Praslin's natural attractions provide the basis for so many memorable experiences on the island, from the weird-and-wonderful forest of Vallée de Mai to offshore islands and underwater reefs.
Boat Excursions to Nearby Islands
Praslin is the obvious launching pad for the nearby islets.
Curieuse Island is a granite island 1.5km off Praslin's north coast. A leper colony from 1833 until 1965, Curieuse is today used as a breeding centre for giant Aldabra tortoises. The wardens at the Giant Tortoise Farm show visitors around the pens, after which you're free to explore the rest of the island. Nearby Baie Laraie is a fantastic place for swimming and snorkelling. From Baie Laraie, a path leads to Anse St José, where you can visit the Doctor's House; it contains a small historical museum. If you fancy a dip after your picnic, the beach is lovely: a stretch of pristine pale golden sand fringed with lofty palm trees and framed by massive granite boulders.
Most visitors to Curieuse Island arrive on an organised tour, usually in combination with Cousin Island and St Pierre Islet. Tours are arranged through Praslin's hotels or any tour operator. Day trips cost around €130/65 for an adult/child including lunch, landing fees and the marine-park entry fee. The alternative is to charter your own boat from Anse Volbert. Sagittarius Taxi Boat, on the beach beside the Paradise Sun Hotel, charges €40 for Curieuse, including fees; Curieuse with St Pierre costs €50. You'll also find taxi boats at Anse Possession, or you could contact Edwin at Les Lauriers, whose tours get rave reviews from travellers.
About 2km southwest of Praslin, Cousin Island is run as a nature reserve by Nature Seychelles. Seven species of seabird nest here, including fairy terns, white-tailed tropicbirds and shearwaters. The bird population is estimated to exceed 300,000 on an island measuring just 29 hectares. It's an amazing experience to walk through thick forest with birds seemingly nesting on every branch. Cousin is also home to five species of endemic land birds, including the Seychelles warbler and the magpie robin, and is an important nesting ground for hawksbill turtles. Between October and April, as many as 100 individuals crawl ashore to lay their eggs in the island's fringing circlet of sand. At any time of the year you're bound to see lizards: Cousin boasts one of the highest densities of lizards in the world. Well over a hundred giant tortoises also live on the island, some of which have reached truly enormous sizes, measuring more than a metre long.
Cousin can only be visited as part of an organised tour from Monday to Friday, usually in combination with Curieuse and St Pierre Islet. Day trips can be arranged through Praslin's hotels and tour operators for around €130/65 per adult/child. The adult price includes a landing fee, which goes towards conservation efforts, a 90-minute guided tour led by a conservationist and a barbecued lunch on Curieuse.
St Pierre Islet
The glassy waters around St Pierre Islet, off Anse Volbert, are excellent for snorkelling and swimming. Boat trips to St Pierre, organised by hotels and private operators, are usually offered in combination with Curieuse and Cousin. Or you can charter your own boat from Anse Volbert. Sagittarius Taxi Boat charges €50 including fees.
The most northerly of the granite islands, this nature reserve lies 10km north of Praslin and supports one of the greatest concentration of seabirds in the area, including large colonies of noddies, terns and frigate birds, as well as lizards. From the summit (134m), the views are sensational. It also boasts a fantastic beach that's perfect for sun, sand and swimming, though not snorkelling.
Aride can be reached by boat between September and May only, as landing can be difficult at other times. During the season, the island is open to visitors three days a week. Tours can be arranged through travel agencies, hotels and guesthouses in Praslin. A day trip costs about €130/65 per adult/child, including lunch and a guided tour of the island.
Diving & Snorkelling
Whether you're an experienced diver or a novice slapping on fins for the first time, you'll find superb dive sites off Praslin.
The best dive sites are:
- Aride Bank Off Aride Island, this pristine site can be accessed from Praslin although it is a tedious 30-minute boat trip to get to the site. A hot fave among local divemasters, it features rays, snappers, nurse sharks, jacks, barracudas and Napoleon wrasses, as well as magnificent seafans.
- Booby Islet Approximately halfway between Aride and Praslin, this exposed seamount consistently sizzles with fish action. In less than 20m of water, you'll meet parrotfish, Napoleon wrasses, moray eels, turtles, eagle rays and nurse sharks.
- Cousin An easy dive site in the waters off Cousin Island.
There's no serious hiking to be done on Praslin, although walks of up to 2km through the forest at Vallée de Mai are worthwhile if not at all strenuous.