Friday, 21 June 2019

Conservation News: North Island

North Island’s New Environment Centre

Seychelles, 13 June – Much of the Seychelles’ attraction lies in the wonders of its environment, from untouched beaches and coral reefs to tropical forests and rare endemic species. Despite its size, this small island nation is a pioneer in ecotourism, with the highest percentage of its landmass protected in the world. Home to endangered species and abundant natural splendour, it is no wonder North Island similarly seeks to protect its unique biodiversity.

Over-tourism poses a threat to the earth’s fragile ecosystems, but not here. You can visit North Island knowing you can leave it even better than it was found. Not only is this a private island exclusive to guests, limited to only 11 villas at that, but also one that takes a sustainable approach to its development and operations. Once an abandoned copra plantation overrun with invasive alien species, North Island is busy restoring the environment to its original pristine state, undoing the damage wrought by man. In celebration of over 20 years of sustainable tourism, North Island has built a new Environment Centre, offering a unique opportunity to further environmental awareness as well as a chance for guests to connect with nature while leaving behind a positive impact.

“The Environment Centre is literally and figuratively the epicentre of North Island. Conservation lies at the very heart of our philosophy; it is our raison d’être,” says CJ Havemann, Environment Manager. The new facility is the hub of environmental activities on the island and serves as a base for resident conservationists and environmental volunteers. Filled with informative posters and artefacts on display, it is a treasure trove for learning about the local environment.

More than that, it is an interactive experience where guests meet conservationists to set off on guided hikes up the granite hills. Or hop on a private electric buggy and take a tour of the entire island. Stopping along the way to meet its friendly Aldabra Giant Tortoises, of which it’s home to approximately 100, spot tiny Seychelles White-eyes hiding in the lush forests, or happen upon nesting Hawksbill Turtles on North Island’s beaches – one of the few places in the world where they feel safe enough to come ashore in broad daylight. These threatened species have shown promise for future generations, with ever more breeding success on North Island.

Guests are encouraged to visit the island’s nursery and plant a tree. North Island has cleared vast amounts of alien species and planted hundreds and thousands of indigenous trees in their place, but there’s still more land to rehabilitate – the perfect opportunity to offset one’s carbon emissions in travelling to the island by helicopter. Guests are also invited to join educational talks in the evenings to learn more about the island’s fauna and flora and find out how they can assist in creating a ‘Noah’s Ark’, to preserve that which allured them to the Seychelles in the first place.