From the northern granitic Seychelles Islands (Mahe, Praslin and Curieuse) we “sailed” for two days to reach the Southern Seychelles which are predominantly coral atolls. An atoll (or coral atoll) is defined by Wikipedia as “a ring-shaped coral reef including a coral rim that encircles a lagoon partially or completely. There may be coral islands/cays on the rim.” The following photograph illustrates a couple of the rim “champignon islands” (mushroom islands).
Aldabra Islands is the world’s second largest coral atoll. Technically, with several channels from the Indian Ocean into the center lagoon, the atoll is comprised of four coral atoll islands with an enormous lagoon in the center. The largest island, Picard Island — which we visited — is the home of the research station, the only human footprint on overall Aldabra which is 22 miles long and 9 miles wide. Other than the research station, this World Heritage Site is uninhabited, extremely isolated and virtually pristine.
Sir David Attenborough called Aldabra “one of the wonders of the world” and it is also known as one of the “crown jewels” of the Indian Ocean.
The island has distinctive fauna and avifauna. The Aldabra giant tortoises (virtually extinct on the other Seychelles Islands, following the past three hundred years of hunting/killing by humans), grows up to 4 feet in length and can weigh over 500 pounds (males). The white-throated rail is found only on Aldabra, and the island is an important breeding ground for many seabird species, including the red-footed booby and the Magnificent frigate bird.
After snorkeling on the outer reef in the morning, we boarded a Zodiac (inflatable) boat for exploration of the interior waterways bordering the edge of the lagoon. We entered through the large, wide main channel (on the north-east corner of Picard Island) and, after passing many champignon islands, wound our way through narrow channels surrounded by the indigenous mangrove trees.
Red-footed boobies are seabirds that are powerful and agile fliers. They are incredible divers when they seek and catch prey in the water.
Frigate bird seabirds (female) and the Magnificent frigate seabirds (male) mostly fly to find food but occasionally will snatch food from other seabirds.
Magnificent frigate birds (the male species) have a very distinctive red gular pouch that they inflate during breeding season to attract a mate. There are similar male frigate birds found on the Galápagos Islands.