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Around 100 km from Mahé lies the northernmost island of the Seychelles, Bird. The island takes its name, which couldn't fit any better, from the millions of sea birds who call it their home. Above all, the Sooty Tern forms the largest bird colony on the island.
1,500 metres long and 800 metres wide, Bird Island is slightly more manageable than some of the other Seychelles islands. To get here, you must take the thirty-minute flight from Mahé, and it is no exaggeration to say that the plane's approach to the island will likely be a highlight of your stay, with white, sandy beaches and a truly picturesque island looming out of the seemingly endless ocean. Once there, you have to stay at least one night, as the flight only departs once per day.
This landmass, originally discovered in 1756, was once called the "Ile aux Vaches" (Island of the Manatees) due to the large population of this marine animal nearby. In the late 1960s, an ambitious Englishman bought the flat, 400,000 year-old island, which, up to that point, had unfortunately seen its fair share of exploitation in the form of coconut and cotton plantations, guano exports, and the sale of sooty tern eggs. These factors had changed the nature, vegetation, and bird population of the island drastically. Gradually, the new owner had the coconut trees cleared in the north-east of the island to once again provide the bird populations with a safe place to breed; he also banned predatory animals from the island. Nowadays, the much-cherished and well-maintained island offers some deliberately simple bungalows for tourists, which nevertheless offer a brilliant ocean view and make for an outstanding stay. The proceeds from the privately-run Bird Island Lodge benefit the island's nature. Those looking for entertainment and luxury in the strictest sense of the word should avoid Bird Island; air-conditioning, phones, and televisions are nowhere to be found in the chalets, and the island does not have a pool, cars, roads, or even daily newspapers.
Enjoy two to three days on Bird and experience the uniquely-soothing atmosphere of the island, which takes the concept of ecotourism extremely seriously. As a visitor, you can experience birds nesting up-close, and hear the local flora and fauna described in detail by locals workers during a guided tour. Between April and October, when hundreds of thousands of sooty terns nest here, there are an especially large number of exciting things to see. During the breeding season you can experience the spectacle of giant, screeching flocks of birds landing on the island just before sunset and repeating this at sunrise as they forage for food over the sea. To reach the sooty tern's nesting area, walk along the beach in a northerly direction. After about 150 metres, go to the right, where you will reach a small clearing. Here, you can find an elevated observation deck, from which you can enjoy a great view of the nesting sites.
White fairy terns, lesser noddys, Seychelles sunbirds, common mynas, Madagascan red fodies, and many other types of bird can be found here all year-round. High about the island, the great frigate birds fly, having left Aldabra and travelling far away. Because the island is surrounded by beaches, it is also safe for turtles to come and nest here. Their nesting routine, which takes place under cover of darkness, must not be disturbed, and neither must the young turtles that hatch around sixty days later. Therefore, please stick to the lit paths in front of the bungalows.
The lodge's surroundings are also home to what is possibly the oldest giant tortoise (Aldabrachelys Gigantea) in the world. According to its birth certificate, Esmerelda was born on the 1st June 1771. However, despite its name, Esmerelda is a male, and weighs close to 300 kg (660 lbs). Besides animals such as Esmerelda, the only other inhabitants of the island are the few staff of the lodge, where you can enjoy fruits and vegetables grown by these Seychellois, as well as fish found nearby.
Snorkelling is a particularly appealing past-time on Bird, especially in the south-east of the island. The water here is shallow, and the coast is protected by a coral reef. That said, pay attention to currents! In front of the lodge, in the west of the island, there is a white beach which offers safe conditions for swimming. Information about swimming, snorkelling, diving, kayaking, and sailing is issued by Bird Island Lodge. Those who want to visit the island can check current flight times and prices, as well as book tickets, at the airport (tel. +248 430 1000), or in the reservation office at the Inter-Island Quay in Victoria (tel. +248 422 4925).