François Leguat Reserve

Lonely Planet review

In 1691, François Leguat wrote that there were so many tortoises on Rodrigues that 'one can take more than a hundred steps on their shell without touching the ground'. Sadly the Rodrigues version of the giant tortoise went the way of the dodo, but this giant tortoise and cave reserve has grand plans to re-create the Eden described in the logbooks of the island's early explorers. The project is well underway – hundreds of tortoises roam the grounds (the outcome of a successful breeding program); there's a small enclosure with several giant fruit bats (the island's only endemic mammal); and over 100,000 indigenous trees have been planted over the last four years. The on-site museum recounts the history and settlement of the island, and offers detailed information about the extinct solitaire, cousin of the like-fated dodo. Don't miss the guided tours of the on-site caves. Spirited tour leaders point out quirky rock shapes and discuss the island's interesting geological history. Keep an eye out for the tibia bone of a solitaire that juts out from the cavern's stone ceiling. The reserve is in the island's southwest, and is signposted off the main road around 1.5km northeast of the airport.