Aldabra is a remarkable and pristine tropical coral atoll. Not only is it the second-largest coral atoll in the world, but it is also famous for having the largest population of giant tortoises. It is part of the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean around 700 southwest of the country's main island, Mahé Island.
On the atoll, there are paved walking trails from the entry point of La Gigi to see the large lagoon and the slowly lumbering residents of the atoll. But getting to the atoll is much easier said than done. Seychelles is a fascinating country to visit, it is possible to visit on a budget although it is generally very expensive and it is not possible to get to Aldabra on a budget.
What To Know Of Aldabra and The Giant Aldabra Tortoises
During the 18th century, there were expeditions to capture the Aldabra giant tortoises. But the island remained uninhabited due to the lack of fresh water on the atoll and which also led to later colonizing efforts failing. Unfortunately, the tortoises were extensively hunted and in 1842 just two ships were reported to have taken 1200 of the giant creatures.
By 1900 they were nearly extinct but fortunately today they are protected, and their populations have recovered. Today there are around 100,000 giant tortoises on Aldabra.
- Largest: Aldabra Is the Largest Raised Coral Reef In The World
- Second Largest: Aldabra is The World's Second-Largest Atoll (After Kiritimati Atoll)
- Length: 34 km or 21 miles
- Width: 13 km or 8 Miles
- Species: Giant Tortoises - Aldabrachelys gigantea
- Population Of Giant Tortoises: Around 100,000 On Aldabra
These stunning and slow-moving tortoises vary in size around the atoll but normally reach a length of 105 centimeters (41 in) and weigh up to 350 kilograms (770 lb).
The tortoises are gentle giants feeding on plants, trees, and the algae growing in the freshwater pools on the island. At famous Aldabra giant tortoise was called Adwaita, and he lived to be around 250 years old (he died in India's Alipore Zoological Gardens in 2006).
Other wildlife on the Aldabra Atoll includes the hawksbill sea turtle, the green sea turtle (one of the largest nesting populations of green turtles), coconut crab, the white-throated rail, and in the seas sharks, manta rays, dolphins, killer whales, humpback whales, and barracuda.
Visiting The Giant Tortoises of Aldabra
Aldabra is extremely remote and is very protected as it is a very fragile atoll. Tourism is strictly controlled and visitors need to get prior permission from Seychelles Islands Foundation (SIF). Access is limited to specific areas of Aldabra and all visitors must be accompanied by a SIF staff member at all times.
- Permission: All Visitors Must Have Prior Permission From SIF
Once one has gotten permission, there are cruises operated by several companies together with dive boats - but don't expect it to be cheap! An indication of the challenges of getting to the islands can be seen that in 2012 there was only an annual average of 900 tourists visiting the atoll.
Besides seeing the Giant Tortoises, another of the attractions on the atoll is drift-diving. Jump into the atoll's lagoon and be greeted with up-close encounters with doctor fish, snappers, and mantas, as well as black-tip sharks, dolphins, and manatees.
- Contact: For Up-to-date information Contact Seychelles Tourism Board in Bel Ombre on Mahé (tel. 467 1300)
Aldabra Is Extremely Remote And Hard To Reach
There is no airstrip on the atoll, nor is there a harbor, jetty, or helipad. There are no hotels or guesthouses and there is not any infrastructure on the protected atoll to accommodate general visitors. This means that all visits need to be with live-aboard vessels. Some of the operators who can organize a trip to Aldabra are:
- Silhouette Cruises - www.seychelles-cruises.com
- Masons Travel - www.masonstravel.com
- Creole Travel - www.creoletravelservices.com
- Silversea - www.silversea.com
- Noble Caledonia - www.noble-caledonia.co.uk
The easiest way to get to Aldabra is by charter flight from the main Seychelles Island of Mahé by charter flight to Assumption Island. Aldabra is around 45 km or 30 miles from Assumption Island (flights to Assumption Island are not scheduled and need to be chartered).
Another option is to take a charter boat all the way from Mahé to Aldabra or arrive with one's own vessel (with a licensed guide).
- Caution: There Has Been Problems With Piracy In Recent Years, Check for Updated Advise
- Fee: A $240/day per Passenger and Crew Impact Fee
Besides the costs of private charters, there are daily impact fees for visiting Aldabra, these are USD 240/day per passenger and crew. If one is a professional photographer or journalist, then there is also a one-off fee of €5000 ($5,500).