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» 01 Jan 2008

Strolling languidly along stretches of sandy beach by the turquoise lagoon, one soon becomes aware that the postcard images of Mauritius were just an invitation to something far more exquisite. The beauty of the island goes beyond the images of sun, sea and sand. Mauritius is also ready to fulfil the dreams of nature lovers. One particular haven is Ile aux Aigrettes which is only a short boat trip away from Pointe D'Esny (in the South East of the island). Ile aux Aigrettes is an islet that came into being some 30 000 years ago, following a drop in the sea level. European settlement as from the 16th century inevitably led the islet to degradation as forests were cleared and animals hunted. It was even converted into a military base during World War II. The two canons present on the island bear witness to those harsh

Exploitation of the wildlife, as well as the introduction of exotic plants and animals, threatened the native ecosystem and even led to the extinction of some species. Luckily the islet was declared a Nature Reserve in 1965.Today, it is under the management of the Mauritius Wildlife Foundation which strives to recreate the
ecosystem as it existed 400 years ago.

A one and a half hour guided tour allows one to enjoy both thrilling and soothing moments. Visitors follow a winding trail right into the heart of the serene surrounding, a far cry from the hustle and bustle of civilisation.

They can appreciate the endemic flora and fauna which have been patiently restored. Rare indigenous trees such as the Bois d'Eponge, the Bois de Rat and the Ebony can be observed. Besides, the visitors can admire and learn about the Pink Pigeon and the Kestrel (endemic birds of Mauritius) as they wander in the wild. The Giant Aldabra Tortoise is also present to greet visitors. Those who like reptiles would be pleased to observe the two Telfair Skinks temporarily held in captivity on the islet. These reptiles, once widespread in Mauritius, are now to be found only on Ile aux Aigrettes and Round Island.

There is also a plant nursery on the island which allows 45,000 young plants to be produced yearly. 40,000 of these are planted on Ile aux Aigrettes itself. The Mauritius Wildlife Foundation thus ensures the conservation of a number of unique species. Moreover, the awesome view of the South East coast of Mauritius from Ile aux Aigrettes will surely capture the visitor's attention: the Lions Mountain stands majestically, overlooking the bay of Mahébourg and all the small isles in that area.

The islet is easily accessible and a tour is booked effortlessly. A day at Ile aux Aigrettes allows one not only to unwind but to realise the importance of preserving our natural heritage as well. If you wish to explore the 27 hectares of coralline limestone islet just hop into comfortable shoes, pick your sunscreen and your camera and sail away towards an unforgettable holiday experience.          

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