SEYCHELLES BIRDING TOUR: DETAILED ITINERARY
Seychelles: Day 1-2 Our tour begins this morning on Mahé, where we will stay overnight.
The island of Mahé is the largest of the Seychelles group and boasts the world’s smallest capital city, Victoria. The friendly Creole population have a carefree manner characteristic of these gentle islands. This happy-go-lucky attitude is infectious and visitors soon become accustomed to the rhythm of island life. The Creole influence on local food has produced a wonderfully varied and exciting cuisine, much of it based on fresh seafood.
Mahé has beautiful beaches, mangrove swamps and extensive areas of mountain forest on the central ridge which rises to around 500m. Some of the peaks are covered in cloudforest which harbours endemic tree frogs and chameleons.
The main avian prizes of Mahé are the endangered endemic Seychelles Scops Owl, which currently appears to have a stable population of 80-160 pairs, and the endangered endemic Seychelles White-eye. The population of the white-eye on Mahé is thought to be only around 30-40 individuals and may still be decreasing, although fortunately a population of about 300 birds has now been found on the uninhabited islet of Conception. Both the white-eye and the scops owl will probably require a bit of effort to locate.
The majority of the other nine bird species endemic to the Seychelles occur on Mahé and as we explore the mountain forests we will easily find Seychelles Kestrel, Seychelles Blue Pigeon (a spectacular deep blue pigeon with a white head and neck and a brilliant scarlet wattle on its crown), Seychelles Bulbul and Seychelles Sunbird.
Among the introduced species that occur here are Malagasy Turtle Dove, Zebra Dove, Indian Myna and Red Fody. Western Cattle Egrets are found commonly in the lowlands and at the coast we should see a selection of shorebirds, including Grey (or Black-bellied) Plover, Whimbrel, Common Greenshank, Common Sandpiper and Ruddy Turnstone.
Seychelles: Day 3-4 In the morning we will board a sailing catamaran, and sail over to Praslin.
Praslin is sparsely populated and is the epitome of a tropical island paradise. We shall visit the beautiful Vallée de Mai National Park where stands of the unique Coco-de-Mer, which produce the strange double coconut that is the largest seed in the plant kingdom, occur alongside other endemic palms. The main birding interest is provided by the very distinctive endemic Seychelles Black Parrot.
Seychelles: Days 5-6 From Praslin we will take a short trip to the low-lying, mainly wooded island of Cousin.
This tiny uninhabited isle only a kilometre across is a BirdLife International reserve which safeguards one of only four populations of the Seychelles Warbler. Once considered to be critically endangered with a world population of only 30 individuals, the species has now increased to a stable population of around 2500 birds.
We will also be looking for the Seychelles Magpie-Robin, the most endangered of the Seychelles endemics with a total population of only about 170 individuals. The magpie-robins are currently the subject of a BirdLife International conservation project to try to ensure their future.
The Toq-Toq or Seychelles Fody is quite numerous here and its catholic diet not only includes fruit, seeds and insects but seabirds eggs as well! Some of the Turtle Doves here may be pure-bred Seychelles race, untainted by hybridization with the introduced Madagascar race (something which has occurred on most of the other islands).
Seabirds will be a feature of the day and we can expect to see White-tailed Tropicbirds, Brown and Lesser Noddies, and Bridled and Common White (or Fairy) Terns. Wedge-tailed Shearwaters nest in cracks in the granite boulders and although they only fly into the colonies at night we may be fortunate enough to see a few individuals even in the daytime.
The island is also home to some introduced Giant Aldabra Tortoises, which we should find leisurely chewing on some vegetation, or lumbering slowly through the more open areas of forest.
The small island of La Digue, which we will also visit, is likewise only a short boat trip from Praslin. This quiet island with its scattered settlement is the home of the most beautiful of the endemic birds of the Seychelles, the Seychelles (or Black) Paradise Flycatcher. The males are a rich, velvety blue-black and have improbably long tail plumes which stream out behind as they flit amongst the shady takamaka trees.
La Digue also has one of the few known Seychelles breeding colonies of Seychelles Swiftlet and we may be able to climb up to their cave to inspect the diminutive nests that cling to the bare granitic rock. Seychelles Sunbirds are particularly common here and introduced Common Waxbills are frequently encountered.
We shall visit a small marsh where Yellow Bitterns, a species that probably colonized the Seychelles naturally, can be found, and we may also find the Seychelles race of the Common Moorhen. The coast of La Digue often has a few migrant Crab-Plovers, a remarkable wader which is placed in its own family. We may see these unusual birds sitting on their haunches with their legs folded beneath them.
We will also make a boat trip to the seabird island of Aride, looking out for Wedge-tailed and Tropical (split from Audubon’s) Shearwaters during the crossing. The rocky hills of this small island are covered in woodland which provides nesting sites for a variety of seabirds.
The island is owned by the Royal Society for Nature Conservation and has some of the largest colonies of tropical seabirds in the Indian Ocean. Pride of place must go to the quarter of a million nesting Sooty Terns, closely followed by twenty thousand White-tailed Tropicbirds. The largest colony of Lesser Noddies in the Seychelles is found here as well as smaller numbers of Bridled Terns, Brown Noddies and delightful Common White Terns. There is a spectacular roost of both Greater and Lesser Frigatebirds on the island.
We may be fortunate enough to find one or two vagrant seabirds, such as Brown Booby or Red-footed Booby.
The experience of the sight, sound and smell of such vast numbers of seabirds at such close range is quite overwhelming and will provide a host of unforgettable memories.
Seychelles: Day 7 After a last morning in the inner islands we will return to Mahé for an overnight stay.
Seychelles: Day 8 We disembark for the sailing boat and make our way to the airport to Catch our flight, with tones of photos & memories packed.
Seychelles Kestrel (Falco area),Seychelles Scops Owl (Otus insularism), Seychelles White-eye, Seychelles Black Parrot (Lesser Vasa), Seychelles Blue Pigeon, Seychelles Paradise Flycatcher, Seychelles Sunbird, Seychelles Magpie-Robin, Seychelles Warbler, Seychelles Fody, Seychelles Turtle Dove (Nesoenas rostrate), White-tailed & Red-tailed Tropicbird, Fairy, Roseate, Bridled & Sooty Tern, Lesser & Brown Noddy, Great & Lesser Frigatebird, Yellow Bittern, Crab-plover,
Seychelles Flying Fox.
tropical islands, rainforest, mudflats, wetlands, agricultural scrub, secondary forest
Expected Climate: tropical, most days at lower altitudes will be hot, dry and sunny, but expect odd showers. Higher altitudes are cool to warm. It may be humid at times.
Max Group Size 8 with 1 Adventure leader
Tour Pace & Walking: comfortable
Accommodation Livea board Sailing Catamaran
Ease of Birding: mostly unchallenging a few difficult species
exquisite food, Cousin, La Digue & Aride Islands, Ornate Day Gecko, Aldabran Giant Tortoises, Round Island Day Gecko,
Photographic Opportunities: excellent