Turtles & tortoises, North Island

Turtles & tortoises, North Island


North Island in the Seychelles is the default desert island retreat for A-listers (and princes) looking for a discreet break in beautiful surroundings. There are just 11 villas in total and four beaches, so there's barely a soul around most of the time. That also happens to suit some of the other regular visitors to the island. For the beaches of North are the venue of choice for hundreds of endangered Green and Hawksbill turtles looking to lay their eggs. If you are lucky enough to be here in season (September to February for Hawksbills and more like June to September for Greens) every time you walk along a beach you will likely see the telltale trails where mature females have dragged themselves up the beach to a laying site. They often come up two or three times to scope the area before deciding on a spot and laying. And this is the really special bit - Hawksbills, the most endangered of all the species of giant turtles, tend to lay their eggs by day, so there's a strong chance you might get to see the entire, and completely magical, process.


Preferred by A-listers and turtles

First she comes up the beach, making sure to go beyond the high water mark, before digging out a chamber in the fine sand. She then lays her ping pong ball size eggs - perhaps as many as 140 - and begins to cover up the chamber. The process can take several hours as she moves around and uses her hugely powerful flippers to push sand over the evidence of the nest. While man and some sharks are a fully grown turtle's only predators, crabs and rats will prey on a nest if it is not buried deeply or discreetly enough. Once the mother believes the site has been sufficiently disguised, she will heave herself back into the water, unlikely ever to see her progeny again.


Large lawn mowers

As you can imagine, this is one of the most memorable things to see in nature, but giant turtles are not the only members of the testudine (word for the day - meaning things with shells with names beginning with a 'T', basically) family who call North Island home - there are also 80 plus of gigantic Aldabra tortoises. These extremely slow but very effective lawn mowers were reintroduced to the island as part of the owners' admirable aims to return North to a pre-human habitat complete with all the original flora and fauna. The tortoises wander around wherever they choose and may pop up in the garden of your villa - they like the lawns in Villas 2 and 3 particularly. King of the beasts is Brutus who is reckoned to be 140 plus years old and who is instantly recognisable by his size (like a - slightly - miniaturised VW Beetle) and the large dent in the side of his shell, caused by a guest driving his electric buggy under the influence who crashed into the poor chap while crossing the road. He seems none the worse for it nowadays, however, and may even let you scratch the top of his head. Another magical animal kingdom moment.