The islands of the Amirantes Group were known to Persian Gulf traders centuries ago and were sighted by the Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama on his second voyage to India, in 1502, but they are still virtually uninhabited. Individual islands are frequently leased by the Seychelles government to private companies to exploit, usually by growing and harvesting coconuts. Tern eggs are also collected, and guano-enriched topsoil was once collected, but little remains. The Amirantes Group is a unique experience for the diving enthusiast; these islands offer massive granite reefs and colonies of coral. Giant rock formations pocked with caves and tunnels offer sanctuary to a rainbow of sea life. Brilliant tropical fish, pastel coloured anemones together with rays and small reef sharks make this underwater labyrinth their home. Whale sharks, dolphins, manta's and schools of pelagic predators are often spotted cruising between the island. This area of the Seychelles plateau in the Indian Ocean is very different from the granitic islands. These islands are flat coral atolls with beautiful beaches and, beginning from the high water mark, are backed by large coconut palm groves. These are classic tropical atolls full of sea life and dense hard coral formations. There is a beautiful lagoon at Alphonse. Next to Alphonse is a stunning little island called Bijoutier which looks just like a picture postcard. The reefs off the East Coast of Bijoutier are very rich in fish life and corals.
Part of the Amirantes Group, D’Arros is situated 255 kilometres south-west of Mahé and some 45 kilometres west of Desroches. Together with the adjoining atoll of St Joseph, D’Arros forms part of a private estate with a lagoon of exceptional beauty. The island hosts a number of colonies of sea birds such as frigates, fairy terns, crested terns, tropic birds and lesser noddies. There is a small population of giant land tortoises and the island is often visited by sea turtles during the nesting season. Purchased by Prince Shahram Pahlavi-nia of Iran in 1975, D’Arros was reserved for the exclusive use of his family and friends until 1998, when it was once again sold to another private party.
Of all the islands in the Amirantes Group, Desroches is the closest to Mahé (230km south-west) and the only island in the group offering accommodation. This coral island measures 5 kilometres long and 1.5 kilometres wide, boasting 14 kilometres of immaculate beaches that fringe a lush grove of coconut palms interspersed by Casuarina trees. Desroches was named after a former French governor of Mauritius, and like many of Seychelles’ islands, was once a prosperous coconut plantation. The island and its exclusive Desroches Island Resort are serviced by air from Mahé in a flight-time of approximately 50 minutes, and offers spectacular opportunities for deep sea fishing, fly-fishing and diving.
Poivre was named after the Intendant of Mauritius, Pierre Poivre, who was instrumental in introducing spices from the Far East into Seychelles. Poivre is one of the oldest coconut plantations in the outer islands and this was the main source of income of a succession of individuals who either leased or owned Poivre. Some 270 kilometres south-west of Mahé and 40 kilometres to the south of D’Arros lies Poivre Atoll, famous for its attractive semi-lagoon and also for its deep-sea fishing. The two islands that comprise Poivre atoll, Poivre and Ile du Sud, are very different in nature and separated from one another by a causeway. There is a population of blue heron, Chinese heron, greater frigate birds, whimbrels and fodys as well as lesser noddies and fairy terns. Poivre is also a nesting site for hawksbill and green turtle.
Remire Island, also known as Eagle, lies approximately 245 kilometres south-west of Mahé at the northern extremity of the Amirantes Bank. This charming island surrounded by fish-rich waters was once the home of the American Wendy Veevers-Cater who spent some years on the island with her family before the tiny islet came under the management of the government’s Island Development Company (IDC). The island was once much prized for its guano deposits and much of this compacted manure was mined after World War I together with the Casuarina trees that gave the small island a picturesque profile. After the Veevers-Cater experiment in settling on the island, IDC stationed a handful of workers there to keep the island clean, tend the coconut plantation and to maintain a small number of chalets.
Saint Joseph Atoll
Saint Joseph Atoll comprises the islands Saint Joseph, Fouquet, Ressource, Ile Varres, Petit Carcassaye, Grand Carcassaye, Benjamin, Banc Ferrari, Chien, Banc de Sable, Banc Cocos, Ile Paul and Pelican. Saint Joseph Island itself comprises a land area of 1,000 acres and is the largest island in the group. The Saint Joseph Atoll, 250 kilometres south-west of Mahé, is situated in close physical proximity to D'Arros Island and the two have always shared a closely tied fortune. Saint Joseph, like D'Arros, was once a thriving coconut plantation, interspersed with such trees as casuarina, bois mapu, cassant, and bois blanc. It traditionally housed a small population of contract workers from its neighbour who, over the years, have been engaged in the coprah (refined coconut flesh) industry and also in fishing. The atoll’s lagoon is home to a massive population of sting rays and a healthy number of turtles. Giant blue mud crabs migrate from the depths of the lagoon onto the surrounding flats with the high tides. Bone fish abound as do grouper, lobster and several species of coral fish. Oysters grow in profusion on the coral walls and in the weed beds that cover much of the lagoon's surface. There is a large colony of frigate birds and numbers of blue heron, crested terns, wimbrels and plovers.