Late in the afternoon our Zodiac flotilla landed on Picard Island via the lagoon. Greeting us was a bronze plaque commemorating the 1982 designation of the atoll as one of two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Seychelles.
Walking along the lagoon we saw many champignon rocks which were set off by the spectacular turquoise water.
Things seem to have slowed down as the day wound down. I was finally able to capture “portraits” of two of the fauna that Aldabra is well known for. The world’s largest anthropod, found on Aldabra atoll, is the coconut crab.
We were fortunate to have some of the staff of the Seychelles Island Foundation snorkel with us over the two days there and they were great guides as we hiked around Picard Island. Here’s a portrait of Rebecca who led us on a fantastic drift snorkel ride on the incoming current — running about 7 M.P.H. — from the ocean into the lagoon. We were amazed to learn that approximately 75% of the volume of water in the lagoon returns to the ocean on each outgoing tide and returns hours later on the incoming tide.
Another elusive bird that we finally spotted moving a little more slowly was the indigenous Aldabra white-throated rail. The birds flew to the atoll ages ago and over time, with no natural predators, evolved to be flightless.
North of the location on Picard Island where the current ranger station is located was the site of an old French settlement in the 19th Century. There are remains of foundations of the houses and school and the one extant building is the old jail. The vegetation had overtaken many of the buildings, but the SIF has worked to try to remove some of the vegetation in order to better preserve the ruins.
One interesting sight was at the bottom of a foundation wall where the stucco, applied over the coral rocks used for construction, had naturally eroded and looked like a primitive painting. It was quite striking amidst the lush vegetation and building ruins.
Just then we spotted some fruit bats returning to the trees above us — a couple of them had what looked like a love spat, engaging with each other while both hanging upside down and flying around the tree.
At sunset we returned to the edge of the lagoon where hundreds of white terns returned to the sand bar. The cloud formations were gorgeous and we watched the sunset as we returned to the ship via our Zodiacs.