Where to spot Tortoises & Turtles
Aside from World Turtle Day being yet enough excuse to watch adorable videos and photos - as if you even needed one right? It also celebrates the conservation projects designed to protect tortoises and turtles and minimalize the increasing threats facing these magnificent creatures. And there are plenty of places you can visit in Mauritius and the Seychelles to enjoy up close encounters, get your reptile fix and help protect their future survival.
Whilst they maybe closely related and share the same nesting habits, there are some clear features that differentiate the two species. Here's a little breakdown to help you decide which creature you want to visit.
Tortoise vs Turtle
Land dwelling giant tortoises may be slow but they certainly win the race when it comes to longevity, they have been known to live to a ripe old age of 150. With large dome shaped shells they move at an incredibly slow pace, their docile nature will leave you in a total state of peace and calm. And they certainly aren't camera shy, loving nothing more than cosying up for a heart-warming selfie moment.
How long can you hold your breath under water for - a couple of minutes? Turtles sleep in the ocean and can hold their breath for several hours, with flat streamlines shells they propel themselves through their marine habitat. Nothing can prepare you for the exhilarating experience of diving into the azure ocean with a turtle just ahead.
Meet gentle giant tortoises
There aren't many places left in the world where you can still see them in the wild with many species now extinct. Although Aldabra tortoises can be found at nature reserves in both Mauritius and the Seychelles.
One of our favourite places in Mauritius to get up close and maybe even grab a cheeky selfie with these charismatic creatures is La Vanille Nature Park. Stroll through a lush green setting where palm trees and giant bamboos provide shade from the glorious sunshine and with the largest captive herd of Aldabra tortoises in the world you won't want to miss out on saying a quick hello to the famous resident Domino, he tips the scales at a whopping 275kg! Afterwards head back to nearby Paradis Beachcomber to practise your swing on the magnificent golf course and try your hand at one of the complimentary water sports.
Who could forget the beautiful Curieuse Island just a short boat trip from Raffles, Praslin where you can find one of the largest wild herds of Aldabra tortoises with approximately 500 grazing tortoises. Watch in delight as the friendly adults and baby tortoises eat from your hands then head back to Praslin for more exceptional encounters with nature - spot the black parrot and the Coco de Mer nut at Vallée de Mai.
Dive in and catch sight of turtles
Hawksbill turtles are named after their curved heads which end in a sharp pointed beak, but they are more famously admired for their colourful heart-shaped shells. You will find them in tropical waters around the world, but the clear blue waters of the Seychelles offers ideal visibility in which to spot them.
The leafy vegetation on the sugar soft beaches makes the Seychelles one of two places in the world where turtles feel safe enough to lay their eggs in broad daylight (between October-December). And if you want to witness the extremely memorable natural phenomenon of turtle nesting or watch the incredible sight of hatchlings as they shuffle into the ocean for the first time (between September-March) - then we know a great place.
Year after year, turtles return to Bird Island - and with its 5km of white coral sand and stunning clear turquoise waters can you blame them? A real Robin Crusoe experience escape to untouched beaches where one of the largest populations of nesting Hawksbill turtles in the Seychelles resides thanks to the project designed to actively monitor and protect the beautiful sea creatures. Make the most of the limited telephone reception and Wi-Fi for a candlelit dinner without disrupting notifications. The island even has its own full time nature conservationist who works on monitoring and protecting critically endangered turtles, you could even volunteer to help with the projects during your stay.
But Hawksbill turtles aren't the only species you can spot, how about Green Sea turtles? You'd be mistaken for thinking that the Great Barrier Reef is the only place to spot cute Crush from Finding Nemo lookalikes. In reality the clear visibility and vibrant marine life of the Indian ocean makes the Seychelles a unique diving experience in its own right.
Stay in a luxurious villa nestled amidst tropical gardens at Le Domaine de L'Orangeraie and take a short stroll to Anse Severe beach. Beautiful rock formations and clear blue shallow waters await, so go ahead grab your snorkel and dive in, if you are lucky you'll spot a gorgeous green turtle.
Encounters with both tortoises and turtles will fill you with wonder and happiness - now all that's left is for you to choose which one you'd like to meet.