An endemic wildlife sanctuary bestowed with some of Nature’s wonderful creations, the coraline Ile aux Aigrettes islet is one of the most well-kept nature reserves of Mauritius. The islet was probably named after the ‘Egret’ bird and was once a British military base in the Indian Ocean during the Second World War.
Today the island acts as a natural museum, covering an area of 26 hectares of endemic and indigenous flora and fauna; a rich biodiversity contributing towards the balancing of the ecosystem. This islet was first declared a nature reserve in 1965 and ever since, it has been under the operation of the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation– a non- profit conservation organisation founded by naturalist Gerald Durell with the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust.
Being a nature lover, I couldn’t resist the idea for an ecological exploration in the south-eastern part of the island. What makes this islet worth visiting is the fact that you will get to witness some incredible flora and fauna which was once on the brink of extinction.
Ile aux Aigrettes is located some 800 metres off the coast of Pointe Jerome, where you will easily find the reservation office of the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation. Expect a 10 minute of a relaxing boat transfer to the nature reserve, where you get the chance to have an up-close view of the electrifying green of the islet, contrasting with the white sandy beach and turquoise blue water.
Upon reaching the islet, you can instantly feel the slight rise in temperature and humidity, which is due to the evaporation process. After disembarking the jetty, the well-versed tour guide gave an interesting intro about Ile aux Aigrettes, and while strolling further, she explained about the Mauritian Flying Fox which has significantly been decreased due to habitat loss.
You will also encounter the laid back Aldabra tortoises from Seychelles and Radiated Tortoises from Madagascar which are helping to restore the ecosystem by dispersing the ebony seeds through their droppings across the isle.
During the tour, the guide enthusiastically pointed out some rare animal species and I was thrilled to see the Olive White-Eye for the first time. This endemic songbird is highly considered as an endangered species and has a current population of 100-150 pairs. They are known to be territorial birds and considered to mate for life!
My next wonderful encounter was the gorgeous and brightly coloured Mauritius Ornate Day Gecko (Phelsuma Ornata). The geckos are scattered across other islets of Mauritius and they are classified into five distinct endemic taxa with different patterns and colour combinations.
Walking deep into the nature reserve, there is a spot filled with the renowned ebony trees. Ebony tree is deeply rooted in the Mauritian history. During the colonial period, the tree was regarded as a valuable commodity because of its dense black Heartwood. It was massively exploited to build some parts of the ships. Holding an ebony wood for the first time was a real treat. It is interesting to know that the ebony tree is dioecious, meaning there is a male tree and a female tree.
Ile aux aigrettes serves as a good example of working in parallel with nature conservation along with eco-tourism. There are many interesting living species that have made this islet as their safe haven. Species such as the geckos, pink pigeons, or even the Olive White Eye birds could have been completely extinct if the restoration and conservation programme hadn’t been set up.
Just to remind us that we have already crossed 4 out of the 9 planetary boundaries, and the most alarming is the loss of biodiversity. Thanks to the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation that these endemic species still form part of the Mauritian fauna and flora.
Important Info: Ile aux Aigrettes
Meeting Point: Pointe Jerome (a little further from the Preskil Beach Resort)
Duration: 1 to 1.5 Hour of Guided tour (English and French language)
Booking: Mauritian Wildlife Foundation (+230 52588139/ 631 2396)