the summit of the island. It is not an easy walk and there is not much shade along the way, but the sights are spectacular.
The park rangers offer complimentary, guided hiking tours around the island that are available twice a day. On the two kilometre walk across the island, visitors see mangrove forests, degraded land from fire and the 2004 tsunami, viewpoints, swamps and some of the most beautiful beaches in the Seychelles. The boardwalk that passes through the mangrove forests near Baie Laraie allows visitors to see seven of the eight species of mangroves on the island. It is accessible even during high tide.
The Doctor’s House is another historical site. It is a large restored colonial villa, which is an example of Creole colonial architecture and is a museum on the ecology and history of Curieuse Island. The beach in front of the Doctor’s House is the place where green and hawksbill turtles make their nests. Visitors who arrive in November to December may see the baby sea turtles. The eggs are looked after by an international