October & November 2007

Everyone knows (don't they?) that Mauritius was once home to the ultimate endemic - the Dodo. Sadly, we were over 300 years too late for that, and also long gone are the endemic Blue Pigeon, Rail, Owl, Parrot and several others. All is not doom and gloom, however - there are some heartening conservation success stories to be found on the island.

Mauritius is marketed as a "paradise island", but as far as we could see, most of it is truly trashed - sugar cane, golf courses and shoddy little towns with horrible concrete shacks everywhere. The coast is pretty, it's true, and the mountains look great from a distance, but you have to visit one of two sites to see the endemic birds and get some sense of how Mauritius might once have been before successive waves of European settlers knackered it.

The first is Ile aux Aigrettes, a tiny, low islet just of Point d'Esny, on the south-eastern corner of the island, luckily (actually, skillfully by Simon!) just a few hundred metres from our hotel at Villa les Guerlandes, a comfortable and small beachfront hotel.

Greeted by an exceptionally friendly and helpful guide, we had a fantastic couple of hours on the island, exploring the regenerating ebony scrub and seeing stacks of endemics - including Aldabra Tortoise (OK, not an endemic Mauritian species, but you need these beasts to regenerate the forest, it seems), Ornate Day Gecko and Telfair's Skink (the latter a relocation job from Round Island).

But the stars were the birds - plenty of Pink Pigeons, several Mauritius Fodies among the introduced Red Fodies, and best of all, a pair of allopreening Mauritius Olive White-eyes, a vanishingly rare species which is also the subject of a captive breeding programme - so strictly untickable.

Back on the mainland, we added the widespread endemic Grey White-eye, plus Little Swift, Zebra Dove, Madagascar Turtle Dove, and the stupidly ubiquitous Indian Mynah.

The other key sites are in the forest block of the Black River Gorges area. On the return trip from Madagascar, we hired a car, and chose to concentrate on Macchabee Ridge. Sadly, we managed to miss the Mauritius Kestrel completely in poor weather, and our only parakeets were Rose-ringed - although an ID debate continues with the one pictured on this page - is it an Echo Parakeet? Opinions are welcome.... However, we did see the endemic Mauritius Cuckoo-shrike (400 individuals in the world) and Mauritius Bulbul (about the same), plus many White-tailed Tropicbirds over the forest (thus completing our world family list of these aethereal stunners - but there are only three of them!) and some Mascarene Swiftlets - another lifer!

Pink Pigeon

Ile aux Aigrettes

Diane, our excellent guide on the island

Too late, too late....

...and for the Mauritius Rail too

Aldabra Giant Tortoise

Telfair's Skink

Red Fody

Mauritius Fody

Mauritius Olive White-eye
(captive bred)

Mauritius Olive White-eyes


The photo above is courtesy of Harriet Good at the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. These are quite possibly the same birds as those photographed as adults above left!

Mauritius Grey White-eye


Hotel Villa les Guerlandes

Lion Mountain

Jetlagged Julia

Macchabee Forest Ridge

Parakeet sp - prob. Rose-ringed!

Red-whiskered Bulbul

White-tailed Tropicbird

Zebra Dove

Mauritius Cuckoo-shrike


Mauritius Bulbul



Back to the main home page