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» 01 Jul 2011

Nestled in the Mahebourg Bay, at about 800 meters off the south east coast, Ile aux Aigrettes stands like a small island paradise off the coast of Mauritius. This month Island Info unravels this breathtaking Nature Reserve, full of history and   the rarest endemic Mauritian species of flora and fauna.

Since 1984, Ile aux Aigrettes has been managed by the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation and has been developed as a living laboratory  to conserve  its endemic plants and animals and exploit its potential for harbouring threatened Mauritian species. The Foundation wishes to restore the ecosystem to as close as possible to pre-human history, over 400 years ago. By making Ile aux Aigrettes accessible to local and international visitors, the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation strives to raise public awareness about its conservation work, with focus on Ile aux Aigrettes, create employment for the local population and generate income to ensure continuity of its projects. .  

The Mauritian Wildlife Foundation opened a Nursery on the islet with a capacity of about 30,000 plants annually where rare native plants are produced.  These are planted on the island during the annual rainy season, from February to April.  Plants are also produced for habitat restoration on Round Island and a proportion is distributed to schools, charities and public institutions to help raise awareness and pride in native plants.  Production of plants are sponsored by Air Mauritius, the national airline.

Ile aux Aigrettes is a unique genuine ecotourism attraction.  Visitors are greeted by a wide range of native and endemic plants and animals that are thriving on the island.  This is proof that the decades-long actions of the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation to rehabilitate the island to its former magnificence are reaping dividends.

During your visit to Ile aux Aigrettes you will come across the multi-coloured Ornate Day Gecko, the furtive Guenther’s Gecko, and also the elusive wild population of Pink Pigeons (a distant relative of the Dodo) prancing Mauritius Fodies and Olive White-eyes and lazing Telfair’s skinks, which adds a magical aura to the native vegetation full of curious plants.  This assortment of endangered wildlife cannot be viewed anywhere else in  the world, so the show will be worth watching. The introduced Aldabran Giant Tortoises will also be encountered freely-roaming on the island. Since the extinction of the Mauritian endemic species, visitors will get a lasting impression of the positive role giant tortoises played in the ecosystem.
The island is reached after a boat trip across the azure-blue waters of the Mahebourg Bay. Shortly after stepping onto the island, you will be greeted by baby tortoises and thereafter taken on a tour of the island, during which you will discover the island’s natural gems, as well as learn about the history of Ile aux Aigrettes and its surroundings. You will be guided along the rugged track for one and a half to two hours by experts who will make you laugh your heart out by their local anecdotes and stories.  The visit ends at the Visitors Centre where you will find out more about the projects that the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation implements on Ile aux Aigrettes through  information boards.  Please visit the bronze exhibition of extinct animals of Mauritius and Rodrigues in the Visitors Centre, which also houses a shop where you can support conservation further by  taking back gifts for the ones who missed out this great journey.  You can buy plush toys , T-shirts, caps, books, paintings, curios and  other souvenirs. The Mauritian Wildlife Foundation and its little heaven are eagerly waiting for you; Ile aux Aigrettes  will surely be an unforgettable  experience well worth the detour ...

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