Curieuse -- a small granitic island lying some two-kilometres off the northeast coast of Praslin -- was designated as a national park in 1979. It is the only other location aside of Praslin island where the coco de mer, the largest nut in the world, grows naturally. The island is open to visitors from 9am to 5pm from Monday to Sunday, providing free entrance to Seychellois, while tourists pay a R200 entry fee.

During the visit on Curieuse, Minister Loustau-Lalanne, accompanied by the principal secretary for tourism, Anne Lafortune, were given a clearer picture of the day-to-day activities on the island, the current state of the various facilities and work that has already started to improve the services.

The chief executive of the SNPA, Flavien Joubert, was on site to take Minister Loustau-Lalanne on a short tour to see ongoing improvement projects.

These include new toilets, improvement to barbeque facilities, which are provided to visitors on the island for free. Mr Joubert explained that the SNPA is getting the support of the health authorities to ensure that tourism operators providing excursions to tourists are maintaining a good standard of hygiene.

The SNPA chief executive also updated the minister on the islands’ conservation efforts. The Chinese government is expected to be funding a project to improve the island’s solar power and water facilities and to improve the condition of the staff accommodation.

The minister was shown a location near the beach that has been identified for the building of a proper welcome area where visitors will be able to pay their entrance fees and also have proper sheltered seating while they await to be transferred from Curieuse.

The ministerial delegation also visited the Doctor’s House -- a national monument that houses an exhibition on the historical, cultural and natural information of Curieuse Island. The building was recently reopened to visitors following renovation.
Following his visit, Minister Loustau-Lalanne said he had witnessed great improvement on Curieuse, adding that much was being done on both the tourism and conservation side.

“The idea is to improve the situation on the island and this is a good initiative and I feel there are things that can be done quickly to make further improvements. We don’t need much; only clean water, a few showers etc…those small things can make a real difference to the excursion experience on Curieuse,” said Minister Loustau-Lalanne.

The tourism minister added that following concerns highlighted by Praslin hoteliers who would like to see tourists spend more time and money on the island, Curieuse is one area that has the potential to feature more activities and excursions.
For its part, the SNPA has highlighted that the ongoing projects to improve the facilities will allow the organisation raise more revenue other than relying on entrance fees. The increased income is intended to support other activities on the island, including the aspect of conservation.

Several international non-governmental organisations like the Global Vision International and the Darwin Initiative are involved in conservation efforts on Curieuse. Their activities range from conducting marine research, as well as offering training to the SNPA staff in various aspects including monitoring techniques, diving, emergency response, coastal rehabilitation and re-introduction of bird species to the island, as well as coral restoration.

Curieuse is also home to a large population of giant tortoises. Mr Joubert said the island currently has between 160 to 170 adult tortoises roaming around free. The island is also rebuilding its population of juvenile tortoises, following a theft incident last year.

Boasting 43 juvenile tortoises so far, it is expected that the nursery will be able to have its original population of 250 juveniles in the next few years.

Mr Joubert said: “Improving our operation including better collection of revenue which is currently done by the rangers will also allow the rangers more time to be involved in conservation works.”

Some of the other projects the SNPA is envisioning as it gets additional resources is the reparation of a seawall built across the beach forming a circular pond, which used to allow visitors to walk around and discover several mangrove, birds, turtles and other species.

Unfortunately, large sections of the seawall did not withstand the tsunami that reached the coasts of most landmasses bordering the Indian Ocean, including Seychelles as a result of an earthquake which struck the Aceh Province in Indonesia in December 2004.

The SNPA also wants to improve accommodation facilities that can cater for youths or other groups in the community who would like to use the island for camping trips.
Mr Joubert said that following the minister’s visit, the SNPA is looking forward to further discussions with relevant government authorities and tourism operators to move things forward.
The SNPA is also currently discussing with Praslin residents in preparation for the drafting of a management plan for Curieuse, which will take into consideration all aspects of the islands’ function, operation, zoning, conservation and economic activities.

SNPA Seychelles