Our trip was planned using the excellent 'Birds of the Seychelles' by Adrian Skerrett, Ian Bullock and Tony Disley, published by Christopher Helm. ISBN 0-7136-3973-3.
Careful planning is required to have a chance of seeing the endemics occurring on the 'inner islands' of the Seychelles. Visits to Mahe, Praslin, La Digue, Cousin and Aride are necessary with sufficient time allocated to give a reasonable chance of seeing the more elusive species.
Mahe is the hub for international flights and is the starting point to all the other islands with fixed wing air connections. Mahe is home to two of the most difficult species, Seychelles Scops-owl and Seychelles White-eye and offers a good chance of seeing Seychelles Kestrel. Mahe is also a good place to see the more common endemics, Seychelles Blue Pigeon, Seychelles Swiftlet, Seychelles Bulbul and Seychelles Sunbird.
Praslin has Seychelles Black Parrot as well as all the common endemics.
La Digue has Seychelles Paradise Flycatcher.
Cousin has Seychelles Fody, Seychelles Warbler and Seychelles Magpie Robin.
Aride has Red-tailed Tropicbird, not endemic but still a good bird, and trans-located Seychelles Warbler and Seychelles Magpie Robin and thousands of Frigatebirds.
We couldn't resist the lure of Bird Island so a visit there was an essential part of our planning.
After checking out flight only and direct booking deals we arranged the main part of our trip with Elite Vacations Ltd. Our holiday consisted of all flights to, and accommodation on Mahe, Praslin and Bird.
This left us with the task of getting to La Digue, Cousin and Aride and is the part of the trip where detailed attention to logistics becomes necessary. Boats to Aride only sail on certain days and are dependent on availability and weather conditions. After taking all this into consideration our chosen itinerary looked like this.
Sun 21/10 LGW south terminal, HM009 fly at 1815 Mon 22/10 Arrive Mahe 0850, transfer to Sun Resort Hotel, Beau Vallon Tues 23/10 Birding with Basil, Seychelles White-eye etc. Wed 24/10 Sun Resort, walk to Anse Major. Seychelles Kestrel Thu 25/10 Sun Resort, Victoria Botanical Gardens, mangroves etc. Fri 26/10 Sun Resort, walk to Sunset Beach Hotel. Seychelles Kestrel. Sat 27/10 Transfer Mahe/Bird Island 1050. Sun 28/10 Bird Island Mon 29/10 Transfer to Mahe 1135 HM804. HM330 1315 flight to Praslin arrive 1330 transfer to Hotel Marechiaro Tues 30/10 Trip to Cousin am. Valley de Mai pm. Wed 31/10 Trip to Aride, full day. Thu 1/11 Hotel Marechiaro. La Digue all day. Fri 2/11 Hotel Marechairo, Valley de Mai turn off and Cote d'Or Sat 3/11 Depart Praslin 1930 flight HM267, arrive Mahe 2000. Flight home HM010 2315. Sun 4/11 Arrive LGW 0730
Creole Holidays 00 248 280100 Sun Resort 00 248 247647 Bird Island 00 248 323322 Hotel Marechairo 00 248 233337 Elite Vacations Ltd UK 020 8864 4431 firstname.lastname@example.org
Trips to Cousin and Aride can be booked locally through travel agents or larger hotels. Given the limited time available to us we booked our trips direct from the UK with Creole Holidays email@example.com to make sure we got a seat on our chosen date.
Cousin cost USD 40 each, half day including return transport from our hotel. Boats leave from the beach at the coach terminal at Cote d'Or for the 30minute ride. This trip can be combined with visits to Curieuse and St Pierre Islands at USD 80 each including lunch for the full day.
Note that the shallow water means that you will have to wade from the beach to the boat at both ends of the trip.
Aride cost USD 80 each, full day including lunch and transfers. Open only Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. The boat leaves from the beach at Cote d'Or. Again because of the shallow water you have to wade out to the boat. After the 45 minute crossing the boat moors a few hundred yards from the beach and passengers transfer to a 6 man inflatable for the exhilarating and very wet ride through the surf to the beach.
The guided walk to the seabird cliffs takes around an hour and a half and is quite rough in places.
The ferry from Praslin to La Digue runs several times a day and costs 80 Seychelles rupees each return, the fare must be paid in foreign currency, or by credit card. Check sailing times locally. We caught the 0930 out and the 1730 back. The Flycatcher reserve is an easy 30minute walk after turning right off the jetty.
Books. As well as Birds of the Seychelles we also used,
Insight Pocket Guide to the Seychelles ISBN 962-421-690-8, this excellent little guide comes complete with a useful pullout map.
Lonely Planet guide to Mauritius, Reunion and Seychelles, ok for background information but the Seychelles section is limited.
Transport. The frequent and reliable bus service on Mahe and Praslin is cheap at 3 Seychelles rupees per journey regardless of distance travelled. Car hire may be necessary on Mahe to find White-eyes and Scops-owl if a guide is not used. Expect to pay around 300 rupees on Mahe and 400 on Praslin per day.
Guides. Basil Beaudouin, phone 241790, is "the" guide for Seychelles White-eye. We would not have found White-eyes or Scops-owl without his help and advise. Meet him any Monday at the Coral Strand Hotel, Beau Vallon, Mahe. He is also an expert on the flora of the Seychelles. We booked his services direct from the UK through Creole Holidays. The cost of 450 Seychelles rupees included transport using Basils car and a packed lunch.
Money. The exchange rate was 7.25/7.5 Seychelles rupees to the UK pound. Save all receipts in case you need to change any back to pounds. There are a couple of banks and a bureau de change at the airport in Victoria. Hotels will change currency and travellers cheques. Credit cards are widely accepted.
Accommodation. The 4 star Sun Resort on Mahe has air-conditioned chalets and is convenient for the beach at Beau Vallon. On Praslin the 4 star Marechiaro is air-conditioned and is a short walk away from the turn off to the Valley de Mai. On Bird Island there is no option other than to stay in one of the palm shaded bungalows. The hotel is full board and there are no other facilities on the island.
Weather. All islands were hot and humid. We had an energy sapping 35 degrees C in the daytime and 26 degress C at night over the whole of our stay. The islands are currently suffering drought conditions having had very little rain in the last two years.
Audubon's Shearwater, seen in small numbers from the boats to Cousin and Aride. We saw several adults on eggs in their shallow burrows on Aride.
Wedge-tailed Shearwater, seen similarly to Audubon's but in greater numbers. In flight they can easily be confused with Brown Noddy.
White-tailed Tropicbird, seen daily in good numbers. On Cousin, Aride and Bird they are everywhere.
Red-tailed Tropicbird, only seen at their breeding site on the cliffs on Aride.
Red-footed Booby, 3 including an adult seen over the Sooty Tern colony on Bird.
Masked Booby, 2 immatures with the Frigates on Aride, seen and videoed.
Great Frigatebird, a few seen daily, 3-4000 roost and loaf on Aride.
Lesser Frigatebird, approximately 10% of the Frigates ie. 3-400on Aride are this species.
Grey Heron, 3 seen in the mangroves around Victoria on Mahe.
Cattle Egret, dozens in the mangroves and on the airport on Mahe.
Green-backed Heron, seen in small numbers on Mahe and Praslin.
Seychelles Kestrel, only 2 seen, 1 on a roadside telegraph pole outside the Sunset Beach Hotel, Beau Vallon, and 1 atop a dead tree along the trail to Anse Major west of Beau Vallon.
Moorhen, 10 fairly tame birds on Aride.
Crab Plover, 3 on Bird at the north point.
Lesser Sandplover, 6 or so Bird. 2 Praslin opposite the Valley de Mai turn off at Fond de l’Anse.
Greater Sandplover, 3 on Bird. 2 Valley de Mai turn off and I at Beau Vallon on the beach outside the Fishermans Cove Hotel.
Pacific Golden Plover, 3 Praslin Valley de Mai turn off.
Grey Plover, seen in small numbers on all islands.
Bar-tailed Godwit, 1 on Bird.
Eurasian Curlew, 1 on Bird.
Whimbrel, seen daily, highest count of 10 at Valley de Mai turn off.
Greenshank, 3 at Valley de Mai turn off.
Common Sandpiper, 2 Valley de Mai turn off.
Ruddy Turnstone, seen on all islands. Highest count of 40 on Bird.
Sanderling, small numbers seen on all islands.
Curlew Sandpiper, 10 on Bird.
Ruff, 1 on Bird.
Greater Crested Tern, 18 on Bird at north point. 10 or so at Valley de Mai turn off and a few patrolling the beaches elsewhere.
Sooty Tern, several 10s of thousands on and around Bird where the juvs were fully fledged. A few adults at the colony on Aride where breeding had been completed and most birds were at sea. Also seen in good numbers on all ferry crossings.
Bridled Tern, 30 or so roosted in casuarinas opposite the chalets on Bird. Several seen on Aride seemed to be protecting nests or young around the cliffs at the Frigate watch point.
Saunders Tern, we saw 30 of these at the north point on Bird.
Brown Noddy,10s of thousands breeding on Bird, Aride and Cousin and commonly seen in large groups feeding at sea.
Lesser Noddy, similar amounts at locations as the previous species.
Fairy Tern, seen everywhere, even through the streets of Victoria. Thousands on and around Bird, Cousin and Aride.
Madagascar Turtle Dove, common on Mahe and Praslin.
Barred Ground Dove, common and confiding almost everywhere.
Seychelles Blue Pigeon, seen in small numbers on all islands except Bird.
Seychelles Black Parrot, Basil told us that the best time to find these was 1530 at the entrance to the Valley de Mai, they came early at 1520 ! Only 2 seen but more heard calling.
Seychelles Scops-owl, heard and eventually seen at dusk near the radio station above Victoria.
Seychelles Swiftlet, easy to see in the late afternoons around the hotels at Beau Vallon, also seen on Praslin.
Broad-billed Roller, a vagrant was found at the edge of the Tern colony on Bird on the 28th of October, still present on the 29th.
Seychelles Bulbul, noisy groups of up to 6 seen on Mahe and Praslin.
Seychelles Magpie Robin, 2 on Aride and 6 on Cousin, all were very confiding and photogenic.
Seychelles Warbler, 12 or so on Aride and 6 on Cousin performed down to arms length.
Seychelles Paradise Flycatcher, a male and female seen together from the boardwalk at the reserve on La Digue.
Seychelles White-Eye, after a gruelling one and a half hour trek up a mountain above Victoria, Basil showed us a pair on their breeding territory. There are more of these birds on the island of Conception.
Seychelles Sunbird, seen in small numbers on all islands except Bird.
Common Myna, common on Mahe and Praslin.
Common Waxbill, 4 at the boardwalk at the Flycatcher reserve on La Digue.
Madagascar Fody, common on Mahe and Praslin.
Seychelles Fody, 20 or so seen easily on Cousin.
Other animals of interest.
Aldabra Giant Land Tortoise (Geochelonia gigantea).3 Bird, 6 Aride
Bronze Gecko (Ailuronyx seychellensis). Common Praslin, Aride and Cousin
Wright’s Skink (Mubuya wrightii). Common Aride and Cousin
Seychelles Skink (Mabuya sechellensis). Common Praslin, Aride and Cousin
Giant non-poisonous millipedes are common on Aride. We saw 2 Tenerecs in the Valley de Mai. A small 'kangaroo' type mouse was seen on Bird. Large non-poisonous Palm Spiders are common almost everywhere. A single small black and white butterfly was seen at the White-eye site on Mahe. Fruit Bats are reasonably common on Mahe and Praslin.