Aldabra Island, or the Aldabra Atoll, is one of the Outer Islands of the Seychelles. Relatively unaffected by man, Aldabra Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it is known first and foremost for its resident population of giant tortoises. Aldabra Seychelles is some 265 miles northwest of Madagascar, and the main Seychelles island of Mahe is some 700 miles off, making for a bit of extra work if you are trying to get here. Unlike the few Seychelles Outer Islands that offer tourist accommodations and facilities, Aldabra Island is primarily reserved for scientists and the island's ranger and staff. You can visit for a stint, but you'll have to first get the proper go-ahead from the Seychelles Island Foundation, which is based in the capital city of Victoria.
The Aldabra Atoll is one of the largest raised coral atolls on the face of the earth, with only the Republic of Kiribati (Pacific Ocean) boasting a greater land area. There are actually a bunch of islands that make up the Aldabra Island atoll, with four main ones encircling a central lagoon. These four main islands are Grand Terre, Malabar, Plymnieli, and Picard. Early Arab merchants were the first to pass through the Aldabra Island atoll, and they are responsible for giving the atoll its name. Portuguese explorers would land here in the early 1500"s, though they would not come to make a significant settlement of any kind. The harsh Aldabra Seychelles environment did not exactly prove ideal to early visitors, as there is a relative lack of water here coupled with a strong sun. But that doesn't mean that man didn't find some uses for the atoll. French sailors first visited in and around the year 1742, and they immediately found the native giant tortoises to make for ideal food stock aboard their ships. The French would claim the Aldabra Atoll as part of their colony of Reunion, though in the early 1800"s, it would fall under British control, as would the rest of the Seychelles. Around the mid-1800"s, concern for the protection of the Aldabra Atoll spread around the globe, with such luminaries as Charles Darwin even taking notice.
Over time, man would start to really appreciate the Aldabra Island atoll for the natural wonder that it is, abandoning any real notions of developing it. As such, it remains very much in its natural state, giving visiting scientists a playground of sorts to enjoy. The Aldabra Seychelles Giant Tortoises certainly appreciate the fact that tourism and overall human intervention is limited on their atoll. You might be surprised to know that there are some 150,000 giant tortoises that make the Aldabra Atoll their home, which is the largest population of these creatures found anywhere on the planet. Other animals that reside here include both hawksbill and green turtles, and the Aldabra rail, which is a rare, flightless bird endemic to the Indian Ocean region.
For those interested, land-based educational visits
are the best way to enjoy Aldabra travel, though generally
these visits are limited to a dozen people. You
can bet that these land-based visits are among the most
exclusive of Seychelles
tours. Charter boats and yachts can be hired
on the island of Mahe if you wish to sail here, and divers
will find the live-aboard dive boats to likely be the
ideal fit. If you manage to touch ground here, you
must be accompanied by an Aldabra staff member at all
times. Flights from Mahe to the nearby island of
Assumption are available, and charter boats can then be
hired to get to the Aldabra Atoll. Aldabra travel
demands are on the rise, and there is talk of future visitor
accommodations on the way. But, for now, this "Galapagos of the Indian Ocean" remains a lost paradise of
sorts, tucked away safely and soundly in its remote location.