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Cruise ship tenders travel to Aldabra Atoll
Cruise ship tenders travel to Aldabra Atoll
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

On Aldabra Atoll in the Seychelles Islands, you can tour a UNESCO World Heritage Site with the earth's largest population of tortoises—five times the number on the Galapagos.

Where are the Seychelles? Spread over 1.4 million square kilometers in the Indian Ocean, the 115 Seychelles Islands cover a land area of just 455 square kilometers.

How to get to Aldabra

The Aldabra Group is 1,150 kilometers southwest of the Seychelles' main island of Mahé. That's about a 40-hour cruise on a small ship!

Aldabra is the largest raised coral atoll in the world. Its four large islands and several small ones surround a lagoon so extensive that 38-square-kilometer Mahé could easily fit inside its boundaries.

Seychelles Island Foundation permits

Potential visitors must obtain permits from the Seychelles Island Foundation which enforces strict regulations to protect Aldabra's ecosystem.

As a result, most visitors are scientists or passengers on private yachts, small-to-medium-sized cruise ships and supply boats for island rangers and staff at the research station on Picard Island.

Giant tortoise excretes excess salt from its tear ducts
Giant tortoise excretes excess salt from its tear ducts
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Giant tortoises

Wardens describe their studies of the more than 100,000 Aldabra giant tortoises that inhabit the UNESCO nature reserve. Some of the free-roaming tortoises are grazing.

Others appear to be crying but they aren't. Rangers explain that tortoises can't sweat through pores like humans do, so they excrete excess salt from their tear ducts.

Wildlife in the lagoon

Zodiacs bring cruise passengers into the central lagoon where frigate birds create a cacophony in the surrounding mangroves.

The tortoises, birdwatching and underwater views of reef fish, sharks and rays make Aldabra a highlight of a Seychelles trip for the fortunate few who obtain permission to travel to the atoll.


Seychelles Tourism Board: www.seychelles.travel

More things to see and do in the Seychelles:

La Digue Seychelles Beach - Anse Source d'Argent

Curieuse Seychelles - National Park Giant Tortoises & Boardwalk Trail

Praslin Seychelles - Vallee de Mai Coco-de-Mer UNESCO Site Tour